Sunday, June 10, 2007

How the Word "Christian" Has Changed

If someone wanted to hurt Christianity, could they do a better job than some prominent evangelicals have done over the past few decades?

I'm not suggesting a few misguided evangelicals can deal a death blow to Christianity. Christianity has survived far worse than James Dobson, Pat Robertson, or the late Jerry Falwell. But over the last few decades, those three fools and a handful of other prominent evangelicals have done more than demons to make Christianity the dunce of religions. For masses of people, they have shifted the Christian message from salvation, grace and love to a spiritually irrelevant attack on other people's sexuality. Regardless of what one thinks about those issues -- homosexuality, abortion, birth control, promiscuity, women's liberation, pre-marital sex, and so forth -- one will have a hard time explaining why they should be the focus of Christian spirituality, and not salvation, grace, and love.

From time to time, the Bible talks about false prophets. Looking at it wisely, how much more false can you get than to shift the Christian message from salvation to policing other people's sexuality?

When I was growing up, the word "Christian" had a very different connotation than it does today. Among other things, to call someone "Christian" -- or even better, a "true Christian" -- was a high compliment. It meant they exemplified certain virtues, including humility, honesty, altruism, compassion, forgiveness, and charity. More than that, a "true Christian" was recognized by everyone as the ultimate in moral decency. Not necessarily sexual decency. But certainly moral decency. You could count on a "true Christian" to treat you with dignity and decency, even if you were among society's outcasts.

The legacy of the evangelical buffoons who hijacked the Christian message over the last few decades shall remain with us until the word "Christian" is no longer the suspect label it is today. For, in the end, their grand experiment in false prophecy has, among other things, resulted in the devaluation of Christianity's moral authority.

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