Spiritual: 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.

Way Out of Proportion

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A megachurch in Arlingon, Texas canceled a funeral service for someone when they found out he was gay, on the ground that they didn't want to be seen as endorsing that lifestyle. Since when does agreeing to host a funeral service for someone mean you endorse everything that person did? Should a congregation refuse to use their building to provide a funeral for the dead brother of one of their members simply because they guy lived with his girlfriend without getting married? What if the dead brother was a convicted thief or a greedy drunkard who slandered people fairly regularly? What if it was the rebellious son of members of the congregation or an arrogant and boastful member of the congregation?

Two of the most prominent passages that deal with homosexual sex in the New Testament list these other sins alongside same-sex sexual acts. No passage in the entire Bible elevates anything to do with homosexuality on a level that disallows showing love to the family of the sort that would be involved in having a funeral. Somehow homosexuality has become so evil to many evangelicals that we could refuse to do something for the family of a gay person that we'd probably do for the family of a murderer.

It's nice to see that this doesn't affect Dale Carpenter's attitude toward Christianity, but I think that's because he has direct contact with sincere, loving Christians who treat him as a real person with a lifestyle they simply disagree with. He understands that true Christianity is not like this. But when high-profile congregations do this kind of thing, it is all the majority of secular people will ever see. Most people who aren't Christians don't have a lot of significant contact with believing Christians who live out the Christian norm of love for neighbor in a way that demonstrates that gay people are part of that love. This isn't because Christians aren't doing that but because most secular people have little contact with evangelicals to begin with. So high-profile Christian leaders and congregations like this one have a much higher responsibility because of their visibility. Unfortunately, this congregation has utterly failed in that responsibility in this instance.

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