Before we go any further, please watch the video below.
[Trigger warning: speech about hitting a child.]
Now, you may say, “That guy is an outlier. Most Christians aren’t like that.”
And while I’d agree that most Christians aren’t like that, I’m beginning to believe that far too many are.
Take for instance the hyper-masculine version of Christianity pushed by Mark Driscoll, or the North Carolina minister who wanted to fence in all gay people by gender (you know, to keep them from reproducing). Or how about the Arizona minister who advocated just killing all gay people.
There’s a point at which we need to say those folks are no longer practitioners of Christianity. We need to say they may be using Christianity, but they certainly are not practicing Christianity.
Some people will say, “We shouldn’t get into the business of determining who is in and who is out of Christianity. That’s not our job.”
For the most part, I agree with them. I certainly believe Christianity and the theology that goes along with it is a bit ornery and given to doing its own thing. It is, at times, difficult and complicated to sort out.
So, it’s only reasonable to realize that people who are trying to follow Jesus are going to end up with a lot of different beliefs; and each will probably feel somewhat confident that their conclusions are the best conclusions (or at least very good ones).
However, at some point, we have to draw the line.
Look at it this way, you don’t get to go around town randomly punching people in the face and get to claim you are a peace activist. That’s just nonsense.
Likewise there are certain consistent realities found in the records we have of who Jesus was that are more than consistent.
One of those was his constant avoidance (and some would even argue abhorrence) of violence inflicted on people – no matter the reason – even for the sake of defending him from death (John 18:10-11).
Of course, some people will point to Jesus in the temple as a time Jesus acted out with violence, but a more nuanced reading of that text tells us that while, yes, he was most certainly inflicting violence on the tables he was flipping, it’s is all together unlikely (and quite frankly, inconsistent) that he was inflicting violence on people.
When people who are identifying themselves as Christians, for any reason, intentionally inflict or encourage violence on or toward other people, we need to draw a line. We need to stand up and say, “No. You’ve moved from practicing Christianity to using Christianity to promote your own agenda.”
I understand that doing so makes many Christians feel uncomfortable – particularly many of my fellow Christians who are frequently seen as progressive. It feels judgmental and a little bit mean.
Maybe it is. In all honesty, I go back and forth a little on whether it is judgmental. But I believe strongly that it is what we should be doing – judgmental or not.
There is a point at which active inclusion, the avoidance of judgment, leads to a dismantling of the meaning of a moniker.
That is to say, if anyone can claim to be Christian and are not called out on doing clearly unChristian things then being “Christian” can literally mean almost anything. The word loses much of its meaning.
To be clear, I am calling for a very wide understanding of being a practicing “Christian.” (If you are familiar with my writing, you are probably very aware of just how wide an understanding of “Christian” I advocate for).
Violence, however, is where I draw the line.
If you want to follow Jesus, then follow.
And in the places where it is deafeningly clear what Jesus would do, do it.
In this case, that includes not only rejecting violence, but calling out hypocrisy when we see it in practice.