Why do we get so excited when we realise a famous person is a Christian? And why do we try and shoehorn faith onto public figures when it is perhaps tenuous at best?
Over the summer we’ve seen two very different sets of public figures interrogated by the Christian commentariat for any indication of faith. We saw the candidates for leadership of the Conservative party assessed side by side for their positive comments on faith – it wasn’t hard to find them. And when athletes won medals at the Olympics and now at the Paralympics, any mention of God or their faith was pounced on and celebrated. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled that when Bethany Firth won two gold medals she was eager to talk about her faith in God, and I’m very interested in what our prime minister thinks about the Christian faith, and the level to which this is her personal belief, but it sometimes seems a little desperate.
It’s as though we’re so devoid of Christians speaking about their faith in public life it is a cause for celebration whenever we see it. And I think because we hear so little talk of life transforming faith in Jesus that when we do hear it, we want to share it, but it’s rather depressing that it’s an occasion worthy of note.
It should be normal.
It should be what we do as Christians in the many varied contexts we live and work in. If we are to be people whose faith affects every part of our lives, it should spill out. And I’m not just talking about sharing the gospel through our lives and our words, a life transformed by Jesus should lead to us speaking out and seeking the transformation of the world around us.
Too often we are too quiet.
If what we believe matters to us it should matter to others too. Faith in Jesus is not an individualistic pursuit of self-improvement. It’s a life directed towards the glory of God and the coming of His kingdom, which means we speak out in public.
Whether we’re leading churches or building bridges, if we’re running hospitals or marathons, we need to be ready and able to communicate what we’re doing, and that will frequently involve bringing our faith into the conversation.
These conversations are not just for the private sphere, over coffee in the kitchen, in the pub after work. They are conversations to have when the project we’re working on makes the news, or the controversy about ethics in banking needs a voice of leadership to speak out.
We have to be able to speak through the media to have an impact. Social media has made analysis of what papers have to say more obvious, we see the agendas of some publications and the priorities they place on stories. We recognise the voices they promote and the ones they side-line. We’re perhaps slightly weary of accusations of bias from all sides against all outlets that we wonder who is speaking for who. It can be exhausting trying to figure out who is dominating and who is losing out.
But our excitement at the crumbs of Christian commentary should alert us to the urgency for action. We need to be speaking up. More people speaking about more aspects of our society to a wider and broader audience. We need a vision for what our society can look like, and we need to speak of that hope and that vision to the world around us.
That’s why the Evangelical Alliance is putting this at the top of their public leadership agenda, we want to see Christians in positions of leadership transforming society, and in order to do this we know we need to have more evangelical Christians speaking publically.
Rather than scratch around for the embers of faith in people already in the public eye, let’s take our faith and the difference it makes, and stand up in public and speak out for good.
The Evangelical Alliance is running the Voices for Good weekend at the Oast Houses in East Sussex 14-16 October to help Christians become better communicators in public life. To find out more and book in please visit the site here.