A couple of weeks ago, I watched the movie “42” with several high school aged youth and we talked about its lessons for today. At the time, I didn’t think to ask if we see such examples of discrimination today. I wonder what their answer would be.
Perhaps they would be naive, embracing postmodernity’s mindless “love is toleration”-thinking. “Of course there is no such discrimination today. We tolerate all.” It’s been noted to the point of nausea just how untrue this is. Tolerationism is only tolerant of that which we tolerate. Those we don’t agree with we castigate with every bit as much force as a redneck baseball manager shouting invectives at number 42 at the plate. The website Twitchy has become known for publishing tweets where the tolerant show in Tweets a phenomenal cruelty toward those with whom they do not agree. The bully certainly has not left the playground in American society. Racism, to be sure, still exists. But don’t think we are more discriminating in our discrimination. We’re less tolerant than ever and the beauty of living in 2014 is that we can be intolerant in the name of tolerance.
I think Exhibit A in this new discrimination is the attitudes of society toward Christianity. Now Christians should be less horrified by this than they are. Christian history reveals that the Church never has it better than when it has it bad. Still, the brazenness of this antipathy toward all things Christian can be a little unnerving. Even Bill Nye got caught in the crossfires of this hatred when Richard Dawkins criticized Nye for giving creation a platform. Christianity doesn’t even deserve to be given a platform according to Dawkins. In Richard Dawkins world, Christians are booted off the playground by a sort of bullying that reduces the opponent to nothing. This isn’t “open-minded,” it’s cold-hearted and extremely closed-minded.
Those who criticize Christianity would counter that the Church has behaved this way too, which certainly is not wrong, at least at times. Sadly this sort of logic has a puerile “he hit me first”-flavor to it. The problem is that this observation doesn’t work as a “one size fits all”-analysis of Christianity. For all its warts, there still has been no greater agency of mercy in the world for the past 2000 years than Christianity. Not all Christians are mindless automatons who only believe what the Church tells them to believe. Indeed, to demonstrate mercy to the less advantaged requires eyes that see clearly, minds that perceive carefully, and hearts that feel for the needs of others. Many judgments of Christianity don’t even bother to consider these realities. Moreoever, what many judge Christians for could be observed across the spectrum of religion and philosophy. The judges are no better than the judged. The problem isn’t Christians vs. atheists. The problem is hypocrites vs. hypocrites.
At least the Bible has a cogent, if unexpected, answer to the problem of hypocrisy among Christians. The Bible rather counter-intuitively teaches “Of course!” Christians do not have it all figured out a la Ken Ham. By often suggesting they do, fideistic Christians probably deserve the world’s shouts of “Hypocrite!” We have the truth in God’s Word but sin means we don’t have the truth perfectly in our lives. That’s why churches with Sacraments should be given another consideration. Those gifts of God are for the hypocrites who confess themselves as such. God doesn’t discriminate on the basis of perceived hypocrisy. He forgives in the name of His one and only Son, something our world doesn’t have the stomach (or the courage) to do. Many postmodern mega-temples don’t have the courage to do it either, endorsing positivism to the point of ignorance.
No. It’s far easier to engage debates or shout the other down. It’s easier to argue that our opponents must be sub-human forms of life who do not deserve a platform for their crazy ideas. It’s easier (and more fun) to play the part of the playground bully. God’s people fight this temptation too. As one Bible scholar has noted, Israel at Jesus’ time was sick of being bullied. They wanted to be the bully. Only Jesus had other plans…
So a pox on both your houses. As one dispassionate observer said of the Ham/Nye debate, the world needs a humble Christianity and a more open-minded atheism. I’ll take up that challenge. I wonder if anyone else will.