The lady doth protest too much, methinks.
-From Hamlet

Me thinks so too. If the lady we’re talking about is the evangelical church of North America.

There seems to be a lot of anger in our culture. Rage even. People are mad and it shows. It shows on talk radio, vitriolic websites and the general demise of common civility. People are seething about…something…or everything.

The culture war.
The economy.
How bad their team is doing.
Their job.
Their ex.
Gas prices.
Flight delays.
The guy who cut them off in traffic.
And on it goes.

The rant has become a contemporary art form. And the church seems to have followed along. We’re mad too.

We’re mad at liberals and secularists and Hollywood and homosexuals and Muslims and the ACLU and all the rest. Many of our popular preachers have learned to mimic the style of the conservative talk show entertainers. It’s a big hit with the crowd. We fan the flames of anger. Of course it’s a “righteous indignation” because we’re…well…right. And when you have God on your side, your anger just shows how right you are. Right? We know America is heading in the wrong direction and so what can we do but protest? And protest loudly.

Go ye into all the world and protest.

Have you ever seen the 1976 satirical movie Network? In the film a news anchor loses his mind and goes on an impassioned diatribe where he persuades New Yorkers to give vent to their anger by shouting from their windows, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!” Sometimes I think of that scene when I see some of our angry preachers.

I understand the anger. A lot of things are going wrong. If you want to be mad, there’s no shortage of things to be mad about. And to protest can have a cathartic effect. If nothing else our contribution to the culture of anger through our protest rallies and petition drives and angry letters to the editor makes us feel better. It makes us feel like we’ve at least done something and not just sat idly by while America goes down the drain.

But I wonder.

I wonder if it’s the most effective way of going about the business of making disciples of Jesus Christ?

Of course you can always point to examples of Jesus’ anger — most notably the cleansing of the temple and his scathing rebuke of the Pharisees. But that’s just the point. Jesus’ anger was always directed toward religious abuse and hypocrisy, toward those within the religious movement of the day. You never see Jesus responding angrily toward the prostitutes and tax collectors and drunkards and adulterers who were outside the religious movement of the day. It was the Pharisees with their well-intended but tragically misguided “take back Israel for God” movement who directed anger toward the moral degenerates of the society. It was Jesus who was able to befriend the sinful outsiders and transform them. Of course this gave the Pharisees something else to be mad about. He’s friends with sinners!

Then there are the Old Testament prophets. Now doubt about it, some of them were really angry. But again, who was the object of their ire? It was almost always Israel — the people of God. Or to put it another way, their anger was within the family.

And that may shed some light on the subject. How do we view America? Is it a Christian nation or a worldly empire? Is America the kingdom of God or a secular democracy? Can we actually draw a parallel between Old Testament Israel and modern America? I don’t think so. Our situation is much more like the Apostle Paul in the Roman Empire than like Amos in Old Testament Israel. That’s why the angry prophet approach of railing against the sins of America as a means of generating revival may be misguided.

So what if this time around we did it differently?

What if the next spiritual movement is quiet instead of loud?

We’ve learned to be loud. We’ve learned to like loud. Loud Americans. Loud evangelicals. Loud has always been one of the primary characteristics of revival. Revivalism has always had a kind of loud garishness to it and more than one revivalist has been described as “part P.T. Barnum.” But I wonder if America isn’t becoming deaf to our hype? Do we really want to come across as the loud used car salesman on TV or the raging talk show host on the radio? The protest rally motif may play well to the home crowd, but I wonder if it isn’t more than a little off-putting to those we are actually attempting to persuade?

Is our general stance in the culture something like this? I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore. So become a Christian! It does seem to come across like that sometimes.

So what if we changed our approach? What if we were just as passionate but a little bit quieter?

There are times when a whisper can be louder than a shout.

Wanting to be in on the secret is different than being shouted at. I wonder if a whispering campaign (like, Aslan is on the move) might actually garner more curiosity than another loud and angry protest — another bullhorn blitzkrieg? When the gospel is breaking into new territory, as we see in the book of Acts, the bullhorn approach may have some validity. But in a culture where at least nominal Christianity is ubiquitous, shouting to make ourselves heard may have the opposite effect. I also wonder if our anger and volume doesn’t sometimes belie a hidden insecurity.

Methinks we can protest too much.

But we can never whisper the divine conspiracy too much.

Psst. Have you heard? Jesus is on the move and there’s a new way to be human.