A more thoughtful engagement...

When I posted about gay marriage I expected to cop some flack. Surprisingly most of the interaction was helpful. Having said that I’m sure there’s plenty out there who disagreed with my position.

Taking a step back, one criticism I thought was fair, was that I talked a lot about what Christians were doing wrong, but not a lot about what they do right, or could do right. Generally speaking it’s easier to criticise something you disagree with, than it is to set forth a positive framework for something you agree with. So in this post I thought I’d address how Christians could communicate more positively with the secular world on the issue of marriage, relationships and parenting.

You don’t need marketing experience to know that it’s more effective to market a positive message than a negative one. I find it frustrating that Christians seem to pigeon hole themselves into communicating constantly negative messages. “We're against X, we're against Y”. While there is a place for saying what we stand opposed to, Christians generally seem to fall into the trap of being exclusively negative. I’d like to see this balanced out a little more, with Christians looking to define themselves more positively. “Christians are for Z”.

In doing so Christians would communicate a more balanced understanding of what Christianity is to the world. Christians are for forgiveness, sacrifice, compassion, growth and love, driven to follow Jesus in laying down their lives for others not just against gay marriage, abortion and euthanasia.

“Excellent Marriage” is one example of positive marketing. The Excellent Marriage video was carefully thought through and positively framed. It focused on the positive ideas of sacrifice, growth and love. All of these are Christian concepts (although not exclusively so). Sadly, reading the speech on the Excellent Marriage webpage, it seems that the subtle tone and careful turn of phrase wasn’t really carried through from the video.

In the area of relationships Christians also have much to offer. One example could involve starting a discussion about what constitutes a “good” marriage or “great” relationships. Christians are for good relationships. This could be explored though couples forums and marriage training courses run by churches, but open to the wider community. Questions worth considering would include. How do common goals enrich relationships? What should those goals and purposes be? How does a Jesus and/or a Christian world view help us understand relationships? In my own life, my Christian belief has certainly helped me with my relationships.

More generally there is ample scope to encourage people to think about to make their relationships better. I was disappointed that more of my Christian friends didn’t get behind shows like the ABCs Making Couples Happy. The ideas and advice offered over the five week show, were most helpful and importantly sat comfortably within a Christian framework (although not exclusively).

My friend Adam blogged some excellent thoughts recently about what Christians can do more positively around the very difficult issue of abortion. While I don’t agree with everything in his post it is well worth a read if you haven’t read it already.

Similarly I really liked this idea from a group calling itself Save the Storks. These guys and girls, are Christians who offer free sonograms to mothers considering abortion. (It’s well worth having a look at the link). However it would require some contextualisation, to be successful in Australia.

Offering parenting courses, where advice and support are supplied to new parents is another form of positive engagement. The success of Hobart Mums Network shows that there is a huge need for mothers to be supported and encouraged in our communities. It often troubles me that more Christians don’t get involved in the network, as a way of positively influencing our community and supporting mothers. Other questions to consider might include... How does a Christian world view inform parents? How has following Jesus, changed Christian parents for the better.

I would argue that once these positive links and relationships were established, people would be able to evaluate the claims of Jesus more accurately. They would see that Christians aren’t just opposed to a set number of issues, but are also for a whole bunch of things too. They would see Christians have a positive message not just a negative one. They would see Jesus had a positive message not just a negative one. Not one at the expense of the other, both-and. In this relational context, people would see how Jesus underpins and shapes the life of the Christian. They would see how Jesus love motivates and drives Christians to be kind, loving people.

When Christians lobby an exclusively negative message, it shouldn’t be a surprise when people don’t listen. However it should be deeply troubling, when people are turned away not because of Jesus claims, but because of negative religious morality.



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