I’m swiping a term from Peggy Noonan’s essay “On Setting an Example” from The Wall Street Journal way back in 2007 (see her The Time of Our Lives).
The term, of course, isn’t immediately obvious but it’s a start in the right direction.
A beacon is a light strategically visible in order to communicate: warning, guidance, direction.
Before we get into the swing of this essay I want to ward off a criticism. I’m not speaking here about the USA being a “city on a hill,” made famous by John Winthrop for the Massachusetts Bay Colony way of life, but about local churches and its Christians becoming an example of the kind of life Jesus wants for those who want to be connected to his name.
Beaconists need to spend less time trumpeting America’s moral superiority to other countries and spend more time getting their own house in order. That’s what I mean, in fact, by being Beaconists. Beaconists exemplify the Christian life in such a manner that the way of life becomes attractive or at least clear.
In what areas? Let’s start with Family and Marriage. Beaconists are committed to love and nurture in the family, with proper respect and inclusion of singles. Husbands and wives love one another; parents nurture children through education and example to become Christians and good citizens. In this Christians in the 20th Century have failed significantly: divorce rates are hardly different, “success rate” for children of Christians is not impressive, and many are simply not known for their family life. Beaconists take family seriously.
Then we can turn to Beaconists exemplifying and not just yakking away about Justice. Everybody’s for justice, for goodness sake, just as they are for ice cream and green grass and colorful maple trees in the autumn. It’s not what they are for but what they are. Beaconists are for justice in this way: first, they embody justice in their churches with real people in real situations (this alone is a challenge for most churches for a solid decade); they embody justice in the neighbhorhood and in the community and in the nation and in the world. Justice, however, for Beaconists is not defined by the US Constitution or by someone like Thomas Paine but instead by the way of our Lord. This raises the bar; it doesn’t lower the bar.
Which means Beaconists develop the virtues of Reconciliation, racial and otherwise. Again, not simply in being for reconciliation: What Christian with their wits about them is for enmity and war? (Some are, of course, but they are sub-Christian.) To embody reconciliation means Beaconists recognize enmity and tension; they know that enmity is not God’s desire; they enter into peace-making spaces; they work individually to be reconciled. They see racial injustices, ethnic polarities (as we saw this last week with a major league baseball player), gender prejudices, economic privileges, and statuses of all sorts. They see these things and they move against them, not just by calling them out on blogs and websites but by entering into the conditions to bring about peace.Beaconists start in their local churches in establishing spaces of reconciliation.
Beaconists develop sensitivities toward America’s Youth. If Jean Twenge (iGens) is close to the mark on what’s ticking now for iGens with their technology addictions and diminishment of interpersonal relations and skills, then Beaconists will find a way to help iGens. In finding their way Beaconists will listen to the wisdom of the wise, will embody relations with iGens and will guide iGens into healthier, stable relations. It’s easy to say “Good grief, look at these iGens.” It’s another to find a way into their technology world and make it better.
Beaconists above all today will demonstrate Civility in public discourse on political topics. This year on FB has been the most disappointing year of my life when it comes to Christian discourse. It’s one thing to believe Trump is not a man of character, but it’s another to be 24-7 vicious in one’s words about him. Demonization of another human being, which is satire ramped up into ontology, is not the way the Beaconists will proceed. Rather, they will enter into civil discourse about great political topics. In exhibiting civil discourse, a theme written about marvelously by Rich Mouw (Uncommon Decency), Beaconists will not only be a different way they will point to a different way and summon others to join them. Their civility, or decency, will be both uncommon in the USA and will become common amongst themselves.
Which is all to say this: Beaconists will commit themselves to thorough-going Christoformity or Christlikeness, or what Michael Gorman has called in a number of publications “cruciformity” (See Becoming the Gospel). Not just at church and not just with other believers, but in all their ways. This vision of what Kavin Rowe calls “one true life” (in One True Life) will be embodied by Beaconists in their neighborhoods, in their employment, in their family.
Paul countered the Corinthian quest for status and power with this one true life; he countered pressuring gentiles to become more Torah observant with this one true life; he countered the divisiveness of the Roman house churches with this one true life. He lived it, he taught it, he wrote it, and he wanted it all embodied by all in the Christian community.
I like this idea of Beaconism.
Someone will ask so here’s the answer: Beaconists are Beaconists in their orthodoxy, too.