Sunday, March 05, 2006

It's Not Like It's a Law

The question was raised--why I stated:

“Christianity felt the only way it could demonstrate its viability, was not though good works, not by demonstrating love, not by loving one’s neighbor, but by passing legislation.”

How can I say that? Because actions speak louder than words. Christians don’t show the viability of their belief by practicing them, they attempt to show them by passing laws about plaques and prayers. Look, if you don’t believe them in practice, why should I?

By ”viable” I mean relevant, actual, capable of success or continuing effectiveness, practicable. If someone tells me a method that is effective to implement a goal, it is exactly that—a successful way to reach the ends desired.

It is similar to someone telling me they have the best instructions to build a doghouse. Instructions that resulted in the winningest Doghouse ever made. And then they go and build a dog house completely different than these instructions. Do they really believe these are the best instructions? Naw.

What does the Bible say about determining the “viability” of Christianity? (I have no hesitation in looking at the Bible. While it is of human manufacture, Christians assure me that this is the basis of their belief. That their “absolute” morality is based therein. If I am told that is where to find Christianity—that is where I will look.)

Love Doesn’t take a rocket scientist to quickly figure out what the distinguishing characteristic of a Christian must be: Love for others, and following God’s commands.

“All men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.” John 13:35

“We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar and the truth is not in him.” 1 John 2:3-4

“Whoever loves his brother lives in the light…” 1 John 2:10

“Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers.” 1 John 3:13-14

“If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? 1 John 3:17 (ouch.)

“And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. Those how obey his commands live in him, and he in them.” 1 John 3:23

“Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4:7-8.

That seems pretty clear. If you are Christian, you love and obey God’s commands. If you don’t—you aren’t. Want to look at some of God’s commands? Sure!

“If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.” Luke 6:29-30

“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” Matt. 5:44

“If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” 1 Tim. 5:8

“If we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap…for the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” 1 Tim. 6:8-10.

“Do not worry, saying ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’” Matt. 6:31

“If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin….” James 2:8

There is more, of course, by why point it out? You want to show the world the viability of Christianity? Start acting like Christians! It is hard for us to buy that you believe this stuff, when we see you living in million dollar houses, generating college funds for your children and driving new SUV’s. Oh, we do too, but we aren’t claiming the Bible as the absolute moral authority. You are.

We aren’t the ones mandating that Christians must do such-and-such, and act in a certain way. Your Bible is. We are the ones reading it, and seeing that you have no interest in following its mandates either. If you aren’t interested, why should we be? More importantly, why should we have to follow some of your rules, if you aren’t?

I see an Americanization of Christianity. As if rights generated by the Constitution and subsequent case law, somehow become “Christian” rights.

“We have a RIGHT to place the Ten Commandments on a plaque.” Give me a break. Can you point out this “right” in your Bible? “For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil: live as servants of God.” 1 Pet. 2:15-16

Want to put non-believers in their place? Shut them up, as it were? Stop whining about monuments and rights, and start acting out the Ten Commandments!

You aren’t being oppressed by a prohibition of a plaque. Even if you were, you should be thankful for it. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” James 1:2-3

As I have said before, and will say again. These are legislative acts that do not cost the Christian anything. What is a plaque? A prayer before a football game? Christians will scream out that their “rights” (where are those rights found in the Bible, again?) are being violated by not getting these things, but become silent when we point out their complete lack of Love for fellow human beings. Where is the outpouring of money to homeless shelters? Help for pregnant teenagers? Counseling for those in need? Support for neighbors?

Are Christians seriously saying that their lives are more fulfilled if a homeless person dies under a Plaque that reads, “Thou shalt have no other Gods before me”?

Christians don’t want to show the viability of Christianity as required in the Bible. That is too much. Oh, they will read these words, or hear them in a sermon, and nod their head, thinking, “Yeah, I need to do that more,” and then drive off in their new cars, worried about whether to go out to eat at a restaurant, or eat steak at home. That afternoon will be filled with clothes shopping, as this year’s fashions just came out.

I would love to see a story come out of Missouri that claims Medicaid and Medicare have ceased being necessary in that state, as the Christians have begun to demonstrate that Christianity is relevant. Real. Viable. That the health care system has been reformed, as Christians no longer need health care, now that James 5:13-15 and Mark16:18 have become actual to the Christians. That all the women have sold their gold, and pearls to help fund this endeavor. That abortions have dropped to nothing, because Christians are more than willing to adopt, raise and support children that are unwanted.

Is that what we see? Nope. What we see, is “We have a majority that believe in a God” (although what that “God” is remains vague) “so we will pass legislation. We have a right.” Why do I say that this is the only way Christians demonstrate the viability of Christianity? Because, as a whole, it is all Christians do!

(There a few, and far in-between exemptions. Curiously, those that are, seem to be the least interested in passing legislation, and would agree with me that it is ridiculous.)

So I started looking in the Bible about “passing legislation.” The Book is contradictory enough—wouldn’t surprise me if somewhere there is a statement that Christians must be actively involved in passing laws about plaques and prayers. What I found wasn’t very complimentary:

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices…but you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness.” Mt. 23:23

“Do not do what they do…Everything they do is done for men to see…they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important eats in the synagogues.” Mt. 23:3-6

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside fo the cup and dish, but inside are full of greed and self-indulgence.” Mat. 23:25

“Woe to you teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!..on the outside you appear to people as righteous, but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” Mat. 23:27-28

Jesus wasn’t too thrilled with people who passed laws, rather than practiced love. Does anyone really think that Jesus would be petitioning for this law to be passed, or would he be simply demonstrating love by working in the community?

Ever read Otto Koenig’s The Pineapple Story? He was a missionary in New Guinea when he decided to grow pineapples. He tells of the hard work, and labor put into the planting and tending to these plants, and waiting for three years before the first crop.

But the villagers stole them all before he could eat one! He began to impose his “rights” by placing signs, putting up fences, and preaching on the ills of stealing. None of it did any good, they kept stealing his pineapples. He became angrier and angrier, and finally obtained two mean dogs.

This kept the people out of his pineapples, but they also wouldn’t come visit him anymore because they were afraid of these dogs. At least his “rights” were secure. On furlough, he realized that because of imposing his “rights” he was losing his effectiveness as a missionary. Upon returning, he got rid of the signs, the fences and the dogs, and allowed the villagers to “steal” from him at will.

Only it was no longer “stealing” because he was starting to practice the love he preached about. The point was driven home forcefully when a villager eventually asked him, “Mr. Koenig. Did you become a Christian?”

Pass all the legislation you want. We see through it. All we can do is hope that someday you become a Christian.


  1. You know me, ever not the academic scholar, more a 'life's experiences' scholar then anything. :)

    The story here regarding the missionary, the pineapple, the people...I read it last night & again this morning & this time the tears flowed. A tug on my heart.

    Strange. In my sharing of my walking away from Christianity, to those who really care to listen (and being Christians themselves) I've heard back from some of them that I'm now what a Christian should be. It appears that taking down my signs has not only brought personal benefit but also a growing relational one with others.

    Thanks for the story. I have several missionary friends & I know they'd love this story.

  2. Of course I DID spell the author's name wrong! Forgive me, it has been 20 or so years since I heard him speak. It is "Koning" if one looks it up on google.

    While I do enjoy the philosophical debate, it seems, Zoe, that in the "life experience" portion of my blog, it gets real, real, quiet. I, too, have found greater relationships with others by NOT being a Christian.

    Odd, eh?

  3. Thank you for writing that. Good piece. It also shows why I lament the emphasis in Christianity on orthodoxy (right belief) over orthopraxy right conduct). I'd do what I usually do and give you ten or more paragraphs on how that distinction came about and why it was wrong, but I suspect that since you are no longer a Christian you don't need someone like me telling you that.