It’s time to start spreading love LOUDLY

by Kristin on September 6, 2011

in Belief, doubt & hope

Photo by Felipe

I’ll be the first to admit—my hackles are very easily raised. Probably too-easily. There are a lot of things out there (especially on the Internet, most often related to faith and politics—what else?) that I should simply roll my eyes at and ignore.

But something in me says my hackles get raised for a reason, so I shouldn’t just smooth them down (can hackles be smoothed?) and carry on. God gave me these hackles, after all, and also the ability to communicate. The challenge is choosing our battles. How do we know when to move on and when to speak up? And if we decide to speak up, what’s the most effective way to go about it? After all, our goal to should be to make a positive difference, not to just spew frustration and ignite the same sort of aimless frustration in others.

Fear vs. love

Recently, I did a bit of that aimless spewing, after I took a look at this video posted on the blog Jesus Needs New PR. The video is just another example of Christian Evangelicals using, as the blog’s author describes, “whatever hardships that America is facing, add[ing] a few of our political and social opinions, and then construct[ing] a web of fear in hopes of converting a few scared hopeless people to our US-manufactured God Brand.” In other words, it’s all about fear and punishment, not the hope and love that characterize Jesus.

My frustration exploded in tweet-shaped form; I shared the link, with the strong suggestion embedded in the post’s headline:  “THIS is what’s wrong with American Christianity.” A Twitter friend, the humble and, I’m sure, less-easily-outraged @cunningpike, responded:

I think there are a lot (most?) of churches doing good things, but doing it quietly in the truly Christian way

Finding that loud-yet-humble balance

His observation made me both take a step back from my cynicism—Are there a lot more churches than I think focused on promoting the love of Jesus?—and question what’s at the root of my misconception. The problem, I suggested to @cunningpike, is that “non-Christians mostly only see/hear about the others”—the churches that are sinking lots of money into videos and billboards that suggest God is punishing America for whatever.

…”so I guess maybe what I’m saying is that those ‘quiet’ churches doing good have to be more open about it!” I concluded.

Forget about fighting the maddening, ridiculous messages head-on. Instead, counter them with even more radical love, and be even more vocal and visible about it.

I know that’s easier said than done. It’s hard to do good and then share it without coming across as egotistical and proud. It’s hard to be open about your beliefs and your church community when you suspect a large percentage of the people you interact with will be dismissive (or worse).

But I think most of us have been too quiet—too embarrassed. We need to be loud about Jesus’ love and his “third way.” I know there must be ways to go about it that don’t involve shouting, offending, or bragging. Sharing stories rather than headline-style messages is one great way. Do you have other ideas about how we might be loud, without the sharp edges?

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  • http://www.somuchshoutingsomuchlaughter.com suzannah {so much shouting, so much laughter}

    i think we can be *loud* in service. it is pouring rain, and my husband and colleagues are at church helping with a fresh/perishable food distribution. our church is pretty active in the community, and those aren’t the kinds things that we need to yell about from the rooftops, but the Church should certainly be known best for tangible love and service–not argument, politics, or culture wars.

  • http://takingtheyoke.blogspot.com Ray Hollenbach

    Here’s a paradox about doing good: I think Jesus wants us to do our personal good works quietly and in private (“don’t let your right hand know what your left hand is doing.”). Yet in the very same setting He says, “Let your light shine before men in such a manner that they will see your good works and glorify God in Heaven.” I think this means there is room for the assembled people of God to let others know about the work done in Jesus’ name.

    More challenging still is the final phrase: that others would see our good works and simultaneously be moved to give God the glory. That is: they are not merely good works, but they would by themselves point people toward the Heavenly Father. What good works are distinctively Christian?

  • http://www.dexterityunlimited.com/ Dan J

    As an outsider (as far as religion goes), I do see and hear much more from and about the extremists of various religions. This includes, of course, people like the members of the Westboro Baptist Church.

    The comment that I see from the majority of Christians is that people like Fred Phelps aren’t “true Christians.” I would agree that these people do not behave in a manner that I would associate with the teachings of Jesus, but there are many who would say that he is a great example of the way Christians should behave. When asked how I can determine if someone is a true Christian, my only answer can be that they tell me they are.

    What are more “moderate” Christians to do in order to provide an example of the love and kindness that is espoused? I admit that I don’t have any clear answers. Each Christian denomination has differences ranging from minor to major from other denominations. If not, there would be one single Christian religion, with no debate or argument about what the meaning of a particular scripture might be.

    “By their fruits you shall know them. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?”

    Keep doing your good works, Kristen. They bear fruit, whether everyone knows it or not. The people who matter most will know.

  • http://www.halfwaytonormal.com Kristin T.

    suzannah, yes! I agree with this: “…those aren’t the kinds things that we need to yell about from the rooftops…” But I think there are other ways to be “loud.” Why haven’t more non-Christians heard our stories of grace? Why don’t more people know that while Christians aren’t perfect, they are doing a lot of good in the world? It just seems like the negative stereotypes are worth countering, since they drive so many people away from faith.

    Ray, oh those tricky biblical paradoxes! Jesus was a paradox himself, it seems—doing what he did so quietly, and yet always letting people know the what and the why, as needed, always telling the stories that led people to their own, inner conclusions. As far as your second point is concerned, yes! I guess that’s what I’m trying to get at: We don’t spread love *so that* we can shout about it, we spread love because we are inspired to love by Jesus’ life and by God’s vision for a redeemed world. It’s one thing to be quiet about the work; it’s another thing to be quiet about the love that inspires the work. (Am I making any sense?!?)

    Dan, I have to admit, I was hoping you’d weigh in. :) Oftentimes I wonder if my perception of people outside the faith is just way off—if I just notice all the Westboro Baptist types because I’m ultra sensitive about it. But that’s what you see primarily, too. (Shall we blame the media, or pure statistics?) At any rate, thank you for reminding me that it’s the fruit that counts most.

  • http://takingtheyoke.blogspot.com Ray Hollenbach

    “It’s one thing to be quiet about the work; it’s another thing to be quiet about the love that inspires the work.” Yes–you’re making great sense.

  • http://removingthescarf.blogspot.com Emilee Shake (@emileeshake)

    I think a lot of times the people who are loving “quietly” don’t necessarily know that they’re doing anything out of the ordinary. They’re not aware that what they’re doing, how they’re caring for people, is abnormal. I think back to the small town where I grew up in Southern Indiana. The farmer whose hobby was rebuilding wrecked cars didn’t think anything of offering a temporary vehicle to anyone who needed it. And the auto mechanic who gave free oil changes to single moms didn’t think that services was special. Crazily enough, my dream is to travel the country finding everyday people loving God and serving people in everyday ways and share their stories, because I’m convinced most of them don’t realize their story is anything spectacular. They are loving loudly; maybe they just need someone else to be their megaphone.

  • http://jenniferluitwieler.com Jennifer

    I want to be cavalier and cheeky and just say: “What Ray said.” Because yeah. But, I have hackles, too. (I’m not sure if they are smoothed, calmed or coaxed into submission btw), And what raises them is not so much how believers or our churches practice love but rather why. Shaming, blaming and hate-filled diatribes? No time for that. Blaring, blasting, one-up-manship? No thanks. I pray that those who need to see God’s love would see it in the quiet ways the church does its work: the food banks with smiling volunteers, the well spoken word, the relationships of understanding and compassion. I wonder if trying to be “loud” about it takes the focus from Him. AND I love it when your hackles get jiggy. Making much much sense, darling.

  • http://www.inamirrordimly.com ed cyzewski

    Speaking for evangelicals, we’ve been so bombarded with communicating Jesus like a sales pitch that many of us have struggled to figure out how to talk about Jesus like a normal person. I’m learning, but some times it’s hard to know if I’m being pushy or if I’m being too timid. And there’s that tension where I’m just trumpeting my good works. I’ll give an example….

    I’ve been volunteering in prisons. There are are lots of really great reasons to volunteer in a prison, and I write a little about it sometimes, but being perfectly honest, I fear that I could come across as something like, “Look how legit and awesome my ministry is! I even visit prisoners!” There is a sense in which I want to do my good works before God alone and not seek anyone’s praise. I feel like the lines there are so easy to cross. I don’t know what the answer is.

  • http://www.halfwaytonormal.com Kristin T.

    Emiliee, you took the thoughts right out of my head! Maybe not the thoughts I was having as I wrote the post, but the thoughts I was working through out loud with my husband right before I saw your comment. This, in particular, was the conclusion I was coming to: “They are loving loudly; maybe they just need someone else to be their megaphone.” Some people are really good at loving loudly; other people have a knack for telling stories. Many of us will do both—love loudly over here, and then tell someone else’s story over there. It’s not just about humility, it’s about the importance of community, and how God designed us to need each other. (Btw, I love your dream! You should make it happen!)

    Jennifer, yeah, Ray is pretty smart, isn’t he? I definitely hear you on this: “I wonder if trying to be ‘loud’ about it takes the focus from Him.” Maybe “loud” wasn’t the best word to use in my headline, because it does sort of suggest in-your-face. But I guess what I’m ultimately trying to get at is the idea that we can be just as “loud” as the “Shaming, blaming and hate-filled,” but in a completely different way, using a different vehicle. The trick is finding that vehicle. Storytelling? Telling one another’s stories of love and redemption? Or maybe just being ultra clear about who we are and why…could transparency be the vehicle?

    ed, you’re absolutely right about the sales pitch part. For so long, I thought my options were the “blatant sell” or silence. As you said, “some times it’s hard to know if I’m being pushy or if I’m being too timid.” Your prison ministry is a great example. I’m really glad you’ve shared bits and pieces about it with us in the past, but maybe it’s also a great opportunity for what Emilee was saying—being one another’s megaphones. (I feel a blog series concept coming on…)

  • rick champ

    Emilee, I love your idea. I hope you will start doing that locally and build from there. We need to celebrate those quiet revolutionaries who are living Grace out in tangible ways.

  • http://somewiseguy.com ThatGuyKC

    This is so timely. I’ve often been frustrated with the constipated rhetoric that is spewed by people via Twitter and blogs. I am tired of people finding out I’m a Christian and immediately associating me with the LOUD ones who misrepresent Jesus and bend the bible to fit their political perspective.

    I think we’ve been quiet for too long and need to be better at loving LOUDLY.

  • http://www.halfwaytonormal.com Kristin T.

    rick, yes to this! “We need to celebrate those quiet revolutionaries who are living Grace out in tangible ways.”

    ThatGuyKC, it becomes a vicious cycle, don’t it? The more embarrassed we feel about our faith and the possibility of being misunderstood because of it, the quieter we get, and the quieter we get, the more the other voices can be heard. So…do you have any ideas about how, exactly, we can better share our perspective? :)

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