The recent UCT Sax Appeal gave Christians a gilt-edged opportunity to demonstrate the gospel in action. With Islamic militants rioting and threatening death over some Danish cartoons not so long ago, the tendency of the religious to over-reaction and intolerance is all too fresh in the global memory. We had the chance to show the world that Christianity is different. Not only did we fail, but we’re making it worse.
God experiences the blasphemy of rebellious humanity every minute of every day. It’s not news to him that this kind of sentiment exists. It is just news to us. Given that God sees the blasphemy of the human heart and is patient with us, not wanting anyone to perish, but all to come to repentance (2Peter 3:9), it is no surprise that Jesus himself is given as the model for us to follow when under attack. 1Peter 2:20-23 says that Jesus didn’t retaliate when they hurled their insults at him, and this is the kind of response that we have been called to make. We should be demonstrating willingness to suffer unjustly if it means that we can play a role in the salvation of others.
Well, we didn’t do that. Christian pressure groups made sure that ‘outrage’ was the chosen mood, some parties even calling for nationwide boycotts. But we just can’t stop outselves, it seems.
I’ve been writing to Errol Naidoo (president of one of the pressure groups), urging him to take cognizance of the uniform teaching of scripture that Christians are to direct their attention at keeping the life and doctrine of the church pure, and not to appoint ourselves as judges of unbelievers (eg. 1Cor 5). Christ himself was known as the ‘friend of sinners’, and he shockingly reserved his harshest words for the holy, law-abiding Pharisees.
Yet this week, Errol Naidoo has again written to the papers about the Sax Appeal issue, this time accusing the media of a prejudice against Christianity, and favouritism towards homosexuals. He says,
‘Much has been written in the liberal press about the “threat” to freedom of expression by “over-sensitive” Christians…’
In fact, the major article in the ‘liberal press’ in support of freedom of speech and in criticism of over-sensitive Christians was written by me, a conservative, Reformed Evangelical Christian. He goes on to say,
“Significantly, however, homosexuals and all expressions of homosexuality are strictly off limits… When [the liberal media] contend that “religion” does not deserve protection and should be the object of satire and ridicule, what they actually mean is, “We must be allowed to attack Christ and Christianity exclusively, without any limitations, mercy or remorse, because this makes us feel better about ourselves.”
Even if this were true, it still wouldn’t justify the fact that Christians have not imitated Christ in their response to this minor and inconsequential assault, but have ignored the scriptures that they claim to obey.
But beyond this, the media do not attack Christianity exclusively, and nor do they do so without limitations (and, of course, free speech allows us the right to answer any illegitimate attacks). Naidoo seems to forget that the blasphemy was not (as far as I’m aware) printed in the ‘liberal media’ until he quoted it there, and nor would they ever have printed such unfunny, thoughtless material as that. It was printed in a base, low-fi local student rag. How is that a media prejudice?
Secondly, as David Benatar has pointed out, Christianity is by far the majority faith in this country and is therefore rightly subject to the most exposure and the most criticism. The president of a country gets singled out for more abuse than minor opposition party leaders; the tallest grass gets trimmed first. As it turns out, we have not been guarding the purity of our church life and doctrine, and so the volume of criticism that we deserve is more of a concern than the volume that is printed.
But to Naidoo’s great shame, by insisting on ‘protecting’ the name of Christ in a way that scripture has not commanded, he has now once again added to ‘petulance’ the charge of ‘homophobia’ to Christianity. Gone is Christ, ‘the friend of sinners’, who was a known associate of traitors and prostitutes. The Jesus that South Africa needs can’t take a joke and wishes for a bit more public gay-bashing.
We had a gilt-edged opportunity to show the gospel in action…