I never thought my first blog on CADRE Comments would quote a rap artist, but here it goes. Kanye West's hip hop song, Jesus Walks, caught my attention for many reasons, but in particular for the lines --

They say you can rap about anything except for Jesus
That means guns, sex, lies, videotapes
But if I talk about God my record won't get played

Fortunately, Kanye West's record is being played, so his prediction was a little too pessimistic. However, his words got me thinking about how Christian contributions are so often excluded from the public arena.

I'm not talking about Christianity being excluded from discussions of public policy and the political process (although that is a perfectly valid topic). I'm talking more about the insidious way in which Christianity has been privatised out of general, day-to-day discussion. Religion is commonly thought to be a personal matter which is not to be discussed out in the open, and any Christian statement in public is thought to be offensive and intrusive. But why?

Western society, having adopted liberal democracy and having focused on individual rights, has taken many steps too far, to the point where we have adopted a disturbing level of selfishness and individualism. We are often told to "make our own destiny" and to "be yourself" and to "not listen to anyone who gets in the way of your dreams" - anything to make us regard ourselves as atomistic, disconnected individuals.

So religion has been sidelined as well. "You believe what you want and I'll believe what I want," we are told. Aside from the problems with relativism, of which there are many, it is disturbing that the general public has so uncritically accepted the pushing of religion into our private homes and churches rather than allowing it to be discussed out in the open.

We Christians must take some responsibility for this. It is no random coincidence that so many people feel that Christianity doesn't connect with their pains, struggles, and intellectual doubts. It is also no random coincidence that so many people feel that Christianity is bigoted, unloving and unrealistic.

But we must challenge the notion that the solution to this problem is to push Christianity to the sidelines and make it entirely an issue of private opinion rather than an issue to be discussed in public. It is, as Kanye West points out, ridiculous that songs can talk about any number of depravities and get spectacularly high airplay, but people snicker and get offended when someone testifies of their Christian faith.

This is not a time to become belligerent. Rather, it is a time to be:

a) loving: showing people that Christianity can connect with them - their bad experiences of religion do not represent the norm; and

b) persistent: pointing out the hypocrisy in a society that silences Christian voices under the guise that they are "offensive" but gives the loudest voice to people who offend the most.

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