No Alliances, No Prisoners
God’s confessing people do appalling things. Persecution is often involved. And whether Protestants, Catholics, Jews or other infidels are involved, it gets done in Jesus’ Name. In recent days, Muslims take the hit.
The Man and his Message
Rev. Michael Herrington of Belmont Drive Missionary Baptist in Hood River, Oregon has won a measure of attention usually reserved for larger congregations or for bizarre figures such as pastor Terry Jones. We’ve learned that Jones [who likely has several fatwas on his head for burning the Qu’ran] is now cooking french fries in Florida.
Herrington saw fit to grace the Belmont Drive Missionary Baptist [BDMB] sign with ‘Allah is not our god’ and ‘Koran is just another book’ messages. Predictably, the BDMB Facebook page is crowded with voices lauding Rev. Herrington as the model pastor that Christians need.
One Guy Gets it Right
I don’t know Ronald Leon or who he is. His Facebook page convinces me that he has a credible understanding of our undoubted Christian faith. He is certainly farther right politically than I am. But who isn’t?
At issue here is Ron Leon’s reply to the BDMB sign. With multiple texts, he offers a Biblical perspective on Christian witness, reminding us also to speak with grace because words can alienate as well as reconcile. A more Christian reply you’d be hard pressed to find.
Shooting Your Own
Also illuminating are the replies to Leon’s statement. Someone offered a ruling on his state of grace and on his eternal destiny. Apparently, Ronald Leon is excluded from God’s redemptive purposes. All this in 21 words, if one counts the ‘words’ that are not words. The obvious thing to say is that Leon’s critics brush aside his texts, and denounce him based on their own perspective. In some churches, this can lead to discipline for a slanderous violation of the ninth commandment.
At least as instructive are ‘Niki Dillon’s’ words:
‘All Christians should be willing to declare these truths about Christ. If the sign makes you uncomfortable, you need to examine your relationship with our Lord. And to non-Christians: yes, this is what we believe! The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the Christian God. All others are wannabes. We should not have to apologize for this or keep silent about it.’
‘These truths about Christ’ go to the heart of it.
What is Declared
Citing Jesus’ saying, ‘if I am lifted up I will draw all peoples to myself,’ Leon stands in the very best of Christian tradition. Reading that in his statement made me recall the great, liturgical confession, ‘Christ is died, Christ is risen, Christ is coming again.’ THESE are the truths about Christ that ‘all Christians should be willing to declare.’
It makes a world of difference whether Christian confession means lifting up Christ or tearing down Mohammad. What the sign and conversations in congregations across the land reveal is that many confessing believers are not prepared to make that distinction. But they are prepared to attack and destroy the testimony of those who confess, ‘if I am lifted up, I will draw all peoples to myself.’ God’s confessing people do some appalling things.
Why Do we Do It
This matter has sufficient gravity to require explanation. Explanations better than mine no doubt exist. But for now, I’ll suggest that confessors are overlaying on the theology of the cross an alien, heretical narrative in which Muslims [or Jews, Protestants, Catholics and other infidels in their time] become the embodiment of evil [the kingdom of darkness] and a threat to our peace, safety and good order.
Don’t suppose that congregations can’t be targeted in political operations. Our government has spied on Mennonites because they are anti-war. This isn’t to say that BDMB was infiltrated by government operatives, although that no doubt happens in some places. On the other hand, congregations should be aware of the influence of secular ideas about sin, deliverance, faith and obedience, often made palatable with partisan or patriot zeal.
Alien ideologies exist in congregations as parasites which seek to engorge themselves on what it can supply. If Christ is to reign over all, then church must host no alien agenda. All such agendas are parasitic entities and must be exposed for that. Tragically, congregations sometimes presume to base ‘ministries’ on such agendas.
Toward another Way
As the body of Christ, the calling of the church is to lift up Christ the head. This is entirely different from fighting wars, supporting one system of political economic over another, and other secular agendas. In theological perspective, all those alien, partisan, nationalist agendas are dead. Trying to resurrect and animate them in the church is Christian necromancy.
Jesus said, ‘let the dead bury the dead.’ He was right.
By buying into dead, alien, dead ideologies, fundamentalism is anything but ‘separated’ from the world. It is the world. That’s why it attacks the Ronald Leon’s of the world.
We’re still left with the question of what to do with the Qur’an, Allah and Christian witness.
The Qur’an isn’t the holy book of Christians. It is the holy book of Islam. But you knew that. And saying so compromises nothing.
And as for God, Christians worship the Blessed Trinity. Muslims don’t. But you knew that.
Concerning witness — Christians need only lift up Jesus. That’s all. The rest is Jesus’ problem. He’s the one who draws the nations to himself.
Sometimes, there are no great issues at stake. Sometimes, it’s just people being stupid. But too often, our stupidity is an obstacle to faith. It’s time churches recognized this, and offered the ‘strong preaching’ people claim they love — by kicking alien, heretical ideologies out the door.
What about my Muslim Neighbors
Those genuinely interested building bridges [did you know that bridges are an important theme in Islam, Mr. Herrington] with Muslim neighbors may gain much from this paper by Christian Troll.