More Radical Than We Think
2015-02-10
In recent days, President Obama was asked to deliver a speech at the National Prayer Breakfast.  I have never been to a National Prayer Breakfast but I have been to political prayer meetings - as a Pastor I am usually discouraged by the incredible amount of hypocrisy on display at these breakfasts.  It is interesting to watch political figures who support abortion read from Psalm 139 where David proclaims that God knew him before he was "knit together in my mother's womb."  There is an incredible amount of posturing and hand shaking with very little to no spiritual value.  At the National Prayer Breakfast every religion is recognized as the President tries to walk a wide road of acceptance as if he is on a tight rope.  It is not news that at the last breakfast President Obama compared the current Islamic extremist threat to the Crusades that began in the 11th century.  The President equated past atrocities committed in the name of Jesus to the present day atrocities committed by ISIS and other Islamic groups that are committed to forcing their religion upon the world.  

The response by many conservatives has been politically charged and sometimes outright outlandish.  The fact of the matter is that many have colored the President's words with what they already believe to be true about the President - ranging from a belief that he is a secret agent of Islam to a belief that he is out to destroy the Christian Church in America. Let's think about what the President has said and see if it is true and then think about how a follower of Jesus might respond to it.  

First, the President said that many atrocities had been committed in the name of Christ during the Crusades.  This is true.   There were Crusades.  Many innocent people died a horrible death in these Crusades.  Women were raped.  Children were murdered.  Houses and villages were burnt to the ground.  They were not only sponsored by the Church of the high Middle Ages but supported financially and spiritually by the Roman Catholic Church.  The Pope had offered plenary indulgences for any and all who took part in the Crusades.  In other words they were offered eternal rewards in heaven - of course this reward is not spoken of in the Scriptures.  But it sounds similar to the Islamist extremist's promise of 72 virgins to those who die in jihad.  It is true that the Muslims of the period were advancing their kingdom and were just as atrocious as the Crusades.  But the Crusades were not the cause of Jesus.  They were the cause of a politically charged and power-hungry Pope.  We can conclude that what the President said is true - atrocities were committed and they were done in the name of Christ.  

Second, the President concluded that Christians should not be too quick to ride on a high horse when judging Islamist extremists today because the Church has a violent past.  I have to disagree with him.  The President didn't go far enough. Whereas Muslims are charged to love their Islamic brothers - Christians are told to love their enemies.  Whereas Muslims are told in the Quran to destroy infidels, Christians are told to pray for and to care for those who might persecute them.  Whereas Muslims are told by Muhammad to kill, Christians are told to lay down their lives.  I don't know about you, but the uninformed chastisement by a fallen man who is in power for a few years to get down off my high horse is preferable to what Jesus has told me to do. I know that when I watch the news for the 30 seconds that I can endure it that I am ready to go to war.  When I see these lunatics shouting and screaming I am ready to wipe them off the face of the earth with the biggest A-bomb known to man.  I much prefer the simple task of dismounting a high horse than I do in actually loving these savage people who burn, behead, rape, and kill in the name of a false, non-existent god.       

How should we respond to the Presidents equation?  Once again, he did not go far enough.  It is Christendom, not Jesus that committed these atrocities.  Christendom fueled the fires of the Crusades.  Christendom fueled the rape and murder of native peoples in the Americas in the years of European discovery.  Do you know what Christendom is?  Christendom is the addition of human hubris to Jesus.  Christendom is the bastardization of the mission of Jesus Christ.  Christendom is the divorce of the person and work of Jesus from Jesus himself.  Jesus said that His Kingdom was not of this earth.  Jesus told Peter to put away his sword.  Jesus invited dirty Gentiles in to his ministry.  Jesus forgave the thief on the Cross.  Jesus forgave the men who sought to kill God on a Roman cross.  Jesus saved a religious Crusader named Saul and shook the earth's very foundation with a Spirit-empowered ministry through this chief of all sinners.  Yes, the Crusades were in the name of Christ but it was in name only.  The addition of anything to Jesus equals no Gospel at all.  A Christian can own up to the fact that some people, purposes and actions of the Church in the Middle Ages can be fairly compared to modern-day ISIS.  This admission does not mar the image of Christ because the image of Christ was never involved in the first place.   

What does the Bible say about how a Christian should respond to the lunacy we see in the world around us today?  The state must continue to protect it's people and stamp out atrocities that groups such as ISIS continue and will continue to commit.  Christians must continue to pray for and even forgive those that would persecute and cause them harm.  Do you know how hard it is to write those words? I'm almost sick.  I have seen the same images and reports that you have seen.  I often curse and get angry at the savagery I see.  I have literally shed tears at the sight and horror of what is happening in our world.  Perhaps now, we are able to see the scandalous nature of the Gospel. Perhaps that sick feeling I have is the same sick feeling the disciples had when Jesus told them to love their enemies - the Romans.  Perhaps we are now able to see the depth to which God's grace has gone to save sinners.  There was a man named Paul who would have been one of the men carrying a black flag with white letters in the name of god.  God is not incapable of bringing these lunatics to their knees and transforming them.  I don't know about you, but I am more moved when I hear of men and women who once followed this false god have now turned to Jesus in faith than I am by seeing dead enemies on the news.  The need for vengeance is far outweighed by the transforming power of the Gospel.  It's a hard message.  It is a narrow message.  It is the message of Christ.  
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