The New Year, Fear and Christian Courage

By Kristin Du Mez, and I clip just a bit of her very fine blog post:

After reading Stark’s account of the rise of Christianity, I was struck by the contrast between the sacrificial behavior evidenced by early Christians, and the reputation of many American Christians today.

Looking back over recent American history, it is discouraging to note how frequently fear, rather than sacrifice, seems to have motivated Christians to act.

In issues ranging from tax policy to gun control to concerns about religious freedom, are Christians motivated more by faith or by fear?

And what about terrorism? In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, many Americans found in terrorism and Islamic extremism a new source of fear. Many American Christians, quick to draw clear distinctions between “good” and “evil” in the “war on terror,” led the way in calling for an aggressive, militaristic foreign policy aimed at protecting the nation’s security and the American “way of life.”

But what if American Christians simply refuse to be “terrorized”—if, like their sisters and brothers in the early church, they perceived the threat of failing to bear witness to Christ’s love a greater evil than the threat posed by terrorists to their lives and livelihoods?

At first glance, such a radical re-conception of values might seem dangerously naïve. Yet is it really any more naïve than the actions of those early Christians who exposed themselves to the terrors of the plague for the sake of their neighbors, and for the gospel of Christ?

While one might argue that such a posture of willing sacrifice constitutes an untenable foreign policy for a modern nation state, perhaps it is time for American Christians to identify first as Christians, and only secondly as Americans.

What might happen if, rather than scrambling to protect our own well-being and interests, American Christians instead prioritized the radical command to love their neighbors as themselves?

In light of this fundamental reorientation, whose rights would American Christians be most likely to defend—their own, or those of their neighbors? Would freedom be defined in terms of the freedom to have, or in terms of the freedom that comes from letting go—a freedom that enables one to love one’s neighbors more profoundly?

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