Former President Jimmy Carter once famously asked, “If Christianity were a crime, would there be enough evidence to convict you?”
While not authoring this neat little quiz, Carter’s use of it broadened its popularity. It was uttered by him in the midst of a minor questioning of his openly admitting to praying in the Oval Office before making tough decisions. (Some wags at the time suggested that the subsequent failures of Carter policies were all the evidence one needed to see that God never listened to him!)
The evidence of Christian faith has, for centuries been caught in this saying from the Sermon on the Mount:
“By their fruits, you shall know them”
Hence, the commandment to love, to serve, to raise up, to bind up, to cure, and heal, and the like. Grapes are produced by vines and thus if your life produces such and such a kind of fruit that reveals your nature. “It is not what goes in, but what comes out” is based on the same principle.
Nothing terribly remarkable about all this. Until now.
For some time churches have been speaking of the war on Christianity. Such comments are usually scoffed at and dismissed by enlightened, liberal westerners. The so-called war, it is claimed, is not against Christianity, but for basic human values and rights.
Unspoken is the assumption that the advocacy of basic humanity is somehow not of the essence of Christianity, and other religions I hasten to add. This assumption amounts to a declaration that anything that gets in the way of certain agendas framed as advocating basic humanity ought to be swept away. If the acknowledgement of anything transcendent (super-natural, if you will) accompanied by the ascription of authority to such a reality is regarded as constrictive on basic humanity, then the war which follows makes sense and is legitimate. Religion is not free from being both a nuisance or odd. Christians may seek to blend in to the masses, but they must be rooted out, made fun of, harassed, and ..
Have you seen the yet another ISIS march on the beach images?
But wait, what is happening “over there” is not being done to Christians by sponsors of western sophistication and humanistic values.
Correct. And so we might be tempted to see this (a la Ayaan Hirsi Ali) as evidence that Islam is not a religion of peace. That may or may not be so. I want to make a different point.
As well as what is may tell and show us of ISIS and possibly Islam in general (buy their fruits etc.) it also tells and shows something else: it tells and shows
that persecution can be based on simple knowledge or rumor about a person; (this is the “seriousness of the charge” legitimizing of punishment argument)
that the persecution of ordinary people can happen in the twinkling of an eye
that the lure of intolerance is a mighty power and can lead to fundamental horror
that the killing those who stand for ultimate values in conflict with those in power can be easily justified and/or ignored
that the weak and defenseless will ever be hounded by the strong
It shows that religious persecution is hell, that is, the place of no hope for humanity.
Everyone who proclaims a commitment to basic humanity ought never for one instant to support religious persecution, let alone a war against any faith.