As a metaphor for the sorry state of American Christianity, Stanley Hauerwas loves to tell the joke about the high school football team getting absolutely dominated by a rival in the first half of a game. The beating is so bad that it’s 100–0 at halftime. The coach of the losing side gathers his young men around him in the locker room at the break and says, “Boys, we’ve had a rough half. It’s time to get back to basics. This,” the coach continues, holding a ball out before the team, “is a football.”
It’s easy to feel like this coach when one steps back from the everyday practices of the Christian life and observes just what a beating serious Christian discipleship has been taking in broader American culture. From the HHS Mandate controversy to the Chick-fil-A debacle, from the Presidential election to disputes about homosexuality, from the way Christians horde and spend money to the ways we neglect those in need and ignore those in pain, cruciformity has not exactly been the distinguishing character of Christian thought and action of late.