One of our Prime Ministers, in recent years, proclaimed that Britain is a Christian country, and that the Anglican church should spearhead a revival of Christian morality. The statements were brave and almost unprecedented from a PM in living memory.
While many Christians were celebrating his bravery, some immediately engaged in friendly fire, picking holes in his “brand” of Christianity and questioning his sincerity.
This has led me to think about many famous politicians, pop stars and celebrities that have openly made statements about their faith, who have then gone on to be criticized by Christians. It seems our response to famous people’s statements of faith is sorely lacking in grace and thoughtfulness.
Those unacquainted with the pressures of leadership and the nuances of power think Christians in power should simply “Big mouth” theological slogans. They are naively unaware that we need to be wise with our words if we wish to continue to speak in places of influence. Even Jesus, the Truth Himself, at times chose not to answer goading questions from his peers, or even chose to answer their questions with questions, a common distraction media technique today!
Of course, many Christians of influence are also going to get it plain wrong, failing to speak up in moments when they could and should. But please, let’s be real, who of us hasn’t failed to get the right words out in a moment of pressured conversation at work – and that’s without cameras in our faces! Get real! Get gracious!
Truth does not always need fanfare. Sometimes it waits for it’s moment. The Truth Himself, Jesus, came to earth and chose to “pay the relational rent” as some put it, before getting to his strongest, most radical preaching. We need to recognize even Jesus did not lay the full truth on people all the time. Words must be shaped with wisdom for the occasion.
1. People think Fame equals Spiritual Maturity, or that expertise in one area, means expertise in all areas. It seems that some think that because someone is famous or politically influential they will automatically be a mature Christian. But a leader in one area of life does not make your an expert in all areas, or theologically experienced, in Church. Has anyone thought that if that famous Christian came to their church, they would probably need the new believers course, or have some basic questions to learn about? These people are gently trying to bring their sapling faith into their sphere of influence like everyone else in a church. Cut them some slack theologically.
2. People think “My Brand of Christian is THE REAL one.” It is in moments like these that we realise why we are called PROTEST-ants. We protest endlessly about people who don’t share our exact “take” on things. It reveals the immature (frankly demonic!) divisions in Church. Just because he doesn’t dance in worship, immediately denounce pre-marital sex, tongue talk, or sound like a rabid evangelist, we criticise… as if the sweet baptist chap who is our neighbour is not going to heaven because he’s not quite like you! We will feel such fools in heaven when we ALL realise how dodgy parts of our theology was!
3. People think all should “Treat their jobs like Pulpits”. As if a Prime Minister is going to give an altar call in Prime Ministers Question time! Get real! Like Daniel and Joseph tried to bring God influence to their ungodly worlds through wisdom, so can every pop star, politician, celeb … but in a measured way, otherwise their influence simply ceases to exist. (All influence is given and earned…not imposed) Their jobs are like yours; there is protocol.
4. Cranky Christians love bold statements, not edgy Questions. We love bold statements of faith, and struggle with honest questions. What about the gay issue, creation, single parenthood, sex outside of marriage. These questions would not give Jesus a sleepless night and every young Christian has the right to ask them, even publicly. It’s part of the journey. Try not to sound cranky when they’re raised!
5. Some People expect SIN to be denounced in every interview. I have seen time and again famous Christians have to dodge around the classic difficult subjects. We need to understand that many media interviewers are always trying to goad Christians into speaking about things like homosexuality, because the interviewer knows that if he can make the Christian sound cranky, it will be a “good” interview (for his ratings!). Once, when I was being interviewed about something entirely unrelated, the BBC interviewer was determined to ask me about my beliefs on homosexuality, which I knew would simply dis-rail everything I wanted to say. So I simply responded “We LOVE Homosexuals in our church, and I want them ALL to come to my Church” (which is one side of the truth!). Wide eyed, the interviewer was lost for words. And we got on with what I’d actually come to talk about! Don’t expect full theological debates on sin on TV. Some Christians in media are fighting to steer away from being portrayed as cranks…which the media love to do! (Of course there are other moments when we should indeed wade into the debates on these things).
6. Sometimes it’s just because Cranks are just, er, … cranky. Sometimes I think cranky people just feel they have a right to be cranky with everyone. It’s not just celebs, but they lay into “friends” on social media, their pastor or their favourite football teams manager – They are publicly, openly, unabashedly rude. Cranky is just how they do life. BUT THAT’S NOT CHRISTIAN! I think they’ve missed the “love is…” verses, forgot that the world will know we are disciples because of love for one another (yes, even for that denomination you personally disagree with you “Fount of all truth”), and that the bible gives very clear protocol for accusing elders, correcting brothers and winning the world….. And in case you hadn’t guessed it, lambasting people on social media isn’t it!
7. Perhaps, Some Britons actually have issues with success, leadership & authority. I actually wonder if our desire to pull apart famous Christians at times, comes from the national hobby of tearing down authority figures, evident in some of our society. The same, defensive insecurities fill Christians, who cleverly hide their lack of grace behind theological protests.
8. People just love “kicking others”. No-one is into friendly fire like the Church. We tear down pop stars who fail morally, or who don’t call down hell fire on Homosexuals. Let’s learn to LOVE EVERY brand of Christianity .. and learn from them all.
9. It easier to criticise than pray. If someone’s been brave enough to mention the “C” word in the public setting (You know how hard that can be in the office, let alone the media!), stop picking holes in their statements…PRAY FOR THEM! They are your brother, sister..or at least are TRYING to be!
10. Finally, I have seen so many pop stars, celebrities and politicians simply give up on their faith, because after trying to raise the subject of Christianity, or even failing in some way, criticism lays into them in the form of theological attacks, hate mail and ridicule…BUT NOT from the media, or from the “world”…. Can you guess WHO actually bashes the faith out of them…?
I was in Westminster recently where one MP told me of another whose brand of Christian faith had been so attacked that it left him a shell of his former self. The source of the destruction?…..Christians. Shame on us.
Please pray for your brothers and sisters…. and stop the social media bashing!