Let’s face it. Christians—and especially, evangelical Christians—have a huge PR problem. Though at one time, society considered us the good guys, we’ve become the bad guys. So how do we live faithfully for Jesus in a culture that hates us?
On this episode of The Roys Report, Julie tackles this difficult issue with pastor, blogger and author, Stephen McAlpine.
As Stephen concedes, we’ve brought some of this hardship on ourselves by behaving badly.
“It’s very easy to have a persecution complex when we’re misbehaving,” he says. “And I think evangelicalism is going to have to take its licks . . . and just say, ‘How do we untangle where we’ve behaved poorly?’”
But some of what Christians are experiencing has to do with the fact that what we believe is offensive to most people.
Yet, instead of fighting to try and win a culture war and convince everyone we’re right, Steve has a radical idea: Just own that you’re the bad guy. And be the best bad guy you possibly can.
“We want to be curious to people in the sense that they look and go, ‘Oh, I know my parents said Christians are crazy. But that doesn’t look awful,” he said. “When they get together as community and do life together, it looks amazing.”
Stephen McAlpine is a blogger and ex-journalist who writes on issues of theology, culture and the church. He is a pastor at Providence Church in Perth, Australia, and also works at a national level for City Bible Forum, developing and presenting evangelistic material for a project called Third Space. He is married to Jill and loves running in his spare time.
JULIE ROYS, STEPHEN MCALPINE
JULIE ROYS 00:05
Let’s face it ,Christians, and especially evangelical Christians have a huge PR problem. Though at one time society considered us the good guys, we’ve become the bad guys. So how do we live faithfully for Jesus in a culture that hates us? Welcome to The Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And today I’m tackling this difficult issue with pastor, author and blogger Stephen McAlpine. Stephen has just written this fantastic book. It’s called Being the Bad Guys: How to Live for Jesus in a World That Says You Shouldn’t. And there’s no doubt our society doesn’t like Christianity, and it doesn’t like Christians. In fact, in a 2019 Pew research study, fewer than one in three non evangelicals view evangelicalism favorably. And some of this is our own doing, right? There’s no doubt some of our political engagement has not helped. And I think the rise of so called Christian nationalism has been so incredibly hurtful to the cause of Christ. But then we also have all the church scandals, and it’s no wonder that our culture doesn’t have a high opinion of us. They think we’re all shysters. And though I still believe that the majority of Christians are loving, honest people, we have some extremely serious issues that we need to address as the body of Christ. On top of all this, we have a message that’s always been countercultural. Yet now, we’re living in a post Christian world, and what we believe is an offense to almost everyone around us. So how do we live as Christians when everyone thinks we’re the bad guys? Well, Stephen has a radical idea. He says we should just own that we’re the bad guys, and then be the best bad guys that we possibly can. And I’m really looking forward to my conversation with Stephen. But first, I want to just take a minute to thank my sponsors, Judson University and Marquardt of Barrington. I so appreciate my friends at Judson University who have been tremendous supporters of The Roys Report. Judson is a top ranked Christian university providing a caring community with great professors and an awesome student body. Plus the school offers more than 60 majors, great leadership opportunities, and strong financial aid. For more information, just go to Judsonu.edu. Also, if you’re in the market for a car, I highly recommend my friends at Marquardt of Barrington. Marquardt is a Buick GMC dealership where you can expect honesty, integrity, and transparency. And I’m proud to partner with them for this podcast. To check out their inventory, just go to buyacar123.com. Well, again, joining me today is Stephen McAlpine, a blogger, pastor, and the author of Being the Bad Guys: How to Live for Jesus in a World That Says You Shouldn’t. Steve also is a repeat guest here on The Roys Report. So Steve, welcome back. So great to have you.
STEPHEN MCALPINE 02:54
Oh, great to be with you again, Julie. I really do appreciate being on your show.
JULIE ROYS 02:59
Well, it’s always a good time when you’re on and I find that your insights are profound. So really, really looking forward to diving in. Let me just start with the title of your book. it cracks me up, Being the Bad Guys. As a journalist, I’m kind of used to being the bad guy, or the bad gal, I guess, in my case. And people may find this shocking, but I do get hate mail. And if you’ve seen my social media, you see nasty comments. You know, I think anybody who is a truth teller is going to be hated. Jesus told us we should expect to be hated, right? I mean that’s part of what it means to be a Christian. You’re kind of buying into being persecuted to some extent. But I also think at the same time, and I know that there’s a lot of people who are probably thinking this right now, so I want to address it upfront. You know, Christians aren’t just being hated for the gospel right now. Right? We’re being hated half the time because we brought some of this on ourselves through some of the corruption and, and abuse that that I’ve covered. But even I’m thinking of what’s going on with John MacArthur right now. I mean, here you have a church that’s defying all health protocols by meeting in person without masks, without any social distancing. And then, when the community and health officials push back, MacArthur says he and his church are being persecuted. You know, it makes me just wonder, have we not brought some of this on ourselves? Are we not hated by the world for a reason?
STEPHEN MCALPINE 04:29
It’s a great observation, Julie. And that’s one of the things I want to untangle in the book. And as I’ve looked at, you know, the book is coming out at a time when there’s a lot of reasons why Christians are being viewed as bad guys. And we can’t sort of wear a badge of pride because of it all the time, because of exactly what you just said. And as we’ve seen things politically unravel in the US, in particular in the last few months. It’s very easy to have a persecution complex when we’re misbehaving. And I think evangelicalism is going to have to take its licks at some stage and just say, how do we untangle where we’ve behaved poorly? And Peter says, Don’t be, you know, if you suffer don’t suffer as a criminal. And we haven’t figured that out. Or we just lump it all in one basket and say, The world hates us. It must be because we’re doing something right. And that’s not necessarily the case. And it’s not necessarily the case in the Old Testament either, where Israel was a hissing, it says to the nations. The nations would hiss because of the way they behaved. And God had to exile his people because of their behavior. So it’s, I think one of the things about the book I want to do is untangle, What are we talking about when we talk about what we’re suffering for, for the gospel? And how do you make sure that that’s the reason you’re suffering?
JULIE ROYS 05:46
And I think this whole victim narrative, I mean, we kind of live in a culture, don’t we, where the one who is the most victim wins, right? If you can claim victimhood status, you’ll get the sympathy of the culture. And I feel sometimes like as Christians, we’re kind of playing the world’s game, or we’re trying to beat them at their own game by saying, oh, we’re so persecuted. And you know, that it just in and of itself is rife with all sorts of problems, isn’t it?
STEPHEN MCALPINE 06:16
Oh, it is. There’s a chapter in my book about that. The sugar rush of painting yourself as a victim. It hits you quickly, and you can sort of show how, you know, in a sort of a sanctified intersectional way, you are actually a victim. But I actually think Christians had to be very careful playing that game. Now, I do think that that if there are things that are legally or politically wrong, and I think you can actually push back against those, you know, in a legal and political way. But to just immediately take on the victim language does two things. It says, That’s our strategy for gaining a position of power, because the whole point of being a voiceless victim is to say, that gives me cultural sort of money in the bank. And that gives me a voice. I go, that’s not what we’re supposed to be doing. But also probably demeans some people who are victims. And I think we’ve got to be very careful about how we use that victim terminology for ourselves, and especially in the West as Christians. Now, I do think that we probably have had a good run for a few decades. And we have to stop and just listen to people who have been victims and perhaps victims of the church at some level, even culturally, and then say, let’s be very careful not to think that the way forward is to find our intersectional victimhood somehow. I don’t think that’s the way forward for us.
JULIE ROYS 07:39
Well, let’s talk about our current cultural situation, because there’s no doubt that, you know, when I grew up, I would say Christianity, at least in the States, in small town Pennsylvania, which is where I grew up, Christianity was the dominant religion. The culture, though most of my friends I would say, weren’t Christian. The culture was Christian and to be Christian, you know, even to say, what’s the Christian thing to do? That would be synonymous with the right thing to do, the honorable thing to do. Now, that’s, it’s all turned on its head. And I do think a lot of Christians are kind of feeling like they’re suffering from vertigo, like, you know, we used to be the good guys, now we’re the bad guys. And how did our culture become so anti christian almost overnight? So, address that. How did this shift happen so quickly? And and it’s been so extreme too. It’s gone from being one pole to really the the whole other side, where not only are we not the good guys, we’re not the neutral guys, we are the bad guys right now.
STEPHEN MCALPINE 08:44
Yes. Look, I think that’s, I mean, when I wrote the book, I take the line, you know, I’m the bad guy. How did that happen? From the line movie Falling Down, where the guy who ticks all the boxes of what he should be culturally, you know, husband, provider, in a job is the movie. Suddenly real life falls apart, and he wonders how he’s become the bad guy. And I think that discombobulation is how Christians feel. How did this happen so quickly? And one of the things I’d say is that there’s, there’s something going on that’s taken a long time to build up. It’s that whole centered on the self-identity in your authenticity. Charles Taylor writes about this in his big book, you know, A Secular Age. And he talks about how the, the most authentic person you can be, that’s the locus of who you are. And the whole idea of actually saying something against someone else’s own authenticity is now viewed as something that’s hostile. But the whole Christian framework was probably, I guess in the western setting, the last 50 to 60 years and think about the sexual revolution in that context, as well, as sort of being a little bit of a veneer and we don’t have as much of the Christian framework as we probably thought we did. And if you read Christian Smith’s stuff on moralistic therapeutic deism, it’s not a hard leap to go, the spirituality of the West and American teenagers was a particular focus of his, Christian Smith, was that they are moralistic. If you’re good, God will like you. It’s moralistic. It’s therapeutic. It’s how I feel. It’s what is right is probably something that makes me happy. And it’s deism. It’s God at a distance. It’s not a biblical Christianity. And the house of cards falls very quickly if you’ve just got a veneer of Christianity over it. And I think that culture, shaping narratives of our, you know, our big tech, our Disney’s our etc, over the last 40-50 years, shaped our cultural narrative so thickly that the Christian framework hasn’t found a way to respond in a thick way to those narratives. And suddenly it all falls apart very quickly. So I don’t think it happens quickly. But when it changes, it changes quickly. And that’s the moment we’re in at the moment, I think.
JULIE ROYS 10:53
Well, and I do think what you hinted at, with even social media and our culture, like when I was growing up, my parents had so much influence on me. And the only way you could get to me is either, you know, when I’m in school, but that was somewhat of a controlled environment, or through our front door, or back door, or telephone or a TV. And all of those things were controlled by my parents. And now, we just have this social media that’s, that’s just so unbelievably powerful. In fact, I mean, right now, what’s happening with Wall Street is incredible. With social media. Here, you have all these millennials, beating these hedge fund manager boomers at their own game, and they’re using social media to do it. And it’s like this revolution of Wall Street overnight. And so we’re seeing just so many, I think, cultural trends being uprooted and it happening so quickly, because we do have this internet. I mean, it just like, blew up overnight.
STEPHEN MCALPINE 11:47
Yeah, the tech thing is absolutely central to that. And you think about that you carry Babylon around in your back pocket in your cell phone, and every teenager is doing that. So the messages that they’re getting of what the good life looks like. And in one sense, what I’ve been saying in my book is that this is the hostility that we’re experiencing is because it’s a clash of two gospels, two versions of good news. There’s the Christian framework, the Christian good news of Jesus. But it’s not coming into neutral territory. It’s coming against a different vision of human flourishing, which is pitching itself as good news and an alternative to the failed Christian experiment, which has left people broken and bruised and battered. And I think that’s where the heat in the arguments comes in. And social media. This is why I say politics is downstream of culture. Whoever you have in the White House, or whoever you have in Parliament in the UK, or Australia or whatever, in the western democracies, they’re always downstream of culture, and politics can get voted out of office. Whoever is president in four years time won’t change the deep cultural, you know, that’s the surface waves, the politics, the deep cultural undercurrents are the things that are shaping us. And that is what’s shaping us, I think more than anything. That social narrative, and the social imaginary, as Charles Taylor calls about it, what we’re swimming in. Very hard to change that. And I think Christians are having to open their eyes and say, Hey, the water has changed. We’re not in the same water we used to be.
JULIE ROYS 13:13
Hmm. And I think you make a really good point that we’re not talking about pre Christianity. Because I think that was, and you talk about the the missional movement and, and how, you know, it’s just a stop. Well, okay, so now we have a smorgasbord of different spiritualities out there. Well, we’ll just set up Christianity as one of them. And, and the world will see that it’s better and it’s truer. And as you said, you know, some people started setting up church in the pub. That the problem is the Christians became like the people in the pub instead of converting the people in the pub. And and we didn’t notice that culture, again, It’s not like we’re on neutral territory. It’s post Christian.
STEPHEN MCALPINE 13:55
Exactly. And I think 15 years ago, I walked out of a shop called Baker’s Delight on a Sunday with a loaf of bread tucked under my arm and the sign in the shop window. Actual sign said Baker’s Delight is open Sunday, whatever happened to the day of rest? I went, yeah, what did happen to the day of rest? It sort of often left quietly without me thinking about it. And my context there was, I went back in and asked for the poster actually, they gave to me. I still got it, laminated it and kept it because my initial thought was, yeah, Christianity will fade off the radar a little bit and it’ll be, people will be disinterested in it and it’ll just be, oh, yeah. And we’ve got to find a way to sort of jeez people up again to think about Christianity. When what has happened was it was dragged into the marketplace by this post Christian, almost evangelistic zeal of the new post Christian zeal, and it’s sort of being flayed in the marketplace and found wanting. There’s a deep interest in what the Christian framework is, but for many places, it’s a hostile interest. It’s not a ‘we have to drum up interest in what we believe’. It’s people saying, we know what you believe, and we don’t like it. And so the post Christian experience takes on the same language and terminologies and frameworks of Christianity because we’re, you know, you can’t jettison your foundations or your moorings that quickly. So the post Christian experience takes on the frameworks and thinking of Christianity, but uses it for different purposes. So we have our, you know, the post Christian experience has its saints and sinners. It has its vision of the good life. It’s got a goal or utopian goal of progress towards which we’re going. That idea of progress of utopian future towards which we’re headed, isn’t universal. I mean, many cultures are cyclical in their understanding of history. Christianity is definitely going in a direction. But if you take the Christian bit out, I think we’re heading people can still have a progressive understanding, but they just do it without the gospel. There’s a they’ve got a different gospel in that sense.
JULIE ROYS 15:47
It’s always interesting to me, because I was a history major. And I mean, I remember studying World War One, and after the Titanic, and we saw here that the upper class behaving in such a amoral way, in allowing the lower classes on the Titanic to die while they saved themselves, right? And so this idea that mankind was progressing and getting more moral and getting better. It was kind of dispelled after that, and there was kind of a disillusionment in society. And yet we see this constantly recycling itself, because we can’t admit that we actually are sinners in need of a Savior. We can’t admit that our ideas aren’t moving us towards utopia, as you’re saying. We have to believe in something. And so I think that’s where we’re at as a society. And whenever, whenever that’s the solution, it’s destined to fail, because we can’t save ourselves. And so in some ways, I mean, aren’t we seeing there is an opportunity, because people are trying that, and it’s not working?
STEPHEN MCALPINE 16:52
Oh, look, I think I called my book Being the Bad Guys for a reason. Because it’s kind of ironic in the sense that I think that the Christian framework has a future going forward, Obviously, I believe that because of my from my biblical gospel understanding of it. But in one sense, what I’d say is that we can become repellently attractive. People look at us and go, Well, I’m supposed to not believe anything they believe. And I’m supposed to think with the way they live their life is just going to be terrible. But gee, when they get together in community and do life together, it looks amazing. You know, I kind of like some of that. And it’s kind of that, that we want to be curious to people in the sense they look and go, Oh, I know, my parents said Christians are crazy. But that doesn’t look awful. The problem is half the time, you know, we’ve got there’s a public presentation about some ways Christians behave that does look crazy. And we’ve got to sort of fight on two fronts on that. So I think the time is coming, that people are asking questions. And another program I’m writing with another organization I’m working on is called Never More Hostile, Never More Open. And one of the observations is that it’s never been more hostile on the areas of sexuality and gender, and how Christians are having a different Christian sexual ethic to the world, and how that’s been played out in the public square. But never more open as well. And here in Western Australia, very secular place, maybe 2% are evangelical Christians. So the term itself has been solid. But you know, it’s not like it’s because we’ve had a lot of evangelicals in the state. But Christian unions on university campuses are saying that say more people inquire about Christianity than for years, because they come with no framework to university. They are genuinely post Christian. And they’re like, Wow, I didn’t know you believe that. We make no assumptions, and they’re open. So there’s not there’s never more hostile, but at the same time, never more open. I think I would prefer that then everyone just doesn’t care. I’d like them caring hot or, you know, one way or the other.
JULIE ROYS 18:50
You know, it’s funny, I think in some ways, they say that people aren’t agnostics, they’re ignostics. They really are ignorant of, of what of what Christians believe. And even as we’re talking, I’m thinking of this conversation I had. My daughter FaceTimed me this morning, because she’s, she’s on this outreach program right now, you know, in the midst of COVID, right? But they went to a homeless shelter this morning, and she just wanted to share with me because she was just like, man, God just spoke in such a powerful way. And here, she had talked to this guy who was just bawling because his, his life was falling apart and his girlfriend had broken up with him because of his drug addiction. And here, she she’s like he was like 50 years old. And here I am, 18 and she just was sharing, you know about how really drugs that’s like a counterfeit Holy Spirit and and, and, and just sharing it, you know, just this really genuine, authentic and care for him and, and she’s like, Mom, he was like really listening. Like, like, he was responding like he was interested and he was like, Wow!, I hadn’t thought of that. And I think sometimes we forget how hungry the world is, because it’s so hostile and we need to become and I love that the word that you use for it. You use this word ‘creative minority’. You know embrace the word minority but at the same time, be creative about it and, and begin working, not as individuals. And I’d love you to kind of spell this out a little bit. But as communities working together.
STEPHEN MCALPINE 20:22
The third section of my book really is a strategy of how how we do that together. And I think the workplace, you know, church, life in the city. How do Christian communities do this together. And, you know, I call that section ‘Being the Best Bad Guy You Can Be’ in the sense that when a Christian community does life well, without expectation that it should have a voice in the culture, beyond anyone else’s voice. When a Christian community is able to say we do love this way, we do forgiveness this way, we do hope this way. And I think the cultural tsunami will wash a lot of bodies on our shore, and they’ll come up to our door. And if they come to us, and they say, how do you do sexuality? How do you do loive? How do you do forgiveness? And we say ‘just the same way you do’, they’re going to walk away sad. And I think a lot of the issues in my book, center around the cultural hotspot at the moment, of the sexuality and gender ethics issues. But those aren’t the only issues. And it’s easy to rail against them from the church, but be completely sucked in by the consumer model of the other aspects of our culture that we sort of sucked down without even thinking about it. And we could be easily just as sucked in by this, this culture as the person who is the bogeyman of the sexual gender ethics issue. And so we need to start working and saying, and I use an example from the book of Haggai. God’s people have to find their glory in him. It says in Haggai, they’re all rushing off to build their paneled houses, while his house, the church, is neglected. And when I say the church, I mean the people of God together. And I’m saying don’t renovate the wrong house. Don’t say, we’ll just put our heads down while there’s a cultural sort of, you know, heatwave coming over the top of us, and we’ll just get comfortable and wait out retirement. Don’t do that. Work hard to be the people of God in your location, even if it cost you. Because the benefits now and into eternity are worth it.
JULIE ROYS 22:24
So we haven’t talked specifically about this. So let’s unpack the whole gender and sexuality issue because that is the, it seems like the dividing line for so many people on whether or not you know, they’ll listen to you, is how do you feel about LGBTQ rights? It’s the issue right now. So how do we talk about it in a way that and how do we think about it in a way that’s, that’s true? And yet, at the same time, winsome to our culture?
STEPHEN MCALPINE 22:56
Oh, look, I think it’s it’s a difficult topic to address because it’s the plausibility issue. It’s like, you have no credibility if you don’t tick this box. And you know, maybe 40 years ago, someone would say, what do you think? Did dinosaurs exist? Yeah, and they would test whether you actually were kosher, or whether you thought they did or not. Now, what’s your view on same sex relationships? That’s the Shibboleth that’s going to get you cut down at the river. And part of that is it’s a, it’s one sense, you can answer that in a very simple answer, like the Bible says this about how humans are put together. But in one sense, it’s a very deep issue. I have to unpack what it means to be human, what it means to pitch a vision of the good life, and pitch a vision of life under God, that looks like something. And that takes a long time to do and your first response usually feels like a doorstop by a journalist. What do you think about same sex marriage? And what do you say there? How do you explain to people that, I recognize I live in a secular setting where people disagree with me and decisions can be made that I don’t agree with. But that doesn’t mean to say I’m out to, you know, foment rebellion against the government. We live in a secular setting. How do you bring it across, but we don’t practice life that way, because we have a different vision of life? And I think at the base of it is a this what I talked about these two different gospels. There’s the gospel, the good news of Jesus, and there’s the good news of here’s how to craft a life for yourself where your deepest identity is found in your sexual identity. And that’s part of the issues. It’s an identity issue. And I think many Christians thought, we can say that we love the sinner and hate the sin. Or we can say that we’re all broken before God and people will be happy with us. But they were deeply angry when we said those things because we were touching, not just at a surface issue that we felt was, our sex is just a surface issue. It was now considered who you are and your gender and sexuality is your deepest identity. And if you touch that, you’ve touched the core of someone, and you are actually doing violence to them. So I don’t think Christians got that, that that was where the culture was heading. And now that we’re, we’re kind of struggling to figure out a way. And I think there’s a way forward, that is orthodox and not revisionist in understanding the text of the Bible. But it takes a long time to unpack. A doorstop answer, like isn’t going to do anything except cause a bit of heat, I think.
JULIE ROYS 25:29
My husband used to teach in the public schools, and he would always get called in to the world religions class, always wanted a real Christian to come in, who actually believed it. So they would have him come in, and they would pepper him with questions about Christianity. And of course, he was always prepared because every year without fail, one of the first questions is, what do you think about same sex marriage? And, and he would actually turn it around a little bit and be like, Well, let me tell you what I believe about marriage. And then he began to talk about how this one flesh union in Genesis, how that’s actually supposed to be a picture of Trinitarian life and love. This, this unity with distinction. And he began to unpack it like that. And they didn’t know what to do with that. And I thought it was so interesting, you know, that you said too, that the primary concern shouldn’t just be about our personalized becoming harder, or that we’ll have to grow up in a hostile setting. But is this rejection of a binary understanding of the world that will destroy our, our understanding of who God is of who our world is? Talk a little bit about this, this binary understanding of the world and why this is so important, and why if that gets undermined, we’re just not going to get it?
STEPHEN MCALPINE 26:44
Yeah, that’s that’s exactly right. And I wrote a bit about that in the book. And that the fact is, as you go into the text of Genesis, you realize that it’s light, dark, you know, earth, sky, you get creator/created. And there’s that sense of which those relationships are dovetailed with each other. And then when you put the marriage relationship in that, and then you see the bigger picture of Christ in His Church, it starts to make sense. And one of the things that I think that you said rightly about your husband, too, that when the same sex marriage debate was going on in Australia, it was either a yes or no campaign. There was a vote for them. And you know, when you’re voting no, part of the issue might be that you not have not pitched the vision of good marriage that makes sense to people. We haven’t pitched the vision of what marriage is, and can be in such a way over the years. And part of the issue is you’ve got to ask the church itself. If the church itself over the last 30 to 40 years has just, you know, taken on the idea that marriage is about finding a satisfying sexual romantic partner who can make you feel better about yourself, if that’s how we’ve pitched marriage in so many of our church settings. And it’s about finding that right romantic partner who completes you, then it’s why can we say how can we say to the world, but you can’t do it the way you want to do it? We haven’t pitched marriage for what it actually is, and how intense it can be, but also how intensely rewarding it is when it’s lived under King Jesus. Where I had to die to myself for the sake of the other. And I think perhaps the church has to take its licks at that point and say, we have not pitched the vision of Christian marriage in such a way to our world, that they would go Wow!, that looks amazing.
JULIE ROYS 28:30
Well, let’s talk a bit about suffering. Because that’s one of the things that you talk about in your book. You say that we need to embrace suffering, and I love, you put up this, I guess it was the advertisement that Antarctic explorer, Ernest Shackleton, he put up when he was going on this polar expedition. He wrote, ‘men wanted for hazardous journey, low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness, safe return doubtful, honor and recognition in event of success.’ People responded to that!
STEPHEN MCALPINE 29:08
Some people said it’s an apocryphal tale, but the fact of it is, is that when you pitch something that is hard and worthwhile, I think people do respond to it. And when you respond to something like that, that says, I’m going to call you to something greater. We do it all the time anyway. I mean, I run a lot. And you know, every second Instagram picture that comes across my Instagram account is some guy running up a really steep hill that says something about, you know, you don’t get anything out of anything until you put something in. And we kind of think that, in certain aspects of life. But when it comes to perhaps our own sort of, you know, Christian framework, we’ve had 20 or 30 or 40 years perhaps have been told, if you become a Christian and you pull the god lever, this will come out the other end; you’ll get the goodies out the other end. That has infected the church. Now there is deep joy in following Jesus. There’s deep joy in the things that God has given us in this world. But Jesus did say, If you want to follow me, you’re going to have to die to something, you’re going to die to something. And anyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus, as the scripture says, will be persecuted. Now persecution doesn’t, one of the things about persecution is people say, oh, we’re being suffering for the gospel here in Australia, or whatever. And people say, well, not compared to, you know, the Middle East. Well, that’s like going to the doctor and saying, I’ve got a really sore arm and he said, Well, the patient next door is getting his leg cut off. Quit complaining. When you read I Peter, the suffering in I Peter is not getting your head chopped off for believing in Jesus. It’s the scorn and sidelining of the people who’ve joined the community of God’s people, by their social setting. It’s the rejection and the, the slander made towards them. And perhaps as a sort of fairly robust 54 year old, I can cope with that. But my 20 year old daughter is about to start a liberal arts degree at a university in a few weeks time, and to be a practicing Orthodox Christian in that setting, is going to be a challenge to her. And they are going to push back on her in a way that she’s going to have to be prepared for. And so it’s that setting. So I’m writing this book to encourage people who are that generation in particular, or people who are in the workplace, where the HR department says, here’s our social, ethical, you know, guidelines for the year. Here are the things we’re going to celebrate and you go, I can’t do that. That’s against what I believe. Those are the pressures we feel in the workplace where I’m not just going to be scorned, but I could be overlooked for a promotion, or I could lose my job long term, because I just don’t sign off on what the culture says I should be signing off on. Those are the things that are the hard things to do. It’s just putting that pinch of, you know, just put a pinch of incense on the altar to Caesar and you’ll be okay. And when you say no to that, you then find that there’s a very harsh response.
JULIE ROYS 32:15
I think what you write about , and I think it’s so healthy for us to really embrace what God’s called us to be. And that is almost always the counter culture, almost always the minority, almost always misunderstood, like the first century church was. We don’t like it, though. And this is something I definitely want to address before I let you go. Is that what I see happening, and this is especially I think, in the United States, I don’t know that there’s anything comparable, though I don’t really know what’s happening in Australia. But we are seeing this rise of Christian nationalism. And I don’t know how big it is. It depends on who I talked to. Some would say, Oh, this is just on the fringes. I think January 6, and what happened at the Capitol in the US, that was shocking to a lot of us. And we would like I know, there’s certain groups that want to just point the finger at the radical left and say, somehow, there were people in there, inciting this. We’re going to have to come to grips with the fact that there is a radical, white nationalist, very something that was fringe right, that seems to be moving more mainstream. And at the core of it, it seems to me is an unwillingness. Now, I don’t think that this is Christian. I think that Christian in name only, but wanting to be the dominant culture, again, wanting to be on top again. And I think there are authentic Christians that can get caught up in this. And I think it’s terribly dangerous. And I would love for you to speak into that, Stephen, because I think it’s a cultural move that is attractive to some, and I think there are Christians getting swept up in it. I know, because some of these people have texted me. And I’m just I’m shocked and just disheartened.
STEPHEN MCALPINE 34:01
Look, I, you know, we watched aghast I suppose. We’d have similar, we wouldn’t have similar movements, but we’d have you know, people who respond to that the same way in our countries, but it’s nothing like that. One of the interesting things, Mark Sayers is a great Melbourne author and pastor here in Australia, very secular city. He wrote a couple of great books on on this whole change in the secular frame and how Christians respond to it. And he talks about the progressive narrative of being they want the kingdom without the king. So they want the rights and the justice issues without the king. But I think there’s a flip side to that. What I would call the sort of the, the Right conservative, and almost fundamentalist aspect of it is, they want the Christendom without Christ. I think many of these groups are kind of happy with the Christian framework, and all of those good things, but if Christ is co-opted into it or not, that’s not the issue. They’re culturally wanting a certain way of life that looks like Christendom. But Jesus could be an optional extra. As long as they get that back, it’s Christendom without Christ in the same way that puts kingdom without King on the flip side. And I’ve seen that happen where you end up getting a flotilla of interest groups which have commonalities, a Venn diagram, I suppose of, you know, intersecting commonalities. And one of them might be Jesus for some of these people. And I think that’s where the church has to really take a step back and go, Hang on; that’s not where we’re supposed to be going. And but you can see this flotilla happening. And if Jesus can be co-opted to that, well, well and good. But he doesn’t necessarily need to be. And that’s what’s happening, I think, in that setting. It’s that Christendom without Christ, that is a, we want to return to that world that we had, where there was this way of doing the world. And we will get that back. Because when we get that back, all the things will be in order to put good things in place. And but those years aren’t coming back. And I think we’re in that turmoil at the moment that there’s a gap. There’s a hole in the middle of our culture where we don’t trust government, we don’t trust institutions, and left and right. And post Christian and elements of Christianity are fighting or struggling over getting that pair.
JULIE ROYS 36:26
And we need to embrace the way the cross, right? Anyone who would come after Me must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. And there’s joy in that. That’s the thing. It’s not a drudgery in doing. There’s joy in that journey. And I think sometimes we forget that as a church. But you’ve reminded us in this book, Steve, I really appreciate what you’ve, you’ve put together. I think it’s really encouraging. That’s why we’re offering it as our premium this month for you know, anybody who gives a one time gift of $50 to this ministry or $25 a month. We want to get this book in your hands, Being the Bad Guys: How to Live for Jesus in a World that Says You Shouldn’t. Steve, thank you so much for for writing this. And any last words of encouragement you want to give?
STEPHEN MCALPINE 37:10
I just want to say that word joy is pay to it. For me, it’s very easy to be stoic. But that’s all. We don’t have to be cold to be stoic. St. Peter, when he’s Jesus, he says to Jesus, we’ve left everything to follow you. And Peter and Jesus, like Really? You know, you get all this, all these new family, new everything, all these people and persecutions and eternal life. So there’s deep joy in following Jesus in the midst of this, and I wouldn’t want us to lose that fact.
JULIE ROYS 37:40
Well, Steve, again, thank you so much. And thanks for listening to The Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And if you’d like to find me online, just go to Julieroys.com. Also, make sure you subscribe to The Roys Report on Apple podcasts or Google podcasts. That way, you’ll never miss an episode. And while you’re at it, we’d really appreciate it if you’d help us spread the word about the podcast by leaving a review and then if you post it on social media. That will be awesome. We’d appreciate that as well. Again, thanks so much for joining me today. Hope you have a great day and God bless.