As Christians and evangelical Christianity get more and more mention in the press, we need to be smarter about testing what is properly represented, misrepresented, or what might have been compromised in the process.
For instance, I read a newspaper article recently about a certain Christian University that is eager to up their football program to a higher level. They want to be to evangelicals what Notre Dame is to Catholics and Brigham Young is to Mormons. They want to be a major national football power.
To help them achieve this goal, they have hired a new high-profile football coach and athletic director who both have experience building national programs out of more humble beginnings. The notable thing about these hirings was that both men were available because they walked away from their former jobs under the cloud of suspicion over sexual assault charges, hiring escort services and using sex to lure prospective players to their programs. This, of course, would make their hiring by any university somewhat suspect. What followed was an article that basically defended the university’s position by stressing aspects of evangelical Christianity such as confession, forgiveness, grace, and second, third and fourth chances. It all sounded so good — even a lot of the things we stress here at the Catch — but it troubled me nonetheless, and I couldn’t figure out why.
I spent a good deal of the day thinking about this and talking with Marti and others until I began to realize that the article was using the gospel and aspects of the gospel message not to spread the message or to set people free, but to justify a football program. Not only that, the university was using the gospel to go ahead of itself to remove potential controversy before it happened. It was really an excellent piece of public relations anticipating criticism and answering questions before they were asked. But in the process, it reduced the gospel, making it a means to a questionable end. They were not spreading the good news of the grace of God here, as much as trying to head off criticism of the school at the pass.
Ultimately, I think it was all about too much talk too soon. When you defend something that strongly, and even make the gospel accessory to a football program, you are revealing the fact that you’re not too sure this is a good idea either. If the school is solidly behind these men, then explanations are not necessary, you simply move ahead and let your life and your decisions speak for themselves.
Are we running a public relations campaign here, or are we walking every day in the living, breathing truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ? That story gets told as it unfolds through the reality of our lives, day by day. You can spin it all you want up front, but the reality of the truth will be known as the lives of these leaders and their students unfold. This is where this story applies to all of us. Let people say what they want to say; questions will be answered through the real lives and stories of the people involved. Then the gospel will be the reason, and God will be glorified.