I admit it. This week I got sucked into spending the better part of two days roving around looking at various reviews of the movie Noah. Then, abandoning good sense and judgment, I kept scrolling down into some of the comment sections. This is dark territory, my friends, on almost any blog, certainly on any that give off the slightest hint of controversy.
If you do choose to venture into the quagmire that is most comment sections (oh the disastrously devastating combination of platform and anonymity!) the only advice I can give you is to proceed with extreme caution. And, in most cases, keep your mouth shut.
My fellow Christians, this advice is mainly for you. Yes, we are called to be ready to give a defense of our faith (note the word defense, not offense), but given what I saw this week on several blogs, I have to say it appears the better part of wisdom, 99% of the time, to simply not respond at all.
I read hundreds of comments, pretty much evenly divided among believers and non-believers. To be honest, most of the time I had difficulty differentiating between the two. I can tell you this, exchanges between two people—usually a self-proclaimed Christian and a non-Christian, although Christian versus Christian was heart-breakingly common—that went on and on, always degenerated, never elevated.
I can’t tell you how many “Christians” spewed animosity and contempt, called people names, ridiculed, mocked, used sarcasm (hint: starting any comment with the words, “Let me guess…” or “So then I suppose you would say that…” should make every Christian pause and pray hard before continuing – a good practice before making any comment anyway), and generally attacked on every level their sparring partner, all while claiming to be filled with the love and compassion of Jesus. They could prove this, many claimed, not by what they said or how they said it, but solely based on the fact that “God knows my heart.” Which, by the way, should be far less a source of consolation for each of us than it appears to be, and far more a source of abject terror.
If you do ignore the advice to refrain from foolish and unprofitable arguments (from Solomon, not from me) please, I beg you brothers and sisters, do refrain from pulling out the sentiments expressed by Christians over and over (and over, and over, and over). They’re not new; I’ve heard them from countless believers in countless situations for at least the last twenty years. But they are getting extremely old.
The first one, in no particular order, is:
If we were Muslim (or the faith of your choice), they would never (fill in the blank: take our prayers out of school, twist the stories in our Holy Book around to suit their evil purposes, be so mean to us etc., etc.).
And that assertion is inevitably followed by: Intolerance is not permitted in our country, except when it comes to us. Apparently society respects every other faith; it’s only acceptable to persecute Christians. (It loses something—namely the laid-on-thick sarcasm and the long-suffering look—in print, but you won’t have to work hard to imagine either, I’m sure.)
And we say it like that’s a bad thing.
(*As a side note, be very, very careful what you label as “persecution.” There are people in the world today suffering from real persecution; in North America it’s rarely us. And just so you know, having the server set your dishes on the table even when you are clearly still in the middle of praying for your meal does not qualify as persecution. Neither does not being able to sing carols in our public schools, or having someone refuse to return your “Merry Christmas” greeting which, incidentally, I have never, not once, had happen to me, a lesson not to believe everything I hear on CNN about public—i.e. silent majority—opinion.)
I have been guilty of the above response myself, but I believe we really need to stop saying it, for two reasons. The first is that there is no way to say it without sounding like you are whining. And those of you who are parents know that whining does not invoke sympathy; it invokes a headache. It does not win the other person over to your side; it fills them with contempt.
And secondly, if we are treated differently than everyone else, our response should be a simple yet heartfelt – yay! The fact that we often are, shows that the world looks at us differently than they do everyone else. According to Jesus, that’s a good thing. To be fair, this response comes a lot more from the fact that there is incomprehensible power in the Word of God,
and that the historical figure of Jesus Christ continues to be largely revered, than that we have done a whole lot to earn respect (or even hostility). That takes having the courage to stand up and speak truth in love and then back that truth up with a lifestyle that actually draws people to God instead of driving them away. But still, it’s a start.
The day we get lumped in with everyone else and start being treated exactly the same—which it sounds like we are demanding when we claim otherwise—will be a sad day indeed for the Church of Jesus Christ. So embrace the fact that we are given special treatment. Celebrate it. Just make sure it’s because we are accurately, authentically, honourably and with great courage and humility representing the cause of Christ, not because we’re annoying.
And by the way, in case you’re still clinging to the hope that it will, our treatment at the hands of society isn’t going to get any better. It gets steadily worse from here on out, until the point we likely will experience true persecution. Which, while it isn’t something to be sought out, isn’t a bad thing either. Just read James. Or I Peter. Or II Timothy. Or Hebrews. Or… well, pretty much the entire New Testament. Suffering produces perseverance.
The church in North America has grown awfully soft (hence the whining). A little (or a lot) of suffering (again, be careful how you toss around that term) can only result in the strengthening and empowering of believers to untether themselves from society, choose once and for all one side or the other (and to Christians and non-Christians alike, in case you are confused about this, not choosing is choosing) and persevere until the end.
If I sound like I’m preaching, know that I am preaching at myself every bit as much as at any of you. For the proof of that, I can only say that God knows my heart. And I tremble at the thought.
Press on, my friends. Press on.