This is not how a so-called Christian nation behaves

christ_healing_the_leper

By Robert Mann

In a thinly veiled autobiography published after his death in 1902, the British author Samuel Butler wrote about the Christian evangelical church of his youth. In one scene, he describes his congregation as “tolerators, if not lovers, of all that was familiar, haters of all that was unfamiliar.” They would have been, he observed, “equally horrified at hearing the Christian religion doubted, and at seeing it practiced.”

Butler’s insight was keen and likely applies to Christians everywhere. Too many of us love our civic club religion, and we expect our leaders to tell us constantly how virtuous and Christ-like we are – until it’s time to be virtuous and Christ-like. In other words, we love calling ourselves Christian until we are challenged by fate or circumstance to practice what Jesus preached.

When our leaders assure us that we are a nation founded on Christian principles, we rejoice. It often salves the psyches of those who wish to twist Jesus into a pious scold concerned more with religious dogma than caring for society’s outcasts.

Were he still alive today, I doubt Butler would be surprised by the millions of virtuous American Christians and their political leaders who so easily jettison the teachings of Jesus at the first sign of distress. This week, our collective anguish prompted many of us to turn our backs on Jesus and an entire group of fellow humans, otherwise known as Syrian refugees.

After listening to most of our political leaders, people who tout their Christianity in campaign advertisements, one might assume hordes of terrorists are about to push across our borders. Instead, decent, hardworking families have fled their once-secure homes in Syria, desperate to escape torture or starvation. With children and older relatives in tow, they risk death to reach the European continent in hopes of finding safe haven.

Even before the Paris bombings, the United States had been slow to welcome these tired, poor, huddled masses. Over the past week, dozens of governors, most of them Republican, tried to slam their states’ doors to any Syrian who dared to dream of a better life on our shores.

To be sure, Christian compassion wasn’t entirely missing from the debate. Many church organizations across the nation are showing their Christian compassion and welcoming these refugees. In Baton Rouge, however, such benevolence prompted death threats to Catholic Charities, which has helped most of the 14 Syrian refugees settled in Louisiana this year.

Let’s face it, no matter how much our political leaders tout their Christian principles, they often behave as if they’re unfamiliar with centuries-old teachings of their faith. As for ISIS, its barbarity bears no resemblance to what the Prophet Muhammad taught and how he lived.

Truth be told, people on both sides ignore and so radically distort the teachings of their spiritual founders that God should sue us both for defamation of character. I’m not making a historical argument against the patently false notion that the Founding Fathers based the Constitution on the Bible. I would argue, simply, that we often act as if we haven’t a clue what Jesus taught.

Too many of us are Christian only to the extent that we can attack Starbucks for the color of its coffee cups or harangue a department store for not requiring employees to wish everyone a “Merry Christmas.” Ask us to take seriously what the man from Nazareth taught about justice and loving our enemies? That’s where we often take our leave of Jesus.

Continue reading on NOLA.com at this link.

 

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6 Responses to This is not how a so-called Christian nation behaves

  1. Stephen Winham says:

    Religion and compassion aside, the worst thing about this is that ISIS delights in this and other such actions we take in response to theirs. It accomplishes their mission and enhances their recruitment efforts.

    From the Muslim Conquests beginning in the 7th century, through the 200 year Christian Crusades in response and continuing across the world today, look at the things being done in the name of God, Christ and other prophets and deities. In each case, the antagonists cherry-pick what suits their goals and ignore the rest Christianity does not have the market cornered on compassionate teachings, nor the ability of its ostensible adherents to ignore them when it suits their purposes.

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  2. EatonCumberland says:

    So well said, Bob.

    Harvill

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

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  3. earthmother says:

    Bob, your lament transcends the crisis du jour, and mirrors a discussion we engaged in recently – so many self-avowed Christians do not appear to live their faith as Jesus commanded us. “Love thy neighbor as thyself” comes to mind. Actions speak louder than words – period. Thank you for this observation – that so many are what someone called “Sunday Christians.”

    I’m always saddened (but not surprised) at the self-centeredness of so many people who populate church pews every Sunday (or Saturday vigil if that’s more con-veeeen-yent) and lay claim to Christian belief while denigrating others’ faith and acting completely opposite of Jesus’ teaching, Matthew 25:35-45.. Some of the most compassionate people I know have no faith at all and behave more like Christ than some regular church-goers.

    “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.” St. Francis of Assisi

    “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Mahatma Gandhi

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  4. jechoisir says:

    Oh Gawd, another Liberal anti-Christian rant! And not a new thought in it.

    First, let get rid of the idea of Sam’l Butler as a great thinker or disappointed Christian. From childhood, Butler was a cynic, not a Christian, and he wrote in his journal that he “said his last prayer today,” the day his father, despite Butler’s bad behavior, gave him his fortune. He had nothing good to say about anyone much, and the literary and art world returned the favor. He was a mediocre man, known mainly as a major controversialist, and the thought of his lamenting the increase of an athletic Christian outreach (for that was what he was doing) is ludicrous. Unlike other 19th-century thinkers like Matthew Arnold or Thomas Hardy, who agonized over their loss of faith, Butler reveled like a shallow thirteen-year-old.

    Christians are not instructed merely to love their neighbors, nor even only to love them as themselves. Jesus instructed his disciples and the crowds gathered on the hills before him first, to love God with all their being—with their hearts (emotions), minds (reason), and souls. Only within that framework does he tell them to love their neighbors as [they loved] themselves. That means a personal devotion to the God of the Christian Bible, Whose nature and will are articulated in the Bible. The God Christians discover is a God of peace and charitas. Yet He is a god Who recognizes Evil exists in the physical world and that personified in the fallen rebel, Satan, it actively seeks to corrupt mankind. (Remember Adam and Eve?) It is from God’s word and the example of Christ described therein that Christians glean their sense of good and bad and how they should behave.

    Second, the admonition to love one’s neighbor as one’s self clearly indicates that love of self as a child of God is proper and indeed necessary if one is to love another. Perhaps for that reason, love of self comes second in the list, for only if we value ourselves as literally sharing the spirit (breath) of God can we understand how to love our fellow human beings. The person who has such an understanding of himself will not knowingly commit suicide; nor will he readily stand by as his children or the neighbors he loves commit suicide out of ignorance. He is armed against Evil by his Faith and knowledge of God and his ability to reason about God’s nature.

    Faced with presence and stated purposes of ISIS, should a Christian do as one woman recently declared to me, speaking of all Middle Easterners, “Let them in. Light defeats Darkness”? Should Christians encourage the spread of ISIS and the Islam that feeds it?

    The atheistic Left in America is not bound, as are Christians, by the admonition “Judge not, that ye be not judged,” where “judge” refers to judging the quality of another’s holiness. But it is hubristic, at best, to bray as so many are doing—and this column does—“Oh, look how hypocritical Christians are! They don’t want to to take a chance on admitting ISIS activists in a group comprised mainly of women, the elderly, and children.” Faced with possible annihilation in Egypt, Moses followed God’s instructions and got the heck out of the place when He ordered them out. And earlier, when the Egyptian ruler was murdering all Jewish male infants (with a sword, please note), Miriam did not sit around being sweet and accepting: she got herself and her son Moses to the Nile, where Pharoah’s daughter often came. And she disguised that baby who, ultimately, was instrumental in the undoing of Egypt and its culture. In other words, Christians (and Jews) have the right to participate in society and the governance of their nation, acting on their beliefs—-just as atheists have the right to participate, acting on their purely rationalistic beliefs.

    There are good reasons for Christians, Jews, and all religious people who find the belief system of ISIS repugnant and dangerous to oppose this immigration without betraying their religious faiths. ISIS’ announced intentions to exploit the system is a good one. And remember that little baby boy who comes with his mother will almost certainly go to a madrassa, where he will become politicized (Remember Moses?). Experience did not teach France that. But we have seen it in Dearborn and elsewhere. We already have to deal with these grown-up babies because of our immigration policy. Those of us who are Christian are not admonished to love our neighbors more than we love God or ourselves. We have the example of Eve, among many, that says, “Think twice, maybe three times.”

    This commentary and the general line of reasoning it puts forward really seeks to demolish the argument of a group of people who seem identified generally as Republicans by using a simplistic statement of the tenets of THEIR religion. It is but a form of the old argumentum ad hominem. This means the writer does not have to deal in any complex or thoughtful way about the merits of the matter at hand—immigration policies and the way they impact the nation. Yet thoughtful peoples who have built a nation have always regulated immigration, not just by groups, giving more space to those with shared traditions who are more likely to assimilate and to those who possess talents that are needed. It has also regulated immigration to protect the citizenry and the culture they have created.

    No one should trust an argument that does not consider this proposed immigration within the general purpose and goals of immigration within our nation or that uses such a simplistic, hateful argumentum ad hominem attack on American Christians.

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  5. jechoisir says:

    “So-called Christians”=Christians (or, really, Repuglicans) in this arument, folks.

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  6. Trey McNabb says:

    I am happy that some Christian groups generally associated with the right have came out on the side of embracing the refugees. The US Conference of Catholic Bishops and the National Association of Evangelicals have stood firm behind the conviction that Christians should welcome refugees out of Christian love and hospitality. Even Southern Baptist Russell Moore hinted at the same, though adding after a sound vetting process.

    It is so sad to see so many Christians reacting out of fear instead of doing as our Lord and taking up our cross and following. However, the politicians are acting just as you would expect them to act.

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