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"Braying lambs" & Creative Confessions

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Alabama governor Robert Bentley is getting savaged in the press for asserting his "core Christian belief" earlier this week that non-Christians are not his family. 

The coverage is another example of media and religion talking past each other.  But Bentley's faux pas also suggests Christians in the public square need to re-learn an important lesson.

In 1994, the late Bob Briner – former NBC TV programming and professional tennis executive – proposed a new way of thinking about Christian public vocation in his book Roaring Lambs.   

Briner argued that Christians should not be satisfied to make a living selling “Christian” movies, t-shirts and breath mints to other Christians.  Instead, Christians should aim for the highest levels of success and broadest impact by succeeding in secular “culture-shaping” professions, such as movies, music, and television, on their own terms.

In a word, Briner pleaded with Christians to write, sing or film something - anything - lovely that a non-Christian would actually want to buy of their own free will.  

This was envelope-pushing stuff 17 years ago.  But here's Briner’s key insight that bears repeating:

By proving one's talents against the higher, secular standard, the Christian achieves her fullest creative potential.  And what she creates becomes an end to itself and that somehow declares her faith. A verbal declaration of faith is fine, but it's not a substitute for Christian creativity.

That's pretty good for a guy who lived in Sodom and worked in Gomorrah. 

The parallels in politics are obvious and perhaps more urgent, since the stakes for Christians and our critics at least seem higher there.

The problem is that Christians in the public-square, especially politics, feel compelled to make verbal assertions of faith rather than to be content creating inherently lovely institutions and policies that could better speak for them.

The result is that Christian confessions in the public square today play more like “braying lambs” than Briner’s roaring lambs.

Alabama governor Robert Bentley’s poorly timed remarks at a local Baptist church following his inauguration are a perfect example, though only the latest.  On Monday, Bentley said:

"There may be some people here today who do not have living within them the Holy Spirit...But if you have been adopted in God's family like I have, and like you have if you're a Christian and if you're saved, and the Holy Spirit lives within you just like the Holy Spirit lives within me, then you know what that makes? It makes you and me brothers. And it makes you and me brother and sister."
  
Bentley added, ''Now I will have to say that, if we don't have the same daddy, we're not brothers and sisters. So anybody here today who has not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior, I'm telling you, you're not my brother and you're not my sister, and I want to be your brother."

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