Culture: August 2007 Archives

The Christianity of War?

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When I first saw this video, I was wondering what Andrew Sullivan was getting at by calling it The Christianity of War. He obviously finds it problematic but says nothing about what is so problematic. But then I followed the link to the original location and read some of the comments, and I think I know what's wrong with it. The problem is that the makers of the video produced something for the evangelical community that anyone remotely biblically literate would understand as a call to spiritual action, cognizant of the reality of Satan and the necessity of bearing up the weapons of Christian warfare as listed in Ephesians 6:10-20 and referred to in II Corinthians 6:7; 10:4; Hebrews 4:12 (among other places). These weapons are things like faith, righteousness, the good news message about Jesus Christ, the word of God in general, and salvation. Most of them are defenses against spiritual attacks from Satan and his minions.

But it seems to me that in a biblically-illiterate culture, it's setting yourself up for misunderstanding to post something on the internet if many will not understand the biblical context of the metaphor you're using. This is especially true given those vocal anti-evangelicals who adamantly misinterpret everything evangelicals do in order to further the completely ridiculous thesis that evangelicals are all about political agendas and that evangelical missions groups have nothing to do with spreading the gospel but seek to fight human enemies (not the spiritual enemies discussed in the verses I just referred to that the video was actually about) with human weapons (not the spiritual enemies in the verses I just referred to that the video was actually about).

I am not going to absolve the pretty ridiculous commenters on the video from doing their homework. Anyone who thinks that video was about political fighting against the political opponents of the religious right is morally at fault. There's plenty of publicly-available information that should easily make it plain that that's not the case, and it is indeed immoral to make base charges, that are so obviously false, against such a large movement when it's so utterly obvious that you know so little about that movement.

But I think evangelicals have a calling to make the message of the good news plain and clear in a way that videos like this are not going to get in the way of that. This was obviously not intended to do anything but motivate Christians to pray, study the Bible, hold each other up in times of spiritual trial, and seek to live a godly life. Its creators therefore didn't expect this to be viewed by those who know very little about evangelicals besides the popular misconception based on how evangelicals are treated in the media. But they put it on the internet, and they failed to take into account the small but vocal miscreants who find anything they can about evangelicals in order to take it out of context and put evangelicals in as bad a political light as possible, and that's what's happened here. Those who would produce such videos ought to take that into account and not just leave metaphors like this hanging unexplained to be taken to be about whatever the viewer happens to want it to be about.

Update: I write this post, and then I check up on what's been going on at the Volokh Conspiracy in the last couple days while I haven't had the chance to check in there, and I find this post, which has statistics showing that the demographic group that is most disproportionately Christian fundamentalist in the U.S. is African-American women, and more fundamentalists are Democrats than Republicans. Neither of these is all that surprising to me once I think about it a bit, but it certainly goes against the sort of thing I was trying to confront in this post.

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