I start today with a big sigh. One of those big deep "Oh Lord WHY do we keep doing this?" kind of a sigh.
It all begins with two brothers in Christ, Rush Limbaugh and Pat Robertson.
(Right about now some of you are thinking "Oh boy, he's wading right into the quicksand on this one". Let me assure you that this isn't a diatribe against either of these two. That I don't agree on virtually anything with them probably isn't a terrible shock. But this isn't about any of those kinds of issues. Whether I agree with them or not they are brothers in Christ and that's where my problem is)
About a month ago I stumbled on Rush's show as I channel surfed the radio on a long drive. Normally I'd keep right on going but he was doing a rant about the court case concerning the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance. What got under my skin was his repeated statements that atheist "hate God". It bothers me because that is absolutely NOT what the atheists I've known would say. A fair number of them hate the church and many of the members of the church (often with good reason). But they don't "hate" God. For them it would be like "hating" Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. You don't "hate" imaginary figures. And for them that's what God is, an historic figment of the popular imagination. One that they feel has been a stumbling block to humanity and civilization. While I certainly disagree with that assessment (the human institution known as the church has in its history been such a stumbling block but not God in my belief) it's dishonest to spin that into a hatred of God. Sadly it's a spin that I hear all too often.
Our other spotlight figure is the well known televangelist Pat Robertson. Pat has recently been quoted advocating the assassination of a foreign head of state and warning a town in Pennsylvania that God will abandon them because they voted out members of the school board with whom they disagreed. I hope I don't have to explain the ridiculousness of both those statements.
The part that bothers me most about them both is the damage done by such high profile Christians making such patently self serving statements to standing of the church within our society. And the even greater damage done to our ability to reach the unchurched when the rest of the Body doesn't call them on it. Allowing our faith to be represented as being intellectually dishonest, violent and power oriented makes the work harder. A fellow youth minister I know in passing recently asked his youth what the biggest stumbling block for them living as people of faith in their real lives was. The answer? Televangelists. I'd bet a large portion of ALL high profile Christians would probably also qualify. Allowing people of faith to be seen as buffoons, incapable of reasonable discourse or outright hypocrisy (which I believe the assassination statement to be for any Christian).
Do you believe that the words "under God" should stay in the Pledge? Good, go argue your case. But don't do it by mis-stating other people's beliefs in order to support your own. Think the President of Venezuela is a looney? Fine but don't claim that you find justification for killing a democratically elected head of state in the faith set forth by Jesus of Nazareth. And kindly don't use your pulpit as the stage for your opinion.
Either our faith is strong enough to endure on it's own merits, without subterfuge or disingenuous statements or it's not. And if it's not then the bright light of examination needs to be turned inward, not outward.