I have been noticing recently a great number of articles and television programs bewailing the growing lack of civility in our Western society. Rudeness and anger seem to be closer to the surface for many, just waiting for an excuse to erupt if offense is given, a slight perceived, or a desire denied.
Christians are by no means immune to this coarsening of our manners. Just today I read a letter to the editor in which a Christian claimed to speak for all of us when she complained about what she perceived to be a blasphemous comment about God in a recent column in Macleans magazine. Claiming that Macleans’ Christian readers were “severely offended” by the comment, she demanded assurances that this kind of blasphemy would not happen again. As I read the letter, I thought, why does she think she can speak for me and all Christians? Why does she think I would be severely offended by the humorous comment (and I wasn’t)? What drives someone to think she can bully around a magazine and expect a restriction of freedom of speech to conform with her personal moral code? And lastly, I wonder why she thinks God is so weak that He needs her to defend His honour? I suspect that God can take care of His own reputation, in the long run, far more effectively than you and I can. This is not to deny the importance of apologetics; but that is not what this woman was engaged in. She was advocating censorship.
But even after all of this, it was her tone that struck me most; a tone that spoke of someone who stands ripe and ready to take offense at a moment’s notice. Just like so many today….
I read comments on blogs almost every day now that reflect the same attitude. Hiding behind the ability to be “Anonymous”, people will “courageously” blast forth their venom on others. Those on Facebook or Twitter shout out their anger and vindictiveness against the “right” or the “left” (depending on their perspective) and it isn’t long before someone is labelled a Nazi, a Communist, a socialist, or all of the above, obviously without an understanding of what many of these labels really mean.
What really concerns me, however, is how even some Christian ministries are increasingly sending out messages through email, Twitter, Facebook, or on blogs, that are showing a face of incivility and innuendo particularly towards political leaders (especially in the U.S.) and Muslims that I am concerned reflect poorly on the One who calls us to love our enemies and to do them good, and to give to our political leaders what is due them; taxes, respect, and our prayers. Instead, I read messages of anger, suspicion, crudeness, paranoia, half-truths or unverified stories fit more for conspiracy websites than those who claim to honour Jesus who called Himself, among other things, the Truth. I have mission leaders approach me asking for assistance in protesting the building of mosques in the West, while bemoaning the fact that church buildings cannot be built in some Muslim countries and they seem oblivious to the double-standard. Today I read reports of Christians rioting in protest against injustices done against them in Pakistan and Egypt. But lacking were comments that this is not how Scripture calls God’s people to respond to persecution. But simply being a Christian seems to justify or at least minimize bad behaviour in the eyes of some who claim to speak on their behalf. Is it necessary to remind us that not all persecuted Christians are good Christians and that we do them no great favour by supporting them unconditionally?
In being a voice of today’s Christian martyrs, we at VOMC need to always seek to strive to be a civil voice. We must recognize that it is inconsistent to promote intolerance for persecutors in the process of raising a voice for the persecuted.