In the UK, Christians are in a minority, and their numbers are decreasing. Often, it seems to me, we respond to this by becoming closed-off and turning in on ourselves.
This doesn’t just damage our chances of telling non-Christians about what we believe to be true, it also isolates Christians who feel outside – the kind of people I have in mind in setting up guiltyexpression.
What do I mean by turning in on ourselves? Well, here’s an example: Spring Harvest, the annual gathering of evangelical Christians from lots of different churches in the UK. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t think this is a bad thing in itself – what I am worried about is the fact that events like this seem to become more and more important each year, as if gathering together were the most important part of our faith, rather than going outside and letting others know.
Some other examples of gatherings of Christians that often feel to me to be exclusive and inward-looking are university Christian Unions (in my experience very cliquey), youth camps (those that cater mainly for Christian kids and seem to me to offer an escape from the real world rather than a preparation for it) and church group gatherings like Spring Harvest.
I’ve been to Spring Harvest, and it was good. It was encouraging to meet other Christians, and to sing songs loudly, and to hear good teaching. However, I also noticed something about it, which is that everyone seemed very similar to each other.
This is the real problem with this phenomenon of gathering together to face the threat of a society that isn’t interested – we develop a culture that is completely separate from the rest of the country, and this culture involves a lot more stuff than just the fundamental Christian principles. For example, many Christian gatherings in the UK consist almost entirely of middle-class people, and there seems to be a feeling that middle-class-ness is essentially Christian – that somehow both involve something to do with being nice, and vaguely informed.
This is incredibly damaging. Let’s take 2 examples of friends of mine who are both middle-class and white, but have suffered from the uniformity of Christian culture, mainly because they couldn’t make their feelings about particular issues fit in with what they were being told. Both nearly lost touch with the church altogether, and jointly they are the inspiration for starting this site.
Cheesey I know, but what did Jesus do? He gathered people in, told them where they needed to change once they were part of the group, and allowed them to leave if they wanted to.
What should we be doing instead? Well, lots of traditional `churchy’ things are much more outward-looking, for example welcoming people to Christmas services and trying to make them enjoyable and inclusive, rather than seeing people that come as not proper members. What about school Christian Unions? They are inevitably more outward-looking because they’re bound to be pretty small, and school is a close-up place, where your notices about the next meeting are bound to be seen by lots of people.
I know I’m giving a very one-sided argument here, and there’s a lot wrong with it, but do you think I’ve got a point at all or am I talking rubbish?