Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Jesus Wept...and He still Does

I am reading this book...When Bad Christians Happen to Good People by Dave Burchett the second time around. This excerpt from his book is from Chapter 9 and it should hit every judgemental, fundamentalist Christian right between the eyes. For those that know me, I don't even like to be called "Christian" because of the negative things associated with Christianity. I prefer to be called a Follower of Jesus. is the excerpt from Chapter 9 pages 115-118.

The Anti-Defamation League lists nearly 5,000 hate sites on the Internet. According to their research about 300 of those use Bible verses or church language to promote their cause. -Southern Legal Research Institute

If you have read this far, you have no doubt surmised I was a smart-aleck kid. When my Sunday-school teachers used to give candy for memorizing a Bible verse, I would roll in on Sunday morning (at least the first time) and brightly proclaim: "John 11:35. 'Jesus wept.'"

The shortest verse in the Bible. Look it up. Interestingly, that verse still comes to mind every time I am saddened by tragic news. And I can't help but think that verse applied when Jesus witnessed the appalling reaction by some who claimed to be His followers to one particularly tragic and senseless death in 1998.

I will never forget the pain that pierced my heart when I turned on the evening news. A young gay man named Matthew Shepard had been cruelly beaten to death in Wyoming by two cowardly thugs. Then my pain turned to revulsion. At his funeral in Wyoming, a man waved a sign bearing Matthew's face and the words, "Matt is in hell." I grieved for Matthew's family and friends. I prayed that somehow God would help them to realize that the sign did not represent how Christ or His sincere followers felt about the young man's death. I agonized for the group of hate-filled people who had so entirely missed Jesus that they could invoke His name so outrageously. And I felt additionally sick that the faith that sustains me had been misrepresented and broadly displayed in this way.

Fred Phelps, the so-called pastor from Kansas who promotes his "God Hates Fags" web site, somehow managed to become the media-appointed spokesperson on Matthew's death for conservative Christianity. I tried to go to Phelps's web site to see what he had to say in a context broader than a sound bite. One must question how much glory a ministry gives to God's kingdom when Christian software filters censor its Web site for hateful rhetoric. I imagine Phelps would just chalk up the censorship to the prevalent failure among Christians to see "truth" as he does. Thank God that few do. I was going to cite some examples from his Web page, but his position is too disgusting to repeat.

When such despicable behavior becomes the public perception of Christian response, even the most thoughtful and caring protests against the gay lifestyle become labeled "hateful" and "bigoted." If the average gay or lesbian thinks I break bread with Fred Phelps, I can understand that fear and loathing. (By the way, my omission of the title Reverend from Phelps's name is deliberate. My dictionary defines reverend as being "worthy of reverence or entitled to respect." In my opinion Phelps is 0 for 2.)

Some groups blame conservative Christians for Matthew Shepard's death. They link fundamentalist's to "homophobic" attitudes that created and environment conducive to the killing. I would be the first to admit that the church (yes, that includes me) has done a miserable job overall of understanding and ministering to those who embrace a gay lifestyle. But when we are accused of creating a scenario in which faith is liable for a cowardly act of hate, I have to dissent. Evil is evil. These killers were evil. They acted out of hate.

It's been noted that the Bible states six admonishments to homosexuals. There are well over three hundred directed toward heterosexuals. Let's be honest: we straight believers have a vast, toxic superfund cleanup in our own backyards as well.

Some Christian groups will call me a gay sympathizer. They will call me a lover of people of color. Actually, they will call me much worse, but you get the point. They will call me a Jew supporter. They will be right on every charge. I have no choice. For when God created man in His image, He made no mention of color, race, education, income, or any other qualifier. You can rest assured that I want to be standing firmly in the corner of God's chosen people.

When the Bible proclaims that whosoever believes shall have eternal life, that means everyone. God's grace is not exclusively for the rich, pretty, smart, or talented. God's grace is available to everyone. God's plan of salvation is in fact the great leveler of the human playing field. Donald Trump comes to his eternal destiny with the same assets or lack thereof as you or I will. I like the thought that Mr. Trump will need to wait his turn just like everyone else.

We discussed earlier how all of those who use the name Christian are often lumped together by non-Christians. While it is tough enough to get blamed for your own mistakes, it is really frustrating to be indicted for those who share your title but not your convictions. Those claiming the name of Christ have tolerated and even initiated hateful messages (and I'm not sure which is worse), and this troubles me greatly. I have always been sympathetic to police departments whenever an incident implicates an officer in illegal or unethical behavior. I am sure that an overwhelming percentage of policemen and women are professional and caring. But when one rogue cop dominates the headlines, the entire profession is judged to be guilty by association. It is a sad twist of our human nature that a rogue element of less than 1 percent can ruin the public perception of the remaining 99. Likewise, the church has had (and still does have) rogue representatives of Christ.


Blogger unkle e said...

Right on!!!!!

9:45 PM  

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