It Happened Again – Part 2

I have a policy about comments to my blog. Obviously, spam is not accepted (it doesn’t even make it to the review stage). Comments which are linked to “interesting” or “questionable” sites are often rejected. Comments that come from the fringes of theology are also rejected. Anonymous comments are often kept though I will think about them before publishing them. I do not reject a comment simply because the author opposes or rejects my thinking.

There are two comments to my post of 22 April 2007, “It Happened Again.” One is from a regular reader of my writing; the other is someone who obviously disagrees with me. It is a rather lengthy comment and worthy of its own post. But this is my blog and you will have to go to the comment section of “It Happened Again” to read it. Please read Earl’s comments, for what I am writing will not make much sense unless you do.

I believe Earl has taken exception to my characterization of the Book of Revelation. Through his entire comment, it seems as if he has concluded that evil is present throughout this world, there is little that can be done to combat evil, and that war is the final and inevitable conclusion to society.

Especially fitting were the comments that the deaths of innocents in Darfur and Iraq are the consequences of history and thus inevitable. I have posted thoughts on our response to evil and the nature of war (1), so I do not need to do that here

But, if war is the inevitable conclusion of society and society is inherently evil, then why did God send His Son? If war, death, and destruction on the plains of Armageddon are all we can expect for our lives, then what meaning is there in Christ?

Through Christ, we are given the opportunity to change our lives. Saul became Paul; the Samaritan woman at the well became a disciple of Christ telling all the Good News that Christ brought into her life. Lives change because of Christ and because lives change, there is hope. If our lives are fixed in the passage of time, then we have no hope and we have no need for Christ.

Earl also suggested that if one person had carried a gun into the classroom last week at Virginia Tech, the massacre would have been prevented. Is the Christian answer to violence more violence?

Are we to assume that this unknown self-proclaimed defender has the ability to use his or her weapon in the proper manner? Are we to assume that a response with a handgun to some shooting will not become a “fire fight” which endangers more innocent bystanders? Let’s not even go there; that is a path that can lead no where.

But let us not forget those who sacrificed their lives to let others escape. Did not a professor, a victim of the Holocaust, give his life so that his students could escape? Did not other students act to keep a classroom door shut so that the gunman could not come in and hurt their friends and classmates? No weapons were used in these instances so why must we insist that weapons of violence are the only solution to violence. We as Christians must seek other alternative methods, not use the methods of the world around us.

Nowhere in my post did I suggest that the dead at Virginia Tech were not victims. No did I offer solutions that have been tried in the past and found lacking. What I did write was that we, as Christians, must seek solutions. We, as Christians, must find ways to remove the violence that is so much a part of our world.

Earl also said that simply have the Wesley Foundation on campus to comfort and support the students who were in grief was not sufficient. Earl’s answer to the problems of this world are more evangelism, bring more people to Christ.

But the type of evangelism that Earl would bring is most definitely not the answer. When someone is grieving or in sorrow, you do not condemn them or tell them that their friends who are wounded or died have themselves to blame because they did not know Christ. The tone of Earl’s comment suggests that we should put more evangelists on our campus that will condemn the victims and say that their deaths are the product of their sinful life.

Earl’s evangelism seems to be the evangelism that President Jimmy Carter spoke of in his 2002 Nobel Peace Prize speech,

There is a remarkable trend toward fundamentalism in all religions — including the different denominations of Christianity as well as Hinduism, Judaism, and Islam. Increasing, true believers are inclined to begin a process of deciding: ‘Since I am aligned with God, I am superior and my beliefs should prevail, and anyone who disagrees with me is inherently wrong,’ and the next step is ‘inherently inferior.’ The ultimate step is ‘subhuman’, and then their lives are not significant.

He went on to describe how he felt that fundamentalists had distorted the vision of Christ in the world and the nature of Christianity. He noted that fundamentalism could be characterized by three words: rigidity, domination, and exclusion (2).

I’ve had that type of evangelism applied to me. It is most definitely not what was needed at Virginia Tech last week. People who are hurting and grieving do not need to be condemned or told that nothing will change unless they accept Christ, especially if they have already accepted Christ. Can you imagine the pain that someone must feel when they have just seen their best friend shot and possibly killed and someone tells them that they need to accept Christ, even when they have done so already? There is a time and a place for the call from Christ; grief counseling is not that time or place.

Evangelism in this world needs to be more than simply condemning people for what they have done. Did Christ condemn the women who was about to be stoned for adultery? No, he forgave of her sins and told her to lead a new life. The choice was hers, as it is for us. It is interesting that all those who were so eager to stone this woman silently disappeared in the presence of the Son of God.

If we say that the world is fixed in its path and can only end in death and destruction, then there is no need for Christ. But Christ calls us to begin a new life in Him. And in this new life, we are called to change the world.

If we hold to the view that evil is inherent and that violence must be met with violence, then the massacre at Virginia Tech will most definitely happen again.

But that is why Christ came into this world. God so loved this world that He sent His only Son so all those who believed in Him might be saved. God sent His Son to change this world. Those who come to Christ come of their own free will, not forced to do by some loud and overbearing, Bible-thumping charlatan.

Those who come to Christ do so because they have found the peace that is in Christ and they go out into the world to bring the message of the Gospel, the Good News.

Earl is correct in one point. There needs to be more evangelism in this world today. But it is not evangelism that condemns victims and blames them for a sinful life; it is not evangelism that excludes the sinner from the church because of race, creed, or lifestyle; it is not evangelism that ignores the needy and the downtrodden.

Evangelism means to bring the Good News to the world, to feed the hungry, heal the sick, clothe the naked, build houses for the homeless, free the oppressed, and bring hope and comfort to those downtrodden and forgotten. We as Christians are called to take the Good News out into the world and that is what evangelism is all about.

(1) See Maybe We Should Study War More Often and the associated previous blogs and comments
(2) “Our Endangered Values”

5 thoughts on “It Happened Again – Part 2

  1. I read you post and thought it was permitted to respond. I intended no disrespect. If permitted I will continue to participate. If not, I will certainly respect your right to control your property. Sincerely. Earl.

  2. I have no problems with you participating. It was just that your original comment was rather lengthy and very much in opposition to what I wrote.

    I started off this particular post by merely indicating what I don’t allow. It was not intended to mean that you could not participate.

  3. The Revelation is much debated and of course misused to justify apocalyptic visions of the most extreme sort. There were those who thought it had no place in the Canon, but there were also some who were mistaken about James. Nevertheless by its uniform focus on Christ and its encouragement of suffering saints in the face of seemingly overwhelming evil it provides a fitting conclusion the New Testament.

    Darfur and Iraq are the result of denial and delay. Either could have been avoided had the UN acted decisively.

    It was Isaiah who said “the heart is desperately wicked.” In saying that there would be “wars and rumors of wars” Jesus recognised the systemic nature of conflict in a sinful broken world. He came to save the world from all that is the consequence of sin. Because of this we can have hope.

    When it comes to confronting violence, I am biased as my wife and I have experienced violent assault. I have had some small experience with in home family crisis intervention where explosive violent outburst required immediate response. Further a close friend was assaulted and raped. When a co-worker attempted to do the same thing to my wife ended immediately when she stated that she would use a pistol to defend herself. Not everyone can live in a gated community protected by electronic survelance and security systems. Had someone actually stepped forward to stone the hapless woman of Jn. 8, I think Jesus would have done more than simply stand and stare. One of my church members has a child on the VT campus. We were deeply concerned. Thank God for those who so courageously acted to stop the rampage. Yet they were victims precisely because they had no effective means by which to protect themselves.

    I admire the work of the Wesley Foundation as it has touched both of my college age daughters. I think it can best comfort and support students by offering them Christ. This is Christian ministry at its best as the grace of God in Christ is shared with grieving men and women. And this is evangelism at its best as one shares with lost men and women the grace of God in forgivness of sin and new life in Christ. It is not condemning sinners nor is it condoning sin. It is offering the forgiveness and new life that are found in Christ the Savior and Lord of life.

    As regards fundamentalism, I am not Baptist. I am United Methodist. I was not born and raised United Methodist. I made a adult decision to become a United Methodist. As is taught in Scripture and by our Articles of Religion, sin is original, personal and pervasive in society. But thank God His grace and mercy in Christ are sufficent, abundant and available to all.

    Not all loud overbearing Bible thumpers are charlatans. Some are simply loud and overbearing Bible thumping believers who have come to Christ and sincerely want others also to come. I can not imagine that any of us would want anyone not to come to Christ, even if our methods leave something to be desired.

    Yes we need more evangelism. In every way possible United Methodist need to offer the unsearchable riches of Christ clearly and compassionately to lost men and women regardless of who they might be, where they might live or what they might have done. Let our schools teach it. Let our pastors preach it. And let each of us practice it. And let us never forget that vital dynamic of evangelism and benevolence that are the Great Commission and the Great Commandment both taught and commanded by our Lord Jesus Christ. Sincerely. Earl.

  4. Pingback: Death and Dignity « Thoughts From The Heart On The Left

  5. Pingback: My Top Posts For 2007 « Thoughts From The Heart On The Left

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