United Church people aren't inclined to proclaim their faith on bumper stickers. You don't see too many of them wearing "Jesus is my homeboy" T-shirts.
That doesn't mean we aren't good Christians. We pray but not on prime-time TV. It's just not our way.
We're more likely to sit in church basements, in small groups, Bible in hand, faithfully seeking God's message for us today. We like Micah 6:8 -- "What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God."
It is probably the justice part that gets us into trouble -- sometimes with powerful sources in society, sometimes with other Christians and sometimes within our own house. United Church people don't all think alike, so we've learned to give each other a little room for following our own beliefs and interpreting the Bible for ourselves.
These days, the United Church isn't flavour-of-the month in some inter-denominational circles. Our support for same-sex marriage rights puts us on the opposite side of the debate from some other large Christian groups. We will be on opposite sides of the courtroom when the Supreme Court of Canada considers same-sex marriage this fall.
And it is harder now to explain our position since most secular media tend to lump all Christians together, much as they have done for those of Jewish and Islamic faiths.
So we read newspaper reports that Christians oppose gay marriage rights but make no mention that there is a wide spectrum of Christian belief in this area. Reporters aren't helped when some groups appropriate the word Christian and talk as though there is only one true Christian viewpoint.
There is no point in lamenting this tendency if we're not prepared to speak up more for ourselves. Press releases, Web site information and stories in this magazine can help. But what is really needed is a concerted national media campaign to raise the profile of United Church-style Christianity.
We know there are supposed to be close to three million people who identify themselves as United Church at census time. We also know that most of them don't show up at Sunday morning worship. They may not see themselves fitting in because they are still thinking of a church of an earlier generation.
But the United Church has done a good job of applying its belief to the changing times. This is a church that believes God is still speaking to us. We change, stay current and relevant. So maybe we should let more people know who we are and what we believe.
The good news is the notion of strengthening United Church identity throughout the country has already been proposed by staff to General Council Executive. The goal is to help people, especially those between the ages of 30 and 45, have a higher awareness of our values. Some American denominations have used short television spots centring on family issues, ethical decisions. We should know more in the fall.
In the meantime, it isn't a bad idea to remind yourself and any reporters you know that Christians don't all think alike and don't need to, not all the time. Even Christ's disciples had their disagreements.
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