Over the past few weeks the internet has been all a buzz with leaked Ashley Madison usernames and credit card numbers from thousands of unfaithful husbands and wives, and the news that bigotry and intolerance the name of Jesus is alive and well in the Bible-belt. It has indeed been a busy week on the internet.
It has been speculated that 400 pastors would be forced to at the very least consider resigning in the weeks after their emails and/or credit cards were found to be associated with user profiles on a website used to facilitate extramarital affairs. This scandal (for lack of a better term) gained even more ground when it was discovered that Josh Duggar, moral compass for the Family Research Council, and Christian vlogger Sam Radar were publicly outed as being among those who had been receiving services from Ashley Madison.
Fast forward to this week when the internet blew up once again as circuit court clerk and born again Christian Kim Davis took up the mantle of “Biblical Marriage” in an effort to deny same-sex couples the right to be married. This legal battle had been put to bed by the Supreme Court in June and while churches can choose who is and who is not allowed to be married by it’s clergy, the role of court clerk does receive that same discretion.
So there it is. Again in a matter of weeks, 2 examples of Christians standing up for Jesus against what appears to be just another step in the liberal downfall of America. Again, in the national media, examples that Christians who preach that they are the moral compass of family values have crashed and burned, and Christians who think that same-sex marriage will be the downfall of society all the while seeing no problem with a third or fourth marriage are representing ALL Christians in a national light.
For better or worse this is the face of Christianity in America. And in all honesty it makes me tired, depressed, and exhausted. I serve a church where I am told weekly that people would love to see more “young people” in the church. Often my response is “me too” or “let’s brainstorm how we can make this happen”. But more and more as I am seeing these news stories in my social media feeds I am realizing more and more that the churches well-known PR problem is bigger than we thought.
Kim Davis, Josh Duggar, Sam Radar and the 400 Ashley Madison pastors maybe well meaning disciples of Jesus Christ. They may have done great work in the name of Christ in the past. The problem is that when their bad PR makes it on the evening news, a middle schooler’s Facebook feed, or into my inbox all that good work goes down the drain.
I am frustrated and exhausted explaining to people that illusive millennials that churches seem unable to attract are not interested in a church where scandal and bigotry are the national headline. And while you maybe shaking your finger at me right now saying, “marriage is between 1 man and 1 woman” you’re entitled to that but remember that for the overwhelming majority of young people you are trying to bring to your church that assertion is not their belief.
If you think all of this negative national attention does not effect you or your local church, I’d love to hear how you plan on engaging a demographic that sees the issue of same-sex marriage and unfaithful moral crusaders as a deal breaker when even considering returning to the church.