(Note: I’ve created some new categories for posts. One of these is the “Monday Morning Snack,” which will contain thoughts from whatever Scripture I happen to be reading. These were going to be random and occasional, but now I aim to post them each Monday.)
My Bible app gives me a verse of the day, and it sparked a thought this morning:
but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name. 1Pet 4:16 NASB
This made me consider what it might mean to “suffer as a Christian.”
The Bible tells us often that if we’re true to the faith, the rest of the world isn’t going to like us. No one really likes having their sin pointed out, or being told they’re not good enough based on their own merit, or hearing that they are born in sin and naturally at enmity with God until they come to saving faith in Christ Jesus as their Redeemer.
It’s not a popular message. God obviously didn’t read How to Win Friends and Influence Peoplebefore coming up with this plan of salvation.
The problem is, in my experience, believers are often too quick to assume that anyopposition is based on the offense of the Gospel. If someone doesn’t like me as a Christian, of course I’d rather believe that they’re upset because of the counter-cultural message of my faith. But maybe they’re just mad because I’m inconsiderate or lazy at work.
A good example is Dan Cathy of Chick-fil-A fame. Whether you agree with him or not, the statements he made (which sparked the whole controversy over same-sex marriage) were a simple declaration of what he believes based on the Bible. He wasn’t spewing blatant hate or disgust. He was merely professing his faith, and I submit he did it in a respectful way. The withering criticism came because of what the Bible says and how the majority of Christians in the West interpret Scripture on the subject of homosexuality.
If only all the Christian responses to that controversy were as calm, respectful, and precise.
Peter writes in this passage that “to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing,” and “if you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed” (vv. 13-14). But he also makes the point that there are other reasons why one might suffer: “Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler” (v.15).
Certainly I hope none of those are true of any of us! But the meaning is clear: it is possible that we suffer not because of Christ or the Gospel or our faith, but because of our individual flaws.
I have to ask myself:
Are people upset by what Jesus taught and what the Bible says, or how I am saying it?
Are people irritated by my sincere acts of faith in Christ, or by my hypocrisy in other areas of life?
Is the message the source of the offense, or is the messenger?
Military jet fighters carry a type of air-to-air missile nicknamed “Fire and Forget.” Older missiles required continuous guidance from the pilot, who would need to keep a target locked on until the missile got close. But these missiles use active radar to find their targets, and the pilot is free to do other things (like focus on survival and avoiding enemy missiles). The pilot can “forget” the missile and let it do its job.
Politicians and reporters are now equipped with fire-and-forget missiles.
I don’t know about you, but lately I’ve seen a rash of outlandish statements, jumps to desired conclusions, opinion pieces disguised as facts, and blatant lies spread as truth.
I’m not talking about Weekly World News, whose cover stories I read with delight as a child. “UFO Base Found in New Mexico!” “Bat-Boy to be Wed! Pics of Sasquatch Bride on page 6!”
And I’m not talking about the Rush Limbaughs and Bill Mahers of the newstertainment industry, whose job it is to say whatever ridiculous thing gets them a riled-up audience.
I’m talking people who should know better, people whose job descriptions are all about communicating clearly and truthfully with the American public and the world at large.
I know this has been going on for a long time. Propaganda and “spin” and yellow journalism and so on are nothing new. You probably already have a particular news agency in mind. For some of you, it’s the Devil, Fox News. For others, it’s the real Devil, MSNBC or CNN or ABC or whoever last said something glowing about President Obama.
Let’s run down a few stories.
James Holmes shoots up a crowd at the midnight showing of Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, CO. This is a horrific tragedy, and not surprisingly inspires lots of conversations about how we can possibly avoid or prevent future tragedies on this scale. It also inspired ABC’s Brian Ross to point out,
“There is a Jim Holmes of Aurora, Colorado, page on the Colorado Tea Party site as well, talking about him joining the Tea Party last year. Now we don’t know if this is the same Jim Holmes, but it’s Jim Holmes of Aurora, Colo.”
That was enough info for some people to run on. Even though it was later shown to be a different Jim Holmes and Ross later apologized, the damage was done. For some, the important association of Tea Party with the shooting had been proven.
This seemed familiar in an eerie way. I’d heard something like this before.
Perhaps you recall Jared Lee Loughner, the individual who shot U.S. Representative Gabby Giffords and several other people in Arizona. Immediately there was talk of “inflammatory rhetoric” and suggestions that this must be the work of extremists “like the Tea Party.” But no such connection ever materialized.
Oddly enough, when Army Maj. Nidal Hasan opened fire in the Fort Hood incident, there were warnings to avoid a “rush to judgment” about his motivations.
Shouldn’t caution and restraint and thorough investigation be the default policy in cases like this?
Lest you think, dear reader, that I am a staunch Tea Party / Right Wing defender, allow me to turn the tables on my conservative friends’ lunacies.
I’ve seen posts and Facebook-shared articles warning of President Obama’s devious plan to stage an assassination attempt against himself in order to declare martial law and prevent the 2012 elections from taking place. This reportedly got started with a blogger in Florida and grew in assured Truthiness (thanks, Colbert!) to the point that a Tennessee Republican sent a letter to his constituents to warn them of the possibility.
“The more we talk about [it]… the stronger is our defense against it actually occurring.” – Joe Angione, conservative blogger.
Hence all the discussion of the impending zombie apocalypse.
Again, the government official apologized, and most people realize it’s a tinfoil-hat conspiracy. But I still found the story being shared on Facebook. I’m not completely certain it was being shared in order to “clear up the confusion.”
Fox three! Fire and forget!
(“Fox three” is NATO brevity terminology for launching an active radar missile. That it might be mistaken as referring to a news agency related to this subject is mere delicious irony.)
Before Facebook became our go-to news source for everything that agrees with our existing point of view, I used to get e-mails forwarded from conservatives that detailed all manner of overblown Left Wing conspiracies and Obama Administration evildoing. Usually, these could be refuted with a quick facts check, but judging by the list of addresses in the forward chain, that probably never took place.
In almost every case, I’d hop on Snopes and have an answer–or at least a clarification–in seconds.
If you’re being told a story that proves exactly all the terrible things you’ve always believed about the “other side,” you’re probably not getting a fair and objective account of all the facts – regardless of the news organization’s slogan or stated objectives.
This Chick-fil-A business is no different, sadly. Did you know that Chick-fil-A dollars went into lobbying Congress to stop the U.S. Government from condemning a hate-filled bill in Uganda which would authorize life imprisonment and even death as punishment for the crime of homosexuality?
Yeah, neither did I until I saw it posted on Facebook.
Well, that would explain why people would be so up-in-arms about Chick-fil-A, I guess.
Except it’s not true.
Chick-fil-A’s profits supposedly go to a non-profit “charity” they run called WinShape Foundation. They donate to a variety of Christian groups, including the Family Research Council (FRC). A lot of these groups have, as part of their platform of political views, the idea that marriage is about one man and one woman. I totally get why people might object to that in and of itself.
But that’s not good enough for some, who want to paint a picture of Christians as filled with hate and murderous intent for anyone different from them. A picture made it to my Facebook wall that declared how Chick-fil-A was supporting the FRC who in turn used $25,000 to lobby Congress. The FRC’s goal, according to the picture? Stop Congress from condemning the Ugandan bill mentioned above.
It took about two minutes to find this article from CBS news where the FRC is allowed to clarify their position. Kind of in line with everything else they say and do, they’re not okay with wholesale murder of homosexuals. They’re also not keen on the U.S. Government declaring homosexuals a protected segment of the populace like how we protect people based on race, gender, religion, and so on. Again, I get why people don’t agree with or particularly like the FRC, based on that position. But at least make sure the position you’re angry with them about is the one they actually hold.
Still, the message is out there. FRC wants the Ugandan death bill to be passed. Chick-fil-A supports the FRC. Deep down, all those people who lined up at Chick-fil-A want nothing more than dead homosexuals. Obviously.
Why check facts when we already have an explanation for a given story?
Fire and forget. That missile will do it’s job. Actually, in this case, it’s more “fire and remember,” because the intended audience gets the message and makes the desired connection between the accused and whatever political agenda is being targeted. Sure, there may be retractions and apologies later, when no one cares.
And that’s if we’re lucky. It’s practically shameless.
MSNBC actually defended the edited video saying, “MSNBC did not edit anything out of order or out of sequence and at no time did we intend to deceive our viewers.” The video is worth watching as an example of what I’m talking about; there’s no way to conclude that the edited version was meant to accurately portray Governor Romney’s actual comments.
Maybe this is why people turn to Jon Stewart for a refreshing take on news stories. This site from ‘the Inquisitr’ is just what popped up on my Facebook wall and got me thinking more on this subject. At a guess, I imagine they’re probably just as bad as all the other sites and organizations out there. The two videos in the story are worth watching, though.
I know I’m not saying anything new here. This problem is known. Solutions for it aren’t easy, because ultimately, the public is clicking those links and hitting the “Like” and “Share” buttons on whatever news stories support their preexisting views. So these news sites keep firing off more junk and opinion-disguised as fact.
My wife saw the title to this post and came up with a good possible solution for reporters and politicians willing to speak in haste.
“Fire and forget? Oh, you mean, like, fire that guy, and forget about him?”
“Your values aren’t our values. We know about your plans to open doors in our city, and we want you to know you’re not welcome here.”
Maybe… but I’m not talking about Chick-Fil-A and Boston (or Chicago… or probably a list of cities that will want to jump on this bandwagon to show how progressive and tolerant they are…)
I’m talking about Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and the unremarkable but apparently controversial mosque being built there.
Based on the estimate in the July 19th news story in the link, the worshipers might have already had their grand opening. I sure hope so. I hope they’re having the best Ramadan ever.
And I hope their opponents are choking on bile as they see it happening.
There’s a thing called the First Amendment in the Constitution. It goes something like this:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
In this case, no one’s worried about Congress. The Federal government is (to my knowledge) not involved at all. But what the folks in Tennessee seem to be forgetting is that the amendment that lets us freely step into our churches on Sunday wherever we’d like is the same amendment that permits Muslims to build a place for worship wherever they’d like.
Intolerance and fear are clearly a part of the issue. One resident talked about the Buddhist place of worship in town and how no one seems to pay those guys any mind.
“Well, with 9/11 and the whole terrorism thing, people are just a bit nervous about having a mosque in town.”
That’s a paraphrase, but you can read the sentiment in the article for yourself.
To that I’d say,
“With the vandalism and arson on private property, and the open hostility, maybe the Muslims are a bit more frightened of you than you are of them.”
I’d say that, but I’m afraid that (were they ever to read my pointless rant in this corner of the Web) the perpetrators of this fear-mongering would feel proud at the thought. “Look at how we stood up to those Muslims! We sure let them know they’re not wanted here.”
Yeah, good job. Way to go against one of the key reasons America was founded. Way to stand up against one of the freedoms men and women have fought and died to protect for the last 226 years. Take that, religious expression!
Regrettably, our freedom of speech (see First Amendment quote above) doesn’t create any hindrance or safeguard concerning spewing ignorance. Anyone can say pretty much whatever they want.
I approve that. I applaud that. I don’t want the government telling us what is approved speech and what is not. And I know the vast majority of Americans feel the same.
But that allows for voices of thinly-veiled hatred to speak terribly insensitive and frightening thoughts.
Horrible thoughts like the North Carolina preacher a few months back with his “I got an idea… we build an electric fence, and we take all the gays an’ put ’em behind it.”
Horrible thoughts like the mindless venom pouring out of the mouths of Westboro Baptist Church members. I won’t even quote their signs. You’ve seen them on the news, or you can google them and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.
Horrible thoughts like that of one of the leading opponents of the Murfreesboro mosque. “I know we weren’t going to win the legal battle… I just wanted to show ’em they’re not welcome here. And I plan to keep up the fight.”
What fight? Once the mosque is built, as is permitted by local, state, and federal government, and by our fundamental freedoms inAmerica, what fight is there?
I have several friends and coworkers who are gay. Some have made the point that they have come out in public because they don’t want to give anyone the impression that they will sit quietly while people malign or threaten them. They’re all sensible, thoughtful people who would love to leave that part of their lives off the radar. It’s such a minor thing to them, and it’s so not anyone else’s business. But oftentimes the terrible treatment they receive from others necessitates a harsh response, so they stand up and are counted. They stand up and say, “This mistreatment will not stand,” because they know there’s probably someone else sitting in quiet fear, too afraid to speak out in their own defense.
To my fellow Christians, I’ll say, how long are we going to sit in peace and quiet, shaking our heads, muttering a little tsk-tsk in shame, looking at stories like Murfreesboro or Westboro or the electric fence guy? I’ve often heard people ask, “Where are all the moderate Muslims to denounce what the radicals are doing?”
Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.
Maybe we think it goes without saying. “Everybody knows” that Westboro Baptist Church is a bunch of nutjobs that have nothing to do with Christianity. “Everybody knows” that what that NC preacher is saying is horrific and wrong. “Everybody knows” that the First Amendment protects the rights of these Muslims in Tennessee.
Apparently everybody doesn’t know.
It’s time we stand up and be counted. Make sure that those who would wrap themselves in the American flag while clutching a Bible to their chest properly understand the significance of both of those symbols.
Make sure we speak out to those who would spread hate and fear in the name of Christ, and let them clearly understand:
“Your values aren’t our values. We want you to know you’re not welcome here.”
What if Abraham Lincoln was really a vampire hunter?
Oh, they’ve done that, have they?
One of my favorite comic series growing up was “What If?” comics by Marvel.
They’d take key story lines from their most popular characters’ series, and then change one decision, one action, one coincidence. The rest of the book would tell you what would happen if, say, the popular jock got bit by the radioactive spider instead of nerdy Peter Parker… or if Wolverine’s girlfriend(s) never died… or if Victor Von Doom was part of the Fantastic Four instead of being the villain.
Sci-fi shows like Star Trek often use time travel to create a “What if?” of their own. There are series of novels exploring what-ifs. What if World War II was interrupted by an alien invasion, and the various powers of the world had to come together to fight back?
If all of that is too geek-chic for your tastes, a perfect example is It’s a Wonderful Life. George Bailey explores the question, “What if I was never born?”
Maybe it’s all the Chick-Fil-A and Jim Henson Company pics on Facebook…
But I have been thinking about a “What If?” for a while now.
What if it is scientifically proven that homosexuality is a genetic trait?
Now, I know many of those who might read this are probably convinced that it is genetic, or at least, not a choice.
I also know many people who are convinced it is a choice – at least on some important level.
Individuals being the strange and unique creatures that they are, I doubt that there will ever be conclusive universal proof one way or another. Our internal motivations are a whole mix of genetics, environment, outside influences, and past experiences.
But my point is, even though there’s no “conclusive” evidence on the subject yet, the consensus is forming quickly that in many cases, sexual orientation isn’t something we up and choose.
What does the church do with that?
I think we have a few options.
1) Go full ostrich. This, I fear, is our default position. “Science is a conspiracy of well-meaning but misguided atheists who were trained in liberal colleges to reject God and accept whatever the Leftists tell them.”
But you’re reading this on a computer or perhaps a cellular phone, accessing my published rants across streams of information being transmitted over fiber optic cable or simply through the air from your 4G network… all brought to you by the advances of, yes, science.
“That science is ok. The science that appears to disagree with the Bible is bad.”
It should go without saying that ignoring reality is a poor plan. But I’ll use a biblical example to make a point about healthy faith instead. Look at Abraham: he knew what God said about him having a child was nigh impossible. He considered his aged body and that of his wife. But he also knew that God promised, so he trusted what God said. (See Romans 4:17-21 or so… or read in Genesis from chapters 12 through 22 for the full story.)
Abraham didn’t ignore reality or “faith” it all away. Neither should we.
2) Abandon our position. We could always edit our Bibles, stop preaching about homosexuality, and give up political causes concerning “defending” traditional marriage. I’m sure some would appreciate this greatly. If we’re not vilified for “hate speech,” we’re mocked for backwards, ignorant, Bronze-Age religious standards. Forty years from now, the church’s crusade against homosexuality today may look like how we now view those who railed against interracial marriage in the sixties.
That said, our calling is not to adjust ourselves to whatever the majority believes. We’re not to be conformed to the world, but transformed by God so that we can show His love to the world.
3) Examine our position. There are several theological arguments concerning translation and context for verses that, on the surface, condemn homosexuality. It can’t hurt to double-check our sources and see if maybe we’ve missed something along the way. We may claim that God’s Word is perfect, but we also proclaim that we are not. As we learn more about the world around us, it makes sense to consider how that might affect what we have always “known.”
Religion is notoriously difficult (as in impossible) to prove. Much as we’d all desire it, God hasn’t shown up on CNN and Fox to announce His presence and put all the debate to rest.
For the Christian, we’ll say, “The Word of God and the incarnation of Christ is all the proof people need.”
But it’s not.
It’s more than enough for some, and rational arguments can be made. But God isn’t known for cooperating in scientific experiments or providing empirical proof, and that is what some people genuinely expect.
If we’re convinced we know it all, to the extent that we don’t ever need to question or reconsider any subject, then we’ve missed some of the mystery and majesty of the God we claim to serve. Check the “Love chapter” in 1st Corinthians 13. We only know in part. We haven’t achieved perfection, and we don’t know God the way He knows us. So if you have been led to believe that “the perfect” in that chapter is the Bible, well… look around. We’re not there yet.
4) Adjust our priorities. Maybe this issue could stop being the focus of so much political or cultural effort. We don’t picket against fat people, even though gluttony is a sin. (For many of us, myself included, the hypocrisy would be too obvious.) We don’t picket against nonbelievers, be they atheists or adherents of some other religion. We don’t hold rallies against arrogance or greed (two sins that probably deserve a lot more hellfire-n-brimstone preaching in the West).
Perhaps we could stop caring about whether someone is gay, and start caring about that someone.
“But they have to know what the Bible says about their sin!”
First, it’s not a secret. Second, I know a lot of proud people, and selfish people, and angry people. I know rude people and promiscuous people. I know people who steal and people who lie and people who just don’t care about anyone else. That doesn’t mean I rage against them. I’m supposed to love them regardless, and I try to do so.
Third, and most important, the Lord knows I still struggle with a bunch of my own sins, and I do know what the Bible says.
I find I benefit more by learning about the grace and mercy of a holy God that reaches out to me in spite of my sin. That inspires me to live better.
I assume the same is true of others. It’s that whole Golden Rule thing.
Hey, I thought of another “What if?”
What if we cared more about people than about what those people do?
That would be a story worth telling.
The home of David M. Williamson, writer of fantasy, sci-fi, short stories, and cultural rants.