The Atlantic ran an interesting article on “messaging” guru Frank Luntz on why he has lost faith in his ability to persuade the American people. 

Since the interview, he has moved out of the Beltway and sold his consulting company.

“I just gave up” he said.

Why?

Called “America’s best-known public-opinion guru,” Luntz runs the focus groups on Fox News after presidential debates and has been a political consultant and TV fixture whose word has been law in Republican circles since he helped write the 1994 “Contract With America.”

He hasn’t lost faith because Romney lost the last election, or because it’s been a tough run for Republicans of late.

It was what Luntz heard from the American people that scared him.

From the Atlantic:

They were contentious and argumentative.  They didn't listen to each other as they once had.  They weren't interested in hearing other points of view.  They were divided one against the other, black vs. white, men vs. women, young vs. old, rich vs. poor.  "They want to impose their opinions rather than express them," is the way he describes what he saw. "And they're picking up their leads from here in Washington."  Haven't political disagreements always been contentious, I ask?  "Not like this," he says.  "Not like this."

One would think such a cultural climate would provide a rare opportunity for Christians and the church to make serious inroads.  After all, we are the “ecclesia,” called-out to be in community with God through Christ, and through Christ, with each other.  Jesus Himself prayed that we would be known for our love toward each other, and that this would be the church’s great apologetic.

Moment missed.

An editorial in Christianity Today discussed how no attribute of civilized life seems more under attack than civility.  The author, David Aikman, noted the extent to which certain Christians have turned themselves into the

“self appointed attack dogs of Christendom.  They seem determined to savage not only opponents of Christianity, but also fellow believers of whose doctrinal positions they disapprove.  A troll through the Internet reveals websites so drenched in sarcasm and animosity than an agnostic, or a follower of another faith tradition interested in what it means to become a Christian, might be permanently disillusioned.”

I discussed this dilemma at length in my book Christ Among the Dragons.

As has often been pointed out, when the Bible talks about loving unity, it doesn’t mean uniformity, which is everyone looking and thinking alike.  And the biblical idea is certainly not to be confused with unanimity, which is complete agreement about every petty issue across the board (though within churches there should be unity of purpose and an agreement on the major issues related to doctrine and mission). 

By unity, the Bible means first and foremost a oneness of heart – a relational unity.  Being kind to one another, gracious to one another, forgiving of one another – not assuming the worst, shooting the wounded, or being quick to be suspicious.  Biblical unity is about working through conflicts, avoiding slander and gossip, and being generous in spirit.

And it is precisely this spirit which seems to be lacking in the church as much as the world.

We often marvel at the growth of the early church, the explosion of faith in Christ in such numbers and speed that in only a blink of history, the Roman Empire had officially turned from paganism to Christianity.  We look for formulas and programs, services and processes…

…the simple truth is that they answered Jesus’ prayer.  Yes, as Michael Green has noted, they shared the gospel like it was gossip over the backyard fence.  But what did people find when they responded to the evangelical call?  As Tertullian noted, the awed pagan reaction to the Christian communal life was,

“See how they love one another.” 

James Emery White

 

Sources

“The Agony of Frank Luntz,” Molly Ball, The Atlantic, January 6, 2014, read online.

James Emery White, Christ Among the Dragons (InterVarsity Press).

Michael Green, Evangelism in the Early Church.

The Apology of Tertullian, AD 197.

Editor’s Note

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. His newly released book is The Church in an Age of Crisis: 25 New Realities Facing Christianity (Baker Press). To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, visit www.churchandculture.org, where you view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world.  Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.