02 October 2015

hate and american christianity

Every now and then you end up saying something which you feel deeply compelled to share, only to find that there are many who will disagree with you – either silently or loudly. This is one of those times, and there will be no shortage of people who will want to tell me that I shouldn't share my thoughts on this. Such is the life of a preacher, especially when you stand in the midst of a hostile culture (sometimes even within the walls of the church).

This most recent shooting has grabbed our national attention. Most of these shootings do, even though our national conscience has no problem sleeping at night with much more horrific violence happening across our country every day. (To say this, of course, I can not limit myself to gun violence because it is not the majority violence according to the actual crime statistics, not the barrage of wanna-be-stats regurgitated by certain media outlets.) What perpetuates this imbalance of outrage and response to social violence is when our national leaders make these moments into opportunities to further their own agenda, even before we have time to hurt and heal. But, then again, we can only act this way around the "big events" rather than the disease of hate that is filling our streets this very hour.

Within moments of this news breaking the president said openly that he wants to "politicize" these tragedies. Since this is what has been happening for some time, at least he has been able to state his intentions openly. But if you wish to drag this into the national political discussion, then you ought to be prepared to do so fully. This means that we must talk about the raging violence that happens every day and night in our nation. And, especially for a man who feels that our country should submit to the world order, let us also think about the violence of hate that is happening around the world.

And this brings me to the point I wish to make quite loudly . . .

We have a problem with hate running rampant in the streets, without the challenging presence of love to stop it.

Our nation simply can not rely on our national government to make any progress on this matter, for every branch (and both parties) have shown a willingness to act on their own behalf, and not on the good of our Republic. And we can not rely on the media to help the national conversation, for these organizations have proven themselves to be more in search of high ratings and one-upmanship to be more shocking that what you will find elsewhere – when they are not simply producing out of the back pocket of the rich, powerful and political.

I find damning evidence in the fact that the loud voices are calling Christians out as hate-filled bigots, when the truth is precisely the opposite. It appears to be Open Season on Christians in our culture, for nothing will be said about the victims of Umpqua being targeted for their Christian faith, or that Charleston was a church (more than it was historic and black). Further, we are given very little information about the atrocities that are being committed by ISIS, targeting Christians, using brutal and inhuman methods of wiping out a people for their belief. But, if a single believer claims that moral conscience will not allow her to validate another person's lifestyle choices ... If a pizza company expresses their concerns about morality ... Well, then, damn these Christian haters to their own fiery hell!

Some will immediately claim that violence has been done by people who are Christians. In other words, my point must be softened by some asterisk that proves that every group has their issues. But, I'm not making an exclusive claim here, so I do not feel compelled to concede a point in order to make someone feel less of the challenge that the Christian faith is under fire in our culture (and in the world). If you are angry at this perspective, then read something else. (Or, choose to reply to me with angry words that will undoubtedly "prove" your point that I am hateful and you are not.)

Since there is no national leadership that can be deemed trustworthy or responsible on this issue, we need to stop thinking that our leaders in Washington will have the right answers. I am tired of people in the church trying to debate the Second Amendment issue, when there is so much hate and violence that we are ignoring in our own neighborhoods. I do not wish to say that mass violence is unimportant, but only that it gets more attention because there are those who will turn these situations in to opportunities to serve themselves. And this is not the church. We are called to serve others, and to bring love into the world through the transformational power of the gospel.

If our culture has turned against the presence of the church – and it has – then we must not abandon our call to share the love of Christ, but be mindful about how we will do so. As of now, we still have a voice in this nation, which allows me to say these words so publicly. But this will not last if our present course is not diverted. You may think of me as an extremist on this position, in which case I will hope you are right. But while I am hoping for you to be right, perhaps you should be preparing in case I am right. For as long as their has been a Christian message, the world have responded violently to it. We have often assumed our national borders have been protecting us from this harsh reality, even when we should have been trusting in God for our security. Now that we see an increase in what is being done to people of faith – in everything from calculated legislation to senseless murder – we must respond ... with love.

This post isn't about guns and politics. Not really. It is about love being stronger than hate, and it includes yet another call for the church to wake up and be the church – to bring the power of the gospel into a world that has grown so dark. For we can still move, even these mountains.

No comments: