Yesterday, we introduced the concept of the church being too quick to respond to culture. In this case, the world has called the church out because it saw the word "Jesus" and didn't like what it saw, and the church has not disappointed - prominent pastors, authors, and leaders immediately stepped forward to apologize and condemn Christianity.
But should they have?
There are a couple of considerations at play that should make us at least hesitate before we respond. We should at least think about it. The first sounds like one of those 'conspiracy theories' the world keeps mocking persons for, but there's a certain truth to the notion that the world shouts when it needs to distract you from something. So the fact that the world would not even want us to consider this idea and would call us foolish for doing so...kind of means we should at least consider the idea. The fact that the world calls us stupid for thinking it and tries to label us in all kinds of derogatory ways on the sheer notion...means we should probably consider it.
And I'm bringing this up first not because it is the most likely or because it is the most important, but because the other idea that I want to bring up is going to take more than one day of discussion, and I want the space to flow as well as it possibly can, so a quick-hitter here and then we'll get into something more complicated that delves deeper into church history.
Okay, so here it is: not everything that has the name of Jesus on it comes from Christians.
In a world that is antagonistic to Christianity, it's very easy for anyone to just slap Jesus or a Cross onto a message and then start tearing it down. And it happens. We are misrepresented by those who don't even claim to be legitimately representing us, but who just want an excuse to pile on and tear us down a little more. To create an image of Jesus and then attack it. It's the classic strawman.
It sounds conspiracy theory-ish, and maybe it is a little bit, but it's also a reality. In our current conversations, Christianity has become linked with politics, and then politics has become heated to the extreme where we can't even have civil conversations any more, but just jump right to attacking one another for the caricatures of the politics that we think someone holds. And with religion so closely tied into it now (largely because 'evangelicals' were identified as a large demographic by some politic not too long ago and has been aimed for or against by either side ever since), it's no stretch to say that what we're having is a political discussion, not a religious one, but it's so easy to just throw Jesus into it because a certain politic has become so tied to a certain religion that the general public doesn't separate them any more.
You know this world is vehement toward those "Christians" even more than those "Republicans"? But not because of our religion? Because of our politics!
And particularly with the last president, when religious arguments came out pretty strongly because of certain social positions of the opposition...we're just in a mess. And again, not because of our actual faith, but because of what it is tied to as a mere idea - because of a caricature.
So it's not hard to understand that when you want to demonize a group, just make it look like they're guilty of something. Everyone understands this, down to little children. "He did it." By middle school, they already know how to make the evidence point away from them and toward someone they particularly dislike. In a world constructed on language as a weapon, it doesn't take much any more but to say or to imply that someone or some group is responsible for something - if you get the story spreading, the story takes on an authority of its own just by being a story.
The first question that we have to ask ourselves, then, when we hear the world pinning something on "Christians" is this: are the persons involved persons who actually believe themselves to be Christians? Is this a legitimate claim? Or is Jesus just being used as part of the messaging?