A friend and fellow blogger at http://makeadifferenceforlife.blogspot.com/ wrote an insightful article on the Southern Baptist Convention's declining membership. Many at the convention believe the reason for the downturn in membership is the convention's political stance on "divisive political issues." About the Convention's dilemma, Doug Walker writes, "The suggestion seems to be that the convention not be quite so vocal. I would like to suggest a different approach to the issue. I would like to suggest to the convention, not that it be any less vocal, but that it would just as vocally promote a different Jesus."
Further Walker writes:
Whereas the Jesus of the convention has traditionally been exclusionary, condemnatory, and complicit with the culture of domination, oppression, and injustice; I suggest the Jesus of the Gospels. I suggest the Jesus who Himself says, "God loved the people of this world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who has faith in him will have eternal life and never really die. God did not send his Son into the world to condemn its people. He sent him to save them!" (John 3:16-17, CEV) I suggest a Jesus who is just that inclusive! EVERYONE inclusive! I suggest a Jesus whose very purpose is salvation and NOT condemnation.
What Walker suggest for the Southern Baptists is a re imaging of Jesus. However, this re imaging will not produced the desired effect without the language (rhetoric) to promote this vision. This is something that I do not believe that Southern Baptists or the majority of orthodox Christians are ready to engage. While Walker's suggestion is a good one and worthy of practice, I further suggest that this sort of re branding and relabeling Jesus would be so problematic for the Southern Baptists and other Christians, that many more would leave the denomination than would join. In short, what this re imaging and reconstruction of Jesus calls for is a new vision supported by language and actions.
As I write this, I just came across a story of Ralph Reed, former leader of the Christian Coalition http://pewforum.org/news/display.php?NewsID=18283. In the article, Reed says that he and others are "quietly launching a group aimed at using the Web to mobilize a new generation of values voters." Called the "Faith and Freedom Coalition," the group will "reach out to Democratic-leaning constituencies, including Hispanics, blacks, young people, and women."
"This is not your daddy's Christian Coalition," Reed said in an interview Monday. "It's got to be more brown, more black, more female, and younger. It's critical that we open the door wide and let them know if they share our values and believe in the principles of faith and marriage and family, they're welcome."
Again, there is one problem with this--what are they going to say to people who are brown, black, female, and younger? What can they offer this demographic? As people concerned about "value voters" they could offer a faith that is more inclusive, more in touch with contextual realities, and for Christians, as Walker suggests, more focused on the biblical Jesus. However, as I suggest with many Christians, I suggest with the Faith and Freedom Coalition; they just are not ready to do such a thing.