How liberal christians can make people uncomfortable

You might be wondering why making people uncomfortable should be something to aspire to. But as this incisive comic from Adam4D explains upsetting people was a big part of what Jesus did:


This notion is problematic for liberal christians. Many of us profess it. For example, Giles Fraser, the progressive priest par excellence:

[t]he background default position of contemporary culture is wholly secular, and takes religion to be a dull joke. The only effective way to challenge this is for Christianity to reclaim its position as something counter-cultural, and a form of resistance to the dominant assump­tions.

However, on many issues – notably human sexuality – we wind up defending the secular status quo against our co-religionists. In fact, evangelicals and Catholics often criticise liberal christians for having “nothing to say to people that they can’t already hear from Oprah, John Stewart, CNN, or the NYT.” If Christianity has no message that is not a reflection of prevailing secular values then it seems a bit pointless.

So where CAN liberal christians challenge the values of society. Besides the obvious ones like money and the environment, I’d also throw out the following suggestions:

  • Though shalt not steal intellectual property. Theft generally does not pass the social acceptability test but if my friends and acquaintances are anything to this particular kind does. That doesn’t stop it being  theft. Just because the marginal costs of distributing music or films online does not change the fact that creative industries still need to earn revenue somehow. So Philip Pullman is quite right to liken online piracy to ‘reaching into someone’s pocket and taking their wallet‘ and brand it online squalor. Churches ought to be challenging downloaders to contemplate how they would feel if their work was being taken without recompense.
  • Clever meaness.  Saying this makes me a major hypocrite because I love a good gossip and can be pretty snide. However, I’d suggest that celebrating cruelty if it’s sufficiently entertaining is a bad thing. Yet from reality TV to the performances of public intellectuals that’s what we do. Let’s aspire to fear being boring less than hurting others.
  • Alcohol. Binge drinking is a very British sin which: wastes the time and money of public services, puts people in danger and makes city centres no go areas for most people for a chunk of the week. Let’s try and steer our younger adherents away from this gross pastime.

So there are my suggestions. I hope you disagree with at least one of them.


3 thoughts on “How liberal christians can make people uncomfortable

  1. 1) This comic gives a very good description of my stance on intellectual property. Make it available for me to watch legally (within a reasonable timescale of original release), and I’ll pay the money and do so. If it’s not legally available to me, then the creators aren’t exactly losing money if I chose to watch it illegally.

    2) Do you think that the reason that liberal Christianity struggles to be counter-cultural is that our society’s development for the past 1500 years has been influenced by Christian values?

    3) I think one of the counter-cultural messages of Christianity is the idea of forgiving someone who has wronged you – there are occasionally these sorts of stories: which demonstrate that it’s certainly not considered a universal norm.

    • 1) I sympathise with the GOT problem for obvious reasons but I don’t think I have any right to watch it. What HBO are essentially doing is setting the price higher of watching it at the time of transmission than I’m willing to pay. I don’t think that gives me the right to take it without paying.

      2) yes but I doubt we’ll ever get to the point we don’t need to be counter-cultural

      3) yes. Very good point.

  2. Pingback: The hollowness of Islamic banking and its lessons for Christians | Matter Of Facts

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