Friday, July 19, 2013

Church-Bashing and Genocide

(With thanks to David Singer for the photo!)

Genocide is not a weed that just suddenly appears. It has to be deliberately cultivated over a long period of time. The henchmen have to be prepared and convinced that they are doing the right thing. The target group has to be defamed and demonstrated that they do not have a right to exist. They are vermin that have to be eliminated in order to create a better world.

The Communists did this with the land owners. They were consistently cast as the “oppressors.” The National Socialists did the same thing with the Jews; the Hutus with the Tutsis – first vilify and then eliminate!

This is part of the reason why I object to the overwhelming torrent of criticism aimed at the church in the West. It is not that we are totally innocent; nor is it that we cannot profit from the criticism. We can! However, there is a point when criticism ceases to become constructive and instead becomes systematic defamation, and defamation opens to door to subjugation and even elimination.

It is so troubling to hear the many voices calling for the silencing of the church. And what a stark contrast to the Western acclaim for diversity and tolerance! While they wave the banner of multiculturalism and diversity, they are intent on marginalizing or even eliminating the church. As one atheistic group, I’m Proud to be an Atheist, advertised:

  • I’ll stop attacking religion when religion stops hurting people and telling lies.
According to this group, we hurt people by our very nature. We talk about eternal judgment, and that bothers people. Consequently, the attacks will not stop. But talk about calories bothers people! Another group, Atheism and World Peace, declared:

  • I have no reason and no intention to respect a religion that violates basic human rights. 
In other words, “I refuse to respect you unless you agree with my philosophy of life.” In this intolerant social climate, we are now charged with “hate speech” when we don’t agree, and therefore, we must be silenced.

However, what are even more troubling than the hypocrisy of the West are the voices within the church, especially among the evangelical break-away group calling itself the “Emergent Church!” One of their exponents, Shane Claiborne, described the traditional church this way:

  • When studying sociology, I saw a lot of disturbing things. Sociological studies show that the higher a person’s church attendance, often the more prone they are to be racist, sexist, anti-gay, pro-war, pro-death penalty, and known for a lot of things that Jesus wasn’t know for…Just a few years ago, friends of mine did a study; they asked non-Christians around the country, “What do you think when you hear ‘Christian?’” And the number one answer was “anti-homosexual.” (ALife, 7/15/13, 14)
Well, this is not surprising, given the anti-Christian animus in the West! While I will not dispute that Christians haven’t always conducted themselves as they should have, my experience runs counter to the narrative ubiquitously promoted in western media – Christian parents disown their gay children. I have never seen an instance of this. However, I know many Christian parents who have been rejected by their gay children!

It is not surprising that Claiborne has referenced  selected studies that have reflected badly on Christians. However, I have seen many studies with the opposite findings. However, Claiborne has concluded that these studies represent, proof-positive, that the church has failed to follow Jesus and that He and his Emergent Church movement are correcting all of that by simply taking Jesus literally.

Well, let’s look closer at his critique. Perhaps serious Christian are more “sexist.” It depends upon what Claiborne means by “sexist.” If he is referring to biblically ordained role distinctions, then he is right. Perhaps serious Christians are also more “pro-war” and “pro-death penalty.” However, to deny that war is ever necessary is also to deny that police are ever necessary!  Perhaps Christians are more, “anti-gay,” depending upon what he means by that. If it means that we are against this highly self-destructive lifestyle, then I guess we are anti-gay. But is this in opposition to the love of Jesus, calling everyone to repent of their sins? And is this an adequate basis to join the prevailing culture to vilify the church?

It seems that Claiborne entered into his sociology classes with a worldview already poised against the biblical church. We then have to ask, “What does he mean by Christians being more ‘racist?’” Perhaps he simply means that many churches congregate according to race. Although I wish this wasn’t the case, this is certainly a far cry from his charge of racism.

Here’s what troubles me – so many members of the Emergent Church are just as critical of the church as those on the outside. In Claiborne’s case – and his worldview is reflective of the attitudes of many young Christians – his contempt for the traditional church has led him and other Emergents to reject the church and to reinvent it in a way that it more congruent with Western tastes.

Although the Emergents do not want to see the church eliminated in the same way that atheists want to see it eliminated, their criticism of the traditional church reflects an unbiblical contempt and a willingness to misuse Scripture to support their own agenda.

Claiborne claims that the traditional church has not reflected Jesus as they ought to have. He cites, “And they will know you are Christians by your love,” to prove his point. However, he has wrongly quoted this verse:

  •  “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35)
According to Jesus, the world will know that we belong to Him by our love for the brethren and not by some amorphous “love” that is supposed to embrace all lifestyles, no matter how sinful or destructive. Sadly, the Emergent Church has failed in Jesus’ love. Instead of loving the brethren, they have rejected us.

I have my own sins, and I am very willing to confess them. We all must confess our sins. However, according to the National Socialists, the Jews had devolved far beneath other peoples. According to Muslims, the Jews had become children of apes and swine, far beneath any Muslim! Therefore, it was fitting to eliminate them as they would any disease. This is precisely what has been building in the power structures of Western society regarding the church.

Criticism has its place, but it also must be kept in balance, the very thing that is now lacking. Once people believe that we are worse than others, they will begin to treat us as such!

What is the source of the contempt for the church? Instead of answering this question, I want younger Christians to do a little self-reflection. Are their negative attitudes about the church a product of cultural influences? Has their criticism ceased to be constructive? Is it merely serving to further marginalize the church or even to eliminate it? Is this what they want? Above all else, what should the love that our Savior taught us look like?

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