Friday, May 11, 2007

Religious bigotry and Christian behavior

“…We have arrived at the marks of dangerous religious bigotry: spreading sensationalistic lies, instigating fear in the public, and promoting paranoid conspiracy theories.” (Gene Edward Veith, World Magazine, quoted in the Summit Ministries journal, April 2007)

Some years back, shortly after her death, someone suggested that my great-grandmother had cheated on her husband. The family didn’t get angry. They laughed it off. To the people who knew her, the accusation was simply ridiculous.

When people say bad things about us, what we would like is for our friends and even our enemies to laugh it off. We want to “[keep] a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander” and “live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.”

The early Christians, when so accused, could point to their lives as proof that the slander was just that (for example). Today, I’m not sure that would be a useful apologetic. When Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens et al claim that religion is evil, we can certainly defend ourselves against their attacks, but what we cannot expect is that our friends, much less our enemies, will simply laugh off the accusation. There is too much truth in what they say because, frankly, there is very little difference between us and our non-Christian neighbors (be they Hindu, Muslim, or atheist). The lost look at us and all too often see nothing different than anyone else. I know this is the case with me.

We can’t do anything about so-called Christians who have no interest in living a godly life. But we can, and must, examine our lives and ask hard questions. We need to cast off those besetting sins and become the holy people that our Savior deserves and our neighbors need to see.

No comments: