I want to offer an explanation for my last post a few days ago, “In God’s Name.” It was an experiment to see if an implicit message can be more powerful than an explicit one, if it works at all. Clearly it didn’t and it was completely misunderstood. Oh well, that’s how experiments often go.
Most of the atheist readers missed the point. That’s not their fault because the story was not intended for them. The target audience was those Christians who resemble the second Christian in the story. Several of them comment on this blog and I’m sure that more lurk here. I was hoping to start a productive dialogue with them.
But up to the time of this writing none of them have commented so I’m obviously fishing with the wrong bait. So for the benefit of those who read it and were perplexed, annoyed or disappointed here is the explicit version of what I was trying to do, which probably won’t be any more effective but at least I’ll be understood:
Firstly, It wasn’t about God or the afterlife or atheists getting into heaven through good works or anything scriptural. No, this is what I was trying to say:
To liberal and mainstream Christians: Bigots are co-opting and hijacking your religion. They’re promoting their hatred, abuse and domination of gays, atheists, the followers of other religions and anybody else who doesn’t exactly agree with them including you, all under the guise of God’s word, the one that you say you value so much. They’re doing despicable things in your God’s name. Your response to this is so small, so weak and so quiet that you will have no effect in stopping them. If you let them keep going they’ll bring back all the vehicles of hate they used to enjoy: racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, xenophobia and despotic authoritarianism. To them, Jesus is just a source of credibility and power. Following his example is not even considered.
If all that you do is to pray about this, forgive me but I don’t think that is going to be enough. I know you don’t rely entirely on prayer to respond to crises; I’ve watched you. You may pray for God’s help with many things, but when the river overflows you also fill sandbags. When your kid is sick you also take her to the doctor. When your neighbors are hungry you also give them food. When someone is being beaten you also drive off the attacker. When your house is on fire you also fight the fire.
Christians, your house is on fire.
This is a living example of Edmund Burke’s maxim, “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” Ask yourself which is the greater sin: to commit an injustice against others because you believe it is what God wants, or to see what you know is an injustice and stand by doing nothing to stop it.
I have written about this before and invariably get the following five responses from Christians:
- Arguing that those bigots are not real Christians. Are you saying that means it’s none of your business? If you aren’t willing to take action to stop these “counterfeit” Christians from inflicting their cruelty in the name of God, of what value is your “genuine” faith?
- Nice sounding slogans like “The power of love is greater than the love of power.” Wake up. That’s a lullaby to put yourself back to sleep. That’s the sloth of the heart.
- Whining about how they outnumber you. That is a cop-out and probably not true anyway. They’re just louder. Besides, the Bible is full of stories about the hopelessly outnumbered triumphing.
- Apologizing for your lack of effective action. The apology was acceptable years ago, but after the umpteenth time, it’s worn out.
- Talking about the little things you are doing. Why not big things? Why do we only hear about them from you, rather than in the papers? For instance, why aren’t you picketing outside The Christian Action League of North Carolina and other institutions of faith-based hate in every city? When atheists protest such things they’re dismissed as, well, atheists. If six Christian churches did the same protesting wherever it occurs it would be big news. You say they have a bigot’s radio show? Pool your money and get a louder show. Show boldly that they don’t speak for you or for the God you believe in. Make it big, loud, joyful but most importantly, effective.
Don’t leave it up to non-believers to get in the bigots’ faces and slow them down, showing more courage and compassion than people who claim to follow Christ. Are you going to let atheists better you in the love-thy-neighbor-as-thyself department? Love is measured by what you do, not by what nice thoughts you think as you sit there letting people get victimized in God’s name. There aren’t enough atheists, humanists and otherwise secular folks to continue to be the spearhead of this fight. You far outnumber us. We need you. Everyone needs you. Now, not later.
Let’s work together. We can all enjoy arguing about the existence of God after we’ve put out the fire.