Save St. Petersburg!

I received an email solicitation from a Christian organization (which will remain unnamed) this week that shocked and disgusted me. It was entitled, “What will religion look like in 2060?” and went on to say this:

Conservative Christians will be treated as second class citizens, much like African Americans were prior to civil rights legislation in the 1960s.

Family as we know it will be drastically changed with the state taking charge of the
children beginning at birth.

Marriage will include two, three, four or any number of participants. Marriage will not be important, with individuals moving in and out of a “family” group at will.

Churchbuildings will be little used, with many sold to secular buyers and the money
received going to the government.

Churches will not be allowed to discuss any political issues, even if it affects the
church directly.

Tax credit given to churches and non-profit organizations will cease.

Christian broadcasting will be declared illegal based on the separation of church and
state. The airwaves belong to the government, therefore they cannot be used for any
religious purpose.

We will have, or have had, a Muslim president.

Cities with a name from the Bible such as St. Petersburg, Bethlehem, etc. will be forced to change their name due to separation of church and state.

Groups connected to any religious affiliation will be forced out of health care. Health
centers get tax money from the state, making it a violation of church and state.

The email then ends with a link to “GET INVOLVED!”, presumably to stop these horrific things from occurring.

This email struck me as so wrong on so many different levels. It begins with that very first line, where I’m sure any African Americans who read the email will appreciate being exploited so blatantly and callously. And of course, it almost immediately veers into the realm of politics, with the ever-present bogeyman of “the state” taking away our freedoms. This time around, it’s the specter of our government not even letting us raise our own children that is meant to scare us.

Then it gets a little silly – marriage will be “any number of participants”? If that were even somehow to happen, I’m sure King David, or Abraham, or Gideon, or Caleb — or any hero of the faith, really, would be interested to know it so they could move to America and bring their harems with them.

Churches will not be allowed to discuss political issues? GREAT! Sign me up for that! Tax credits given to churches will cease? Oh, the horror! Christian broadcasting will be declared illegal? How in the world did the gospel ever spread across the world before we harnessed the power of radio and television waves?

And this one is my favorite: We will have, or have had, a Muslim president.

Ho. ly. crap.

If that happens, we’d better just hide in a cave, I guess, and pray that Jesus comes quickly to rescue us because truly, all hope is lost. I mean, it’s not like God used a pagan Persian king to rescue his people from Babylon, or had three pagan wise men give Jesus gifts when he an infant, or, y’know, used the pagan Roman government to accomplish the salvation of the world. God definitely could not work through a (*gasp*) Muslim president.

And to top it all off, our new government will apparently force the city of St. Petersburg to change its name. I could have stuck it out through the no politics in church thing, or the loss of tax credits… but to live in a world with no St. Petersburg? Perish the thought!

All sarcasm aside, though, there is something at a much deeper level that bothers me about this solicitation — and that is this: as Christians, too often we seem incapable of casting a positive vision, instead relying on negative emotions and fear to motivate people to action.

To me, not only is that horrible skills of persuasion, it does not reflect the Kingdom of God. It’s not the sharing of good news — it’s the sharing of horrific (supposedly) news designed to elicit fear, something that Jesus aimed to “cast out” through his love.

Solicitations such as this one create a bunker mentality, an us-versus-them world where we must keep ourselves unsullied from the darkness which surrounds us. It attempts to force us more inward, rather than inviting us to go into all the world and be, as Jesus was, a friend to sinners. It denies the power that (as the Apostle Paul wrote) “God’s kindness leads to repentance” — replacing ‘kindness’ with ‘political action’ and replacing ‘repentance’ with ‘making everyone look, believe, and act just like us.’

It is exhibit A in the case of how awful we have become at the task of vision casting. Rather than speaking of abundant life or buried treasures discovered in fields or great feasts and banquets, we turn instead to dire doomsday prophecies of a future where God abandons us.

What if instead of casting a vision of how horrible things are 47 years from now, this organization chose to talk about all the beautiful things that were happening because their group was working? What if the future held hope and joy rather than doom and gloom, because we serve a living and loving God?

Here’s the truth: God is picking up the pieces and putting his creation back together again. He is Emmanuel — God with us — always, not just for brief moments in time and not just if we force America to be a “Christian nation” again (whatever that means). Here’s some more good news: even if, some way, somehow, this bogeyman-laced vision of the future came true, God is still with us. God will still be present, working, loving, restoring.

God does not, and has never, required a government to accomplish his purposes. He requires you. And me. Living out his love and kindness that oftentimes changes the world in small, almost imperceptible ways — but that in totality help his kingdom come and his will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Don’t live in fear. Don’t react out of fear. Don’t vote out of fear. Don’t donate money out of fear. Let God’s perfect love cast out all fear and overflow through you as you join him in the holy work of restoration.

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