Recently I have been rereading one of my favorite books, Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller. Seemingly every day that I read it, something jumps out at me worth writing about and commenting on in this space. But that would be annoying and you know it, so I refrain. You can thank me later.
Anyway, something Miller wrote in his chapter about church jumped out at me as exceedingly relevant to the conversation I began concerning Tucker Carlson a few days ago. Near the end of a discussion on the things which bugged Miller about many of the churches he had attended in the past, one paragraph in particular jumped out at me. Miller writes:
Only one more thing that bugged me, then I will shut up about it. War metaphor. The churches I attended would embrace war metaphor. They would talk about how we are in a battle, and I agreed with them, only they wouldn't clarify that we were battling poverty and hate and injustice and price and the powers of darkness. The left us thinking that our war was against liberals and homosexuals. Their teaching would have me believed I was the good person in the world and the liberals were the bad people in the world. Jesus taught that we are all bad and He is good, and He wants to rescue us because there is a war going on and we are hostages in that war. The truth is we are supposed to love the hippies, the liberals, and even the Democrats, and that God wants us to think of them as more important than ourselves. Anything short of this is not true to the teachings of Jesus.Don is right. And I don't mean for that paragraph to be used as a slam on churches or pastors. Rather, I aim for it to be read with an eye toward everyone who calls themself "Christian". In other words, look in the mirror.
You see, war metaphor is great. Righteous anger is great. But the thing is, it has to be righteous. Like Don writes, too often I hear war metaphor aimed at gays or Muslims or liberals. Listen to Pat Robertson and you'll hear war metaphor concerning the mosque being built in New York City. Turn on Fox News or MSNBC and you'll hear war metaphor aimed at the opposite side of the politican spectrum. Now, I don't mean to claim that everyone on cable news is a Christian, but I am sure that many of the voices you hear on those networks do belong to Christians, as does Pat Robertson's and many other individuals who use war metaphor so freely. Our war isn't against gays or liberals or Muslims. Our war should be against suffering and hunger and poverty. If Fox News would spend as much time on fighting poverty as they do on fighting Obama, then something positive truly might be accomplished...and no, trickle down economics doesn't count. If Joy Behar would focus her passion on fighting drug use or leveling the educational playing field rather than being angry at Republicans all the time, then she might make a real difference in the world instead of just being loud and irritating.
Some of the people I know don't like Muslims very much. They believe that we are at war with all of them because a handful of Muslims committed an unspeakable act of violence. After 9/11, I was more or less afraid of Muslims; I used to think that it was my duty as a Christian to look down on Islam and talk about them using war metaphor. You know what I mean. Then I met a Muslim student from Bosnia who probably spoke better English than I do. He and I had a long conversation one night in Dublin when I was spending the night in his apartment. I learned that he was very much like me: passionate about his home and his faith and where he came from, but eager to learn and love others and show that the face the West has put on Islam isn't fair or true. After that, I stopped fearing Muslims and I didn't use war metaphor about them anymore.
The reason Tucker Carlson angers me is not simply that he looks at Obama and liberals and homosexuals and thinks that there is a war to be fought against them; rather, he angers me because he thinks that because he is a Christian there is a war to be fought against fruit nuts and Muslims and so on. You see, Tucker's comments regarding Michael Vick (read about them here) are absurd in their own right - he suggests that Vick should have been executed for his role in a dogfighting ring - and he made them with the intention of slamming President Obama for supporting the turnaround Vick has experienced recently; to be fair, this probably doesn't rank too high on the list of crazy things said on Sean Hannity's show. But what sets me off is this: Tucker had the audacity to first mention that he is a Christian, then state his belief in second chances, and only then cast all that aside and profess his desire that Vick be executed for his crime. I guess what I am trying to say is that Tucker Carlson still sucks, but not because he is a die hard conservative who wears a bow tie and is loud. Instead, he sucks because he tries to use his Christianity to justify his hatred of the people he disagrees with.
I know I don't love others as much as I should, and I know that I am as guilty as anyone of failing to meet the expectations which have been set before me. But the first step to winning this war against hate and injustice and poverty and darkness is to recognize that that is the real war going on, not some facade of a battle against Democrats or gays which only distracts us from our real mission: love. Our mission, and the only way to win this real war which is going on all around us, is to love the liberals and the conversatives and the hippies and the Muslims and gays and CEOs and lawyers and orphans and widows and everybody. To quote Don, "anything short of this is not true to the teachings of Jesus."
And so on...