Over on the Journz email list that I'm part of, the conversation steered towards the current debate in NZ schools about religion vs. spirituality. It didn't take long before the discussion turned towards state religion, and fear and loathing of evangelicals.
On the one hand, they have a point. Christians have a bad track record when you give us power. Point taken.
On the other hand, I asked people to explain their fear and loathing of Christians - particularly ones who take the Bible literally, particularly if they come from America.
It makes me mad - but that's not likely to help.
My theory is, most of these people - and I'm generalising here - have some form of Christian background. May have been Sunday School lessons as a child, or a Christian grandparent, or whatever.
Whatever their exposure to cultural Christianity, they feel it is a thorough enough exploration of the faith and therefore warrants no further investigation. Their early experiences - often unpleasant - effectively immunises them against the true gospel.
What's the true Gospel? How long have you got?
Seriously, though, I've come to realise that while doctrine is fairly important here, what's most important is to see the message incarnated. Lived out by a real person. Otherwise it makes very little sense.
I'm helped in understanding this emergent viewpoint by What's So Amazing About Grace, particularly its chapter on Christians in politics. Some quotes:
So my sense of mission this week - every week - is to seek opportunities to courageously live out my faith, choosing actions that will be backed up by the words of God.
"The church... is not the master or servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool."
Martin Luther King, Jr.
"A coziness between church and state is good for the state and bad for the church."