What A Week We Christians Have Had

(A post of mine originally appearing on Moscow’s Vision 2020 forum, Sept. 6, 2010)

This has been a really bad week for the Church whose Savior is Christ Jesus and whose members, unfortunately, are behaving just atrociously.

The screeching protests about an expanded Muslim Center at Ground Zero, the vicious lie that Islam is a great religion for pedophiles, the public Koran burnings, and the continued insistence that President Obama is a secret, swarthy Muslim out to entrap and disable our country have been in large part made by evangelical Christians — the people most identified with Jesus Christ, whether by similarity or, as is the case here, by contrast. Evangelicals, and I am one, are considered within the Church itself and outside of it to be those who hold most dearly to a high view of the Bible, a personal and transforming encounter with Christ, and the importance of bringing the Gospel to the world. The public nature of that identity means that how we act, what we do, what we say and how we say it is, more than any other “Christian thing,” what people will link mention of Jesus or the Gospel to. I shudder to think what decent non-believers must think of Christianity after a week like this.

Those evangelicals who screech and holler about a country threatened by “Muslim terrorists,” godless liberals, a socialist, terrorist-embracing President, and a sentimentalist, Islam-affirming culture, and who do so as good Americans fervently committed to the Constitution, honor neither it nor the Bible when they try to violate the freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment and the notion of peaceful civil engagement spoken to “aliens and strangers” — that is, Christians, who believe we are “not of this world,” but of heaven — in the Scriptures. Hatred of Muslims is not a Christian virtue, it’s not a civic virtue, and it’s not possible among those who claim to be filled with the Holy Spirit. If we can’t engage with a culture, even a hostile culture, in truth and love, then it’s best we not engage at all.

Likewise, Christians who whip up hate by tapping into the wellspring of bigotry and anger in this country and who then claim innocence when the floodwaters of violence and hate engulf the culture, are not only steadfastly anti-American, but also anti-Christian. Christians who demonize others who also call Abraham the father of their faith are guilty of the sin of bearing false witness when they lie about Islam, and they’re guilty of malice and division when they use differences in belief to call for the subordination of those with whom they disagree. There are certainly parts of the Jewish Old Testament, which Christians revere as the very word of God, that, apart from context and without proper exegesis, make my faith appear violent, unjust, and even barbaric to those unfamiliar with God’s Word and the redemptive culmination of his purpose represented by the New Testament Gospel. We don’t appreciate being tarred as a people eager to stone adulterers, sack foreign villages, or enslave those who owe us money, and most of us have an answer to what the Gospel — indeed, the Christian faith — really entails. What possible justification is there, then, for doing unto other faiths what we would never want them to do to ours? Can any Christian truly envision the Apostle Paul striding into Ephesus and holding a public burning of silver statues of the goddess Artemis? Would he whip up a crowd to trash the philosophies of the various Greeks worshiping there and demonize them for their belief in what Paul claimed, in reasoning respectfully with them, was a god unknown now revealed in Christ?

I am not a Muslim. I am a Christian, which means, among many other things, that I don’t hold to or believe in the doctrines of Islam. Muslims don’t believe in or hold to the doctrines of Christianity, either. But the respectful reasoning together modeled by the Apostle can only honor God. I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; in fact, I would gladly die for the glory of the One it points to. But I am ashamed of those of my brethren who have demonstrated recently not actions born of the Spirit of God but of the spirit of this fallen world, and I grieve at the damage they’ve done — to the Muslim people, to the President, to civil engagement in our culture, and, mostly, to the testimony of what Christianity really is. I apologize, with all my heart, for the ugliness displayed in Christ’s name.

And who am I to apologize? No one, really, except for one woman who has made many mistakes in her own testimony for Christ. That doesn’t relieve me of, or excuse me from, the burden to offer something better . . . and I can’t try to offer something better without pointing out that what’s being offered now is really, really, awful.

I’m so sorry for it all.

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