One thing that's on the agenda of many governments these days is that of homosexual marriage. I am not going to debate the rights and wrongs of such a policy change. It is the fact that societies around the world are seriously trying to decide this issue that is relvant here.
Think back a generation or two ago... To be non-heterosexual was most definitely to be on the margins of society. Homosexuals were the butt of jokes - not to mention subject social, political and professional discirimination - as well as occasional acts of violence. No government would have thought of debating homosexual marriage. There was simply no debate to be had. And being "gay" was most definitely not cool. Fast forward to our current generation...
Many films, soaps, and sit-coms have gay characters - generally portrayed in a positive light. Homosexuality is seen as just one of many valid lifestyle choices. From the messages they receive at school and via the media, young people in many Western societies are encouraged to explore their sexuality. What a shift. How did this happen?
As with most changes in society, a bunch of factors come into play and it's hard to say what is the key thing is. However, it would be hard for anyone to deny the role the positive spin the media has given homosexuality over the last generation. In the early days, positive comments about homosexuality in the media were met with ridicule and abuse from the population at large. Artists and other public figures "coming out" or siding/identifying with them required great bravery in the face of the onslaught many of them received - much of it from the Christian right I might add.
However, as time passed, and more people did this, homosexuality became less fringe and increasingly mainstream, to the point where it is now normal - even cool. That doesn't mean that an 18 year who tells his parents that he's gay is going to be universally loved, understood and accepted by all his family and friends from Day One but I dare say he can expect a much easier road than that of a generation ago.
So why am I writing this on the Taco blog?
In Turkish society today, to be a Christian from a Muslim background shares many of the same social stigmas and discriminations as to be gay in a Western society meant a generation or two back. In fact, it is probably quite a lot worse. People always knew there were gay people out there; many people in Turkey still don't actually believe it's possible for a Muslim living in Turkey to become a Christian. It is just unthinkable. However, every time a national of this country stands up and identifies themself publically as "one of them", the idea is slowly "normalised" in society. Every time at a Taco event - be that to a few dozen on a street or to thousands at larger events - something of Christ is shared, we participate in the "normalising" of the faith. Even though most folks at an event will still reject Christ and his message, another message is getting through: Christians are part of our society, they have a message - and they are not afraid. The claims of Christ are being "normalised" if you wish, or "real"-ised, in the sense that they are being made a reality in a land where folks know very little of the real Gospel message. And doing this publically is very important.
If you think about it, it is the same sort of message that a Muslim man or woman walking down the streets of London or New York dressed in traditional religious clothes communicates without saying a word: "Islam is here; get used to it!"
Obviously, our goal as followers of Christ is never to present Jesus as one more "lifestyle choice" to popular culture. True Christianity will never be "cool" - at least not for long. Public opinion is always fickle. And Jesus doesn't actually need "PR"; the Holy Spirit is more than up to the task. It is also true that foreigners communicating the faith reinforce the idea that ours is a foreign faith. But, regardless of all those caveats, if the presence of Christians (preferably nationals) publically sharing the message of Christ can make the faith seem a little less fringe, I think the chances some audience members will take Jesus' claims a little more seriously next time they hear them are increased. And I think that is something worth working towards.