How NOT to Win the World to Jesus

THE LATE JERRY FALWELL:

“The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this [9/11] because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way—all of them who have tried to secularize America—I point the finger in their face and say ‘you helped this [9/11] happen.’”

 

PAT ROBERTSON:

I would warn Orlando that you’re right in the way of some serious hurricanes, and I don’t think I’d be waving those flags in God’s face if I were you.”
The 700 Club television program, August 6, 1998, on the occasion of the Orlando, Florida, Gay Pride Festival 1998.

“I’d like to say to the good citizens of Dover: If there is a disaster in your area, don’t turn to God, you just rejected Him from your city. And don’t wonder why He hasn’t helped you when problems begin, if they begin. I’m not saying they will, but if they do, just remember, you just voted God out of your city. And if that’s the case, don’t ask for His help because He might not be there.”
The 700 Club, after the Dover, Pennsylvania, school board voted out all seven members of the school board who supported “intelligent design.”

In September of 2001, retired CBS anchor Walter Cronkite wrote that the various intemperate statements of Falwell and Robertson were “the most abominable thing I’ve ever heard…It makes you wonder if [Falwell and Robertson] are worshiping the same God as the people who bombed the Trade Center and the Pentagon.”

 

JOHN HAGEE:

On his blog, journalist Max Blumenthal today reports on a July 16 conference he attended—the annual Washington-Israel Summit of Christians United for Israel, founded by San Antonio, Texas, megachurch pastor John Hagee. A brief excerpt from Blumenthal’s report—also posted on today’s online Huffington Post (see there also the video portion of his report):

“CUFI has an ulterior agenda: Its support for Israel derives from the belief of Hagee and his flock that Jesus will return to Jerusalem after the battle of Armageddon and cleanse the earth of evil. In the end, all the non-believers—Jews, Muslims, Hindus, mainline Christians, etc.—must convert or suffer the torture of eternal damnation. Over a dozen CUFI members eagerly revealed to me their excitement at the prospect of Armageddon occurring tomorrow. Among the rapture ready was Republican Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.”

Blumenthal concluded: “I have never witnessed any spectacle as politically extreme, outrageous, or bizarre as the one Christians United for Israel produced last week in Washington.”

 

Some observations:

  • Is it any wonder that if one’s picture of God is that He will eventually torture forever all who disagree with Him, we find ourselves at a point in American history when our nation’s leaders have abandoned all principles of moral decency and practice torture, deny the provisions of our own Bill of Rights (habeas corpus, for example), and set aside the Geneva Conventions on humane treatment of prisoners of war?
  • Is it any wonder that if nationally known religious leaders present God as intolerant and unaccepting, so much of what passes for Christianity is rife with bigotry and condemnation? As the poet Edwin Markham said:
  • He drew a circle that shut me out—
    Rebel, heretic, a thing to flout.
    But love and I had the wit to win—
    We drew a circle that took him in.

    Real love doesn’t ostracize or demonize sinners—no matter how grievous the sin. Should not real Christianity be as inclusive as was Jesus?

  • Does sin somehow “make God mad,” so that He hurls down judgments whenever human beings step out of line or violate His law? Is God, as Bette Midler sang, “watching us from a distance,” just waiting to kill those He claims to love when they displease Him?
  • Can any version of Christianity that claims the way to win people to Jesus is to condemn and threaten them with the punishments of a “mad” God really be Christianity at all?
  • Is it possible that the results that follow sinning may have little to do with God’s angry judgments—and much to do with the natural, built-in, and ultimately lethal consequences of those sins—from which God wishes to protect us by showing us how to live in harmony with natural and moral law?
  • Most important, what is your picture of God? What is mine? Do we buy into the way TV preachers and other self-anointed public moralists present Him—threatening, angry, judgmental, vindictive? Or do we realize instead that we win people to God, not by “condemning their idols,” as one Christian writer put it, but by pointing them to something better?
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