not dead. This is true. I believe it with all I have. But I won't be
tweeting it or texting it. In case anyone was waiting.
big news that the DVD version of God's Not Dead is out, and
Christians are lining up to buy it. I admit right now—I've not seen
it. Nor do I plan to. So maybe you think I am unqualified to offer up
an opinion, and maybe you're right.
some reading and thinking I did over the weekend made me consider
that, maybe, I should. Not necessarily a critique of the movie, nor a
judgment on anyone for purchasing it. If you liked it, we're brothers and sisters. Let's not infight. But a discussion of the
message, and how it impacts more than we realize, might be in order.
reading led me to two places this weekend—an atheist's blog (not my
normal reading fare, but perhaps it should be), and the book Almost Christian. Both address the thing that had been bothering me
about this movie, and the blogger put it in a way that should
certainly make Christians pay attention.
is the important part of his critique:
the end the central injustice of this movie is its failure to fairly
represent a class of people whom Christians purport to love. But
it’s not loving people well to misrepresent them this badly.
This movie caricatures, dehumanizes, and depersonalizes people like
me, portraying us in the worst possible light.
is not love. You cannot love people while ignoring everything they
tell you about themselves. You are not loving people when you refuse
to listen to their stories. You are not loving them well when you
decide before hearing them that you already know all that you need to
know about them. This
movie represents a grievous failure to love people like me.”
Double ouch. Infinity ouch. He's right.
is simply impossible to accuse an entire group of people of having no
moral compass and then claim you are taking the moral high ground by
virtue of being a Christian.
It's impossible to characterize and
degrade a person I do not even know simply because he belongs to a
particular belief system and call it a Christian perspective. When it
is done to us, we balk, and rightfully so. When it is done to a
racial group, we call it evil, and rightfully so. But if we do it,
and call it “defending God”? Well OK then. Carry on.
I know that there are professors on our campuses who are hostile to
Christian faith. The university I attended began as Unitarian and got
more liberal from there. So, I get it. Yes, I know that there are
those who will argue and criticize and outright mock Christians for
their beliefs. They will use any public forum they can to do so. I have atheist friends who refer to Christians as fools (and far worse things I won't repeat) on Facebook. We are friends, and it hurts.
that does not make it acceptable to return fire in like manner.
said others would know we were his by our love. But somehow, we've
decided, it's OK not to love atheists because, hey, they called us
names first. We're only giving back what we've gotten for decades.
Which sounds suspiciously like “Do unto others as they do to you,”
a version of the golden rule that deletes a few vastly important
Do unto others as
you would have them do to you. Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Jesus didn't make any exceptions. He
didn't say, “Unless they were mean first.” “Unless they don't
believe in me anyway.” “Unless by being unloving you can make a
big impact for Jesus in theaters. Then, well, it might be OK.”
said love your enemies. Pray for them. Look for ways to do good to
them. Give them the shirt off your back if need be. Why, why do we
ignore those words, given with no condition, when we think we have
some sort of holy culture war?
It just seems sometimes that while we are desperately trying to prove Christianity is true, we're missing the one hallmark Jesus said would prove it.
Almost Christian, Kenda Creasy Dean puts it beautifully:
is not just a matter of geography—where
Jesus was sent into the world. It is also a matter if
Jesus was sent, as a person, and specifically as a person whose love
for humanity was of such divine proportions that he chose to share
human suffering in order to overcome it with God's death-shattering
power. 'As the Father has sent me, so send I you,' Jesus tells his
disciples. In other words, Jesus not only sends the church where he
was sent; he sends us in the same way that he was sent, as human
translations of divine love, people whose words and actions do not
grasp for God as much as they reveal a God who grasps for us.
church's identity is not defined primarily by its edges but by its
focused on Christ, the sole source of our identity, no intruder poses
a threat. No alien hops a fence, because there is no fence.
Boundaries are determined by proximity to the Holy Spirit's
centripetal pull, not by arbitrary human borders. The more churches
lose our ability to barricade ourselves off from one another, the
more God's grace flows from us into the world.”
This neighbor built a fence.
what would it look like if, while we ably and thoughtfully “prepared
to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the
hope that you have,” we remembered the second half of that verse:
“But do this with gentleness and respect,keeping
a clear conscience . . .” (1 Peter 3.150-16).
This one tore one down. Guess which neighbor we actually talk to?
would it look like if rather than do anything to defend God, who
needs no one to prove him or defend him, we would do anything to love
the Father sent me, so I send you. How do you want to be sent? As one of the commenters on the atheist's blog added: