Why Christians Should Be in the Minority

I like to blame the politicians because it’s supposedly their job, you know, to take care of the populace and all. I like to blame the Presidents for all the bad things that happen in our country – the unemployment, the poverty, the unrest. I like to blame the laws for allowing people to live lives I disagree with.

Change the laws! Change the leaders! Get out the vote!

But after coming back from Sri Lanka I wonder if a different majority shouldn’t be taking the blame. I wonder if there’s another group that’s held a lot of power that needs to bow it’s head in shame at the lack of progress that’s been made in this country. Not a political majority, but a cultural one. A religious one.

Namely, Christians. The Church.

In other words, Me.

* * * * *

Maybe it’s time for Christians to finally take a back seat in the massive power grab going on in the United States. While we argue over policy, while we get in line for chicken sandwiches or explain the most recent natural disaster, another family spends the night hungry in Detroit or Lancaster City or Sri Lanka. While we fan a holy rage over an empty chair or “you didn’t build that,” a Sri Lankan girl quietly celebrates her birthday, limping around her back yard on a mangled leg, the result of a man who hit her with his truck and then kicked her into a ditch. Just another poor girl. Just another sad story.

The fact is, you can do a massive amount of good in this country without holding the majority in the Senate. You can do immense good in this world without having “your guy” in the Oval Office.

Why do we wait?

* * * * *

I am a Christian. Part of the self-heralded “Moral Majority.” I guess.

While overseas with World Vision, I traveled around with a group of Sri Lankan Christians. They are working in a country that is 80% Buddhist, 19% Hindu and Muslim, and less than 1% Christian. These Christians have learned how to operate as a huge minority, and let me tell you, it was a beautiful thing to see. They were humble beyond measure, kind to everyone they met, and thoughtful in their interactions with the other religions.

They were not bullies – they couldn’t be. They were not boisterous or pushy – they didn’t have that kind of power. They simply dwelt quietly amongst the poorest of the poor, bringing water and food and dignity and hope to anyone whose path they crossed. Wherever they showed up, whether it be at a Hindu celebration or a Buddhist temple or a mud hut, they were greeted with smiles and bows and appreciation.

They were known, everywhere they went, by their love. People sought out their prayers. Children knelt, touching their feet, awaiting their hands of blessing.

I saw they way they worked, and I thought to myself, I want to be in the minority.

* * * * *

I don’t want to be in the majority anymore. I don’t want to fight for laws that will force people to live the way I want them to live. I don’t want to manipulate with my money and my excess. I don’t want to identify myself with a donkey or an elephant. I just want to walk alongside people who are hurting and bless them.

And isn’t that what lies at the heart of this thing we call Christianity? Jesus had no concern with earthly power. Jesus was not in a law-making majority. His was no iron fist hell-bent on self-preservation.

Instead, he was in the minority. He led a group of men who offered hope to the poor and the broken through reconciliation with God.

That’s something I’d like to do. That’s something I’d like to be part of.

* * * * *

This post is part of a synchroblog over at Andi Cumbo’s blog. To see all of the other blog posts on this topic, click HERE.

63 Replies to “Why Christians Should Be in the Minority”

  1. Shawn, the thing is that for some time I have been wondering what the heck “WE” are doing. Should we really be acting like just another special interest group? If so, then we can (and we could argue have been) be manipulated by politicians on all sides. We should be doing what we should be doing. If we really want things to change, let’s work on changing people’s hearts and that will only come through loving with the love of Christ.

  2. Very thoughtful, Shawn. I so appreciate this, and I’m with you.

    My struggle is with believing very strongly that our politics determine how we (as a nation) care for the poorest among us. It doesn’t feel right to me to step back entirely out of the political discussion because I believe, as the richest nation in the world, we have a deep responsibility to care for those less fortunate. So I stay engaged and work for what I believe.

    that said, I certainly could do more directly to help the poor, and I will.

    Thank you for this reminder.

    1. It’s very interesting to me, Andi, that you equate stepping out of the political discussion with denying your responsibility to care for those less fortunate.

      1. I wouldn’t say I “equate” exactly but part of the process, yes. My thinking is shaped a lot by this book because we had a systemic oppression of people under slavery in the U.S. It took political action to change that. Absolutely individual people made a difference doing their own private work, but it took concerted effort to change law. I see that play out again and again around the world in places like South Africa. I’m not saying everyone needs to be politically active (except perhaps to vote – I feel fairly strongly about that), but for me, it seems important that I use my voice this way, too.

        1. The problem with your arguments Andi is that we don’t know if political action would have been required if political action hadn’t been forced on this country.

          1. Also, we can do a better job of caring for the poor and needy as individuals than the government can. You are confusing the government here with people who live in this country.

  3. I struggle daily to reconcile faith with the majority of Christians around me. Every day I realize I can’t. I don’t like the group in this country who call themselves Christians and just like in high school, I won’t be a part of a clique that I find distasteful and {honestly} embarrassing. Who are American Christians? Bullies. Loudmouths. Hateful. Selfish. Superficial.

    Sure, not every individual is like that but that’s what I mostly see. Granted, I haven’t even attended a church in 5 years.

    I like what you’ve written here and I agree completely. Thank you for the thoughtful post.

    1. But Amber those are the ones you SEE. There are so many wonderful Christians stepping up do be Christ to people – but they never make the news. They quietly love and restore and reconcile and never end up on the news for it.

      Come back to church. I promise, they’re everywhere.

  4. American politics is the biggest distraction to Christians ever.. If only we would give the power and energy we give politics to Jesus.. perhaps real change would be afoot.

  5. Thoughtful piece. It shows you are in the minority already, I think, though I wish your view was shared by more people.

  6. Good post, Shawn. I have long been disappointd by “Christians” ramming their preferences down other people’s throats instead of humbly displaying love, goodwill and care for others, particularly the least among us. An example of one thing that has chafed at me in recent years is the insistence that we be wished a “Merry Christmas” instead of the more general “Happy holidays.” Is it really all that necessary that Christians be wished a “Merry Christmas” when out shopping for stuff we may not even need? I always assumed the greeting intended to include the New Year and perhaps even other people’s holidays, and certainly took no offense. It gags me when a person in church pats his self-rightrous back while regaling how he made sure he retaliated with a big, bold “Merry Christmas” to the dastardly offender. I think we need to reflect on how we can make a bigger impact in bringing about the Kingdom “on Earth as it is in Heaven” rather than trying to make all citizens of Earth conform to such silliness.

    Off to reflect how I can make some little difference today :)

  7. I think a huge problem is seeing “Christians” as one group.

    I also think stepping out of the political discussion is only something a privileged person can do. It isn’t enough to just help those less fortunate around you when policies and structures are in place that systematically oppress.

    1. Perhaps you’re right, Jason. The problem I have, and what I tried to say here, is that it also isn’t enough to focus solely on policies and structures (which is what I see most politically-oriented Christians doing) when there are things I can do NOW to alleviate poverty and oppression and to introduce the kingdom of the heavens here, on earth.

    2. Besides, for most people, being part of the political discussion isn’t even close to being productive or revolutionary. For most it involves arguing with people on Facebook. Do you really think that stepping out of that particular political discussion is something that only a privileged person can do or will further bolster systematic oppression? I actually think that’s the problem with privilege – it allows me to shout and complain at the world and actually believe I’m accomplishing something.

      1. I also think that just because others throw around political stuff (and maybe you’re even meaning me) without doing anything behind it, you shouldn’t throw out your “political” voice. Obviously politics is important to you or all of this wouldn’t matter.

  8. Well, before Facebook, people just argued about it face to face. It isn’t any different. We all get so reactive to others’ challenging our beliefs, both political and religious, because we fear our own insecurity. Who cares if people rant on Facebook? Let them. If they don’t do anything, then their world won’t change.

    But I agree with you that we can easily rest in the herd mentality and not “do” anything. We give up our power to the “government” or those in charge there, and then whine and complain. It’s easier to blame and complain for sure. Taking responsibility is one of the existential givens of human life and people shuck it all the time. But we should stay in the conversation even if its heated. We should continue to know what’s going on and act as much as we sometimes can by voting. But you are right, that’s not enough if one feels called to help Christ transform the earth. Have you read the N.T. Wright book Surprised by Hope yet? I got back to it and have now read most of it. It really gives an awesome paradigm shift about heaven and hell and what earth is here for. It also lays groundwork for what you are talking about. WRight addresses how many Christians throw up their hands about the environment because earth doesn’t matter, because this life is only passing. But he says that isn’t what the Bible says at all, and that ultimately God wants to right his vision of his creation. Anyway…. : )

  9. This is well articulated, Shawn. For what it’s worth, I think we already are the minority. America is Christian in name only. Jesus’ disciplines are very much against the norm. It’s easy to live the way you describe when you think about it that way.

    Another thing to consider: I often wonder how generational and/or regional this concept is. In many part of the U.S., Christians are decidedly in the minority. And it’s been decades since there was anything like prayer in schools where I live.

    1. I think you are missing the point by saying Christians are in the minority because there is no prayer in school (as an example). Worry over whether or not there is prayer in school is the sort of fight for appearance over action. Is it a victory if there is prayer in school when kids come to school hungry? I think Christianity as a brand or a team is very much in the majority nowadays. And there is very much a my team vs your team mentality in America right now, with all the focus on that. Rather than simply living in a way that is righteous according to one’s faith, all the emphasis is on declaring your team and asking are you with me or against me, especially in politics.

      Admittedly, this is all coming from a non-religious person, so feel free to take with a grain of salt, but I really wish people were more concerned with doing right than appearing right, and that is what I take away from Shawn’s piece.

      1. I just went back and read my original comment, Andy, and I am somewhat abashed that I wasn’t more clear.

        I totally agree with you – I wish people were more concerned with doing right than appearing right. When I said we are already in the minority, I was saying, “Hey, let’s quit fighting a war we lost a long time ago – being in power in this country – and get on with the really important stuff.” I love being in the minority. I have purposefully chosen to live in areas that are more secular than “Christian,” because nothing turns my stomach more than Christian in appearance only. I would rather spend my one and precious life loving out loud than fight some sort of culture war because “we” are so sure “they” took away something we never had to begin with.

        Thank you for forcing me to clarify.

        1. Thanks for getting back to me on this one. I apologize if I misunderstood your first comment. See, we can all get along. :)

  10. Shawn,
    Am very interested in your perspective since your trip. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if every evangelical believer in the US made a journey to the third world! We would be changed! Have you had an opportunity to read ” Reformation in Foreign Missions”by Bob Finley? I think you will be on board with his premise. I know I am! Dave’s dad al longenecker

    1. I 2nd this! I used to work at Christin Aid.. They have a great perspective. Bob Finley also has an out of the box vision of politics. It changed me quite a bit.

  11. What a great post, thank you. I believe the problem is older than America, however. I think it goes back to Constantine. I know he thought he was doing us a favor by making Christianity the state religion, but since then we have gone from being on the bottom to being on top. You don’t see the world the same way from on top. The gospel was originaly preached to the people at the bottom. When we were hunted and being fet to lions, it cost something to be a follower of Christ. To find Christians the soldiers were told they would recognize Christians their love. How would they look for us now? I would look for the most self righteous jerks, who are to busy ripping peoples eyes out to get the speck out because they are blind to the log in their own. I do not want to be in the moral majority. I will humbly stay in the immoral minority, where Christianity probably should have stayed in the first place.

    1. Separation of Church and State is crucial to the Church. I have friends who are missionaries in Italy. Italy is a spiritual wasteland exactly because the Church was the State. People always hate government, and if the gov is one and the same, then they will also hate the Church. Man-made institutions such as government are always corrupt, and if the Church is one and the same…you see my point. I wish more conservative Christians would realize that mixing Church and State does so much harm to the Church.

  12. Thank you for this. I struggle with trying to care enough about politics. I do vote and I do research on who I vote for. However, I don’t watch the conventions or the speeches or whatever. I don’t discuss it with other people because I am not passionate about it. Maybe it’s okay to not be passionate about it when I am passionate about God and his people and his work for me.

  13. Excellent thoughts here today, Shawn. Let’s join together to become Bible doers not Bible studiers (to steal wording from Bob Goff – Love Does).

  14. “Seek first the Kingdom of God…” That’s what the big guy said, anyway. Funny though, how an election year reminds you how totally invested in the Kingdom of America a huge number of U.S. Christians are. What’s even more amazing is how many of us have come to think that these two kingdoms are actually the same thing, that God has somehow put His stamp on our way of life and our system of government, and that serving God and serving the country are two sides of the same beautiful coin. Maybe it’s time to disinvest in our system and put our energies into a Kingdom that stands a chance.

  15. This is a classic false choice: Wish Christians were a minority so we could be Christlike, instead of being in the majority and not be Christlike. Does anyone really think Christians cannot both be a majority and be Christlike, or conversely be in the minority and not be Christlike? Christians being in the majority or minority has NOTHING to do with individual Christian behavior. We are called to be salt and light in every area of our lives, including helping the poor and holding the politicians accountable.

    1. I think the queation becomes how do we transition individual Christianity into a group or public Christianity? That makes all the difference doesn’t it.

    2. Jeremy,
      Thank you for articulating what I was thinking. The original post seems to imply that Christians must choose between an ‘either/or’ way of life rather than ‘both/both’. We can help the poor and we can also, as you said, hold politicians accountable. Involvement in both spheres IS our responsibility.

  16. Mr. Smucker may think differently about not being involved in politics if he had to walk by an operating abortion clinic each day . . . Question for Mr. Smucker: Were member of British parliament William Wilberforce’s actions outlawing the slave trade in the British Empire right or wrong?

    1. Well I guess you’ve played the trump card. Since abortion exists, the robocalls and Super-PAC’s and lies about death panels and voter suppression tactics and everything else are Christian by default. Love the self-righteous rhetorical question at the end too.

  17. Thank you, thank you. These words bring joy to my heart (knowing that I am not the only one “voting” with my life rather than a ballot), and also sorrow, for I weep for the Church which hasn’t learned the lessons that history frequently begs us to attend to; namely, that the Church ceases to be the Church when it seeks the power of the State. May God have mercy on His Church.

  18. Shawn – this is just plain fabulous. You have put words to so much that so many of us have been wrestling through, feeling disconnected from all the rhetoric, the posturing, the politicization of EVERYTHING. When what we need is exactly what you’re describing – we need humility, hospitality, openness, generosity, gentleness. This one is being shared tonight. Thank you so, so much.

  19. You said it, but now I have the old song in my head: “And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love, yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.” We actually sang it in church a couple of weeks ago.

  20. Shawn, thank you for this. I especially love this paragraph, both for how it’s written and what it says:

    “I don’t want to be in the majority anymore. I don’t want to fight for laws that will force people to live the way I want them to live. I don’t want to manipulate with my money and my excess. I don’t want to identify myself with a donkey or an elephant. I just want to walk alongside people who are hurting and bless them.”

  21. Good, thought provoking post that I will say Amen! to. Of course, there will be those who disagree and who are, basically, clueless about what I call “most of the rest of the world, or MOTROW. Sri Lanka provides a good insight to MOTROW, as do many other countries I’ve served or travelled in. We’ve served overseas (Philippines and SE Asia) for over 22 years, and lived here for 15 years with our family (I’m here for a few weeks now).
    We are still citizens of the USA and vote, but you’re right-on about being an effective minority, and it is sadly a minority, than being one more voice in a majority of sorts. I learned long ago (during the protest movement of the late 60’s) that voicing an opinion and taking action are two entirely different things. What you saw in Sri Lanka happens all over the world (MOTROW-http://tw.gs/X2R8f ) and with many other missionaries, nationals and ex-pats.
    Glad you had the opportunity to go, and I hope you’ll keep what you learned and saw in your heart while you swim against the tide.
    Thanks for posting.

  22. I think we, as Christians, should do both. I don’t understand how living in a third world country in poverty with no control over our government would make us better Christians. I do see how experiencing it should awaken us to doing more to serve with what we have. As I read this article, I kept thinking about when my children were toddlers and had a dirty diaper! I didn’t WANT to, ENJOY it, or FEEL like changing it, but I did it out of LOVE for them and parental responsibility! In the process, both they and everyone else who had to endure the stink were better off because of it. Sometimes you just have to do the dirty jobs! (and sometimes politicians are like dirty diapers…they need to be changed) In the same way, I get tired of the arguments about politics, yet, communicating is something we must do if we want to understand each other and be governed in a manner that we are comfortable with. You may think that your vote won’t make a difference, but what if everyone chose that option? I think we need to take the responsibility and just do it, even if it is unpleasant to us. For every blessing/privilege there is responsibility! There will always be those who do not agree with our own personal opinion or ways, but I am not convinced we shouldn’t share our thoughts respectfully and make an effort to change things for the better. (While ALSO living humbly and working to help others in our community) Jesus DID stand up, speak out, and take action on things that were wrong WHILE ministering to needs and teaching.

  23. I just want to walk alongside people who are hurting and bless them, too. While doing so, though, I will call out the name of the evil that creates the vast majority of human suffering on this earth. That evil is the state.

  24. I guess this is what made me pull away from politics in my 20s. Because I was a nurse then, and I could just be a quiet person, a nurse, and just be kind. 16 hours a day, 4-5 days a week, I was just me, just doing what I was told to do, doing it with prayer, and bringing things to hurting people. That meant so much more to me than the next election. When I had kids and had to pull back from my career, I kind of lost my focus. Partly because we joined the ranks of the poor and I didn’t have time OR money to help anyone. So I just prayed. And now I’m a teacher and I’m struggling to transmute what I did back then and teach it to those who will listen. And is that enough? That and a few sponsored children? Getting rid of my “stuff” and donating it all to the homeless shelter? Living on less and giving more?

    How do we get from the majority to the minority? How do we emancipate ourselves from the raucous “Christianity” of our nation and be the kind of people who are welcomed, known for our love??

  25. The guy is confused if he thinks christians & politicains are one in the same. Politcians mainly have an EGO as their religion. Religions kill each other and choose sides and have for century’s. It is seems to me that christians are not into the blood shed as are some religions that will not except anyone else’s belief’s. I say to each his own. I have a hard time understanding a religion that uses the faithful as a walking bomb in the name of religion kills others and some of their own. We are all in one bucket and should not be concerned or paranoid of ones religious beliefs. Unless part of their religion is to not tolerate anyone else’s belief’s is not religion in my mind, that religious thought is flawed. Why should killing be part of religion in anybodies mind??? EGO??

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