Sometimes You Have to Run from Christians to Follow Jesus

Posted: November 22, 2010 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , ,

I’ve not written anything specifically for this blog in quite a while. I’ve been struggling quite a bit lately, trying to figure out whether I still had faith in The Faith at all. My problem is epitomized by this blog post, penned by Bryan Fischer, a prominent supposed “Christian conservative.” He’s decrying the fact that there seems to be a trend among Medal of Honor Awards lately wherein the medal is awarded to people who save lives, rather than kill “bad guys.” Here are some excerpts.

We have feminized the Medal of Honor.

According to Bill McGurn of the Wall Street Journal, every Medal of Honor awarded during these two conflicts has been awarded for saving life. Not one has been awarded for inflicting casualties on the enemy. Not one.

Gen. George Patton once famously said, “The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other guy die for his.”

When we think of heroism in battle, we used the think of our boys storming the beaches of Normandy under withering fire, climbing the cliffs of Pointe do Hoc while enemy soldiers fired straight down on them, and tossing grenades into pill boxes to take out gun emplacements.

That kind of heroism has apparently become passe when it comes to awarding the Medal of Honor. We now award it only for preventing casualties, not for inflicting them.

So the question is this: when are we going to start awarding the Medal of Honor once again for soldiers who kill people and break things so our families can sleep safely at night?

I would suggest our culture has become so feminized that we have become squeamish at the thought of the valor that is expressed in killing enemy soldiers through acts of bravery. We know instinctively that we should honor courage, but shy away from honoring courage if it results in the taking of life rather than in just the saving of life. So we find it safe to honor those who throw themselves on a grenade to save their buddies.

Jesus, in words often cited in ceremonies such as the one which will take place this afternoon, said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). So it is entirely right that we honor this kind of bravery and self-sacrifice, which is surely an imitation of the Lord of lords and King of kings.

However, Jesus’ act of self-sacrifice would ultimately have been meaningless – yes, meaningless – if he had not inflicted a mortal wound on the enemy while giving up his own life.

Let me say at the outset that I have a hard time mustering a respectful response to this sort of vile garbage. Not only are the teachings of Jesus nowhere to be found in the sentiments expressed in the article, but there’s a deep sexism overlaying the entire piece that conflates the feminine with weakness and negativity. Unfortunately, in my experience with American Christianity, Fischer is a microcosm of the faith these days.

Jesus never killed anyone, period, and his teachings allow for no celebration of killing people. A metaphorical, even spiritual, mortal blow cannot be conflated with using a projectile to puncture a human body so it cannot function. They are not the same thing.

Self-sacrifice in the service of high ideals is never meaningless, not even when they fail to strike even metaphorical mortal blows. Remember this guy?

Tank Man

A lone protestor for democracy stands alone against a line of tanks during the Tiannamen Square protests.

Does that scream “meaningless” to you? I note that China’s authoritarian government is still standing. The meaning of Jesus’ nonviolent self-sacrifice includes the same sort of meaning we see in the picture above. Part of the meaning of the cross is the stand Jesus took against the Roman occupation and the self-serving collusion of the political and religious leadership of his people. Even if nothing else happened but a mundane death on a mundane piece of wood, there is deep meaning here from which we can learn.

Fischer’s article is hardly the only example of this sort of false Christian spirituality rampant in the group of people that considers themselves the “Body of Christ.” It entails an obfuscation of the concrete, inescapable and thoroughly nonviolent meanings of Christ’s actual words in favor of a formulaic and otherwordly system of thought that gets adherents blissfully free of the actual ethical demands made in the teachings of Jesus. It allows people who ostensibly follow the Prince of Peace to celebrate the killing of other human beings, as long as they are “bad guys,” even though the spirituality they espouse loves rubbing people’s noses in the fact that we’re all “bad guys” who deserve to die.

This sort of thinking produces all manner of perverse attributes of the so-called “Church.” For example, the followers of a man who was tortured to death by authorities are inexplicably more likely to support government-sponsored torture. And frankly, if these are the indicators of what it means to be a Christian in America these days, I’ve got no interest in sharing the label. If Fischer and the pro-war, pro-torture crowd are the dominant manifestation of Christianity, count me out. To put it another way, if Fischer is a Christian, then I am not.

Sometimes the only way to follow Jesus is to get away from the Christians.

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Comments
  1. Josh Mull says:

    I’ve actually been thinking a lot about this lately, but from the complete opposite angle. It’s started since I’ve been reading this Tea Party Jesus blog (http://teapartyjesus.tumblr.com/), which puts “the words of Christians in the mouth of Christ”, but your post has really crystallized what I’ve been feeling.

    I’m an atheist, hardcore to-the-bone, no Christmas or nothing. But the more that contemporary American Christianity thrusts itself into our faces, the more I keep asking myself, “Am I more Christian than they are?” I don’t believe in the supernatural, or even that a person named Jesus ever existed, but I understand the implicit message of peace and social justice. How vile must they be to have someone like me defend their own mythology? They are actually driving me to side with Christ just as they’re making you question.

    They’re making Christians lose the faith and atheists pick up the Bible. What bizarre, terrible, exciting times we live in.

    • dcrowe says:

      I should say I’m not questioning my own faith as much as I’m losing faith in the community of people who claim to share it. I have studied early Christianity quite a bit, and have done a lot of writing pushing the church to remember its very early heritage as a community so opposed to violence in any form that you couldn’t even serve as a judge and be accepted for baptism because you might have to impose a death sentence, etc. But what I’m wrestling with right now is whether it makes sense to keep shouting at that community to take up an ethical stance that it’s been arguing itself out of for more than a thousand years now. At what point do you have to accept that what a group or community was in the early days is gone for good?

      This isn’t really a fair question, obviously, because there have always been subsets of Christianity that held to a nonviolent self-sacrificial love as their touchstone for ethics. My problem is, you need community, and I’m having a hard time finding it where I live. I suppose what I’m in is a time of feeling alone among a crowd of other people wearing the same t-shirt and not recognizing myself in them.

  2. Sidney Carton says:

    Matthew 7:21-

    “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.”

    Mr. Fischer has much to answer for, as his words do not at all reflect the teachings of the master he claims to represent.

  3. […] Crowe explains why sometimes you have to run from Christians to follow Jesus. This brings up a rather disturbing point to ponder: sometimes it is easier to get along with […]

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