I love that Christmas is celebrated. I love that it’s called “Christmas,” and yes, I do get a little testy when people go out of their way to avoid saying “Christmas” because it contains “Christ.” I love the Christmas songs, the religious ones and the secular ones. I love the Christmas movies, the old classics and the new ones.
Yes, I know that we can’t determine that Jesus was born on Dec. 25th. Yes, I know that there may not necessarily have been “three” wise men. And yes, I know that those wise men (whether there were two or three or ten or 1000) weren’t there the night Jesus was born, and didn’t show up for quite some time after, likely when Mary and Joseph and Jesus were in some more permanent temporary home in Bethlehem rather than a stable.
I have increasingly less and less patience with those who make a big deal out of those discussions, however. But I do notice more and more a different facet that comes out during the Christmas season. It’s clear that our society is very interested in celebrating the non-threatening baby Jesus—and again, I think that’s a very good thing. But that baby grows up into a strong preacher of righteousness who claims to be the Son of God. Our society seems to have less and less interest in the adult Jesus, and rather finds Him more and more unacceptable when they honestly look and listen for what He actually was and taught and stood for.
This is reflected in results of research done on the overall “Christian” church (not any one religious group such as Churches of Christ) by the Barna group throughout 2010. Here are two of their six conclusions along with some of their comments.
- The postmodern insistence on tolerance is winning over the Christian Church.
Our biblical illiteracy and lack of spiritual confidence has caused Americans to avoid making discerning choices for fear of being labeled judgmental. The result is a Church that has become tolerant of a vast array of morally and spiritually dubious behaviors and philosophies. This increased leniency is made possible by the very limited accountability that occurs within the body of Christ. There are fewer and fewer issues that Christians believe churches should be dogmatic about. The idea of love has been redefined to mean the absence of conflict and confrontation, as if there are no moral absolutes that are worth fighting for. That may not be surprising in a Church in which a minority believes there are moral absolutes dictated by the scriptures.
- The Christian Church is becoming LESS theologically literate.
What used to be basic, universally-known truths about Christianity are now unknown mysteries to a large and growing share of Americans—especially young adults. For instance, Barna Group studies in 2010 included the finding that few adults believe that their faith is meant to be the focal point of their life or to be integrated into every aspect of their existence. As the younger generations ascend to numerical and positional supremacy in churches across the nation, the data suggest that biblical literacy is likely to decline significantly. The theological free-for-all that is encroaching in Protestant churches nationwide suggests the coming decade will be a time of unparalleled theological diversity and inconsistency.
In the sermon and shepherd groups this week we will discuss Pilate’s important question at Jesus’ trial, and ask ourselves, Are we just as confused as Pilate was? Or even worse, do we care just as little as he did?