Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Burning down the house of God

The Talkingest Head of them all reviews "Jesus Camp":
There were some perfect sound bites — at one point Pastor Fischer instructs the little ones that they should be willing to die for Christ, and the little ones obediently agree. She may even use the word martyr, which has a shocking echo in the Middle East. I can see future suicide bombers for Jesus — the next step will be learning to fly planes into buildings. Of course, the grownups would say, “Oh no, we’re not like them” — but they admit that the principal difference is simply that “We’re right.”
Generally I would (and should) listen to David Byrne on religion about as much as he would (and should) listen to me on music. While everyone has an opinion it is a modern myth that all of them are equal; I don't know dick about music and my opinion is worth nothing.

And while I suspect "Jesus Camp" is to liberals what "Friday the 13th" and "Saw" are to teenagers - a chance to enjoy the adrenaline rush of fear, to mock the stupid, and to swear that they would do better in such a situation - I found Byrne's vision of Christianity (whether portrayed accurately in the film or not) to be breathtaking in its ignorance.

People were dying for Christ for centuries before Islam came on the scene, as they are in places like Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan where it today rules and in China and North Korea where modern atheists attempt to build a man-centered economic paradise. For them, martydom is not hypothetical, but a cost/benefit equasion that must be faced every day.

If there is a command of Jesus that a Christian must follow above all it is the very one that modern Americans find so outrageous: that a Christian must be willing to die for Jesus as we believed he died for us, that following Jesus means that he owns everything we have and are and that when he asks for them, we must be willing to offer them back. We must be willing to take up a cross in order to follow. We must count the cost of serving Christ, and that cost may include our lives. Frankly, we Americans are willing to die (or even to suffer discomfort) for so few things that entertaining the very idea that one might be called upon to die voluntarily makes one a potential suicide bomber in the minds of many. Thus far do we Americans imagine nothing more important than our lives. We remember the heroes - and we are blessed with many - but we seldom understand them.

I thought about this quite a bit when the video aired of the two Fox journalists who were kidnapped in Beirut "converted" to Islam, and realized that were I one of them I certainly would have requested that the other guy convert first. Not because I'd want him to face the danger, but were he not a Christian, to ensure that he was safe. Because I could under no circumstances agree to such a thing and perhaps they would spare him even as they sawed my head off to post on Youtube. I don't write this to brag that I could do so - in fact, I wonder very much if I could - but to say that such is what is required of the Christian.

Therein lies the "principal difference," Byrne notwithstanding, between Christians and those who fly planes into buildings: Jihadist Moslems expect to be rewarded for taking others with them when they go, but the Christian who is martyred meets his lord alone. As Jesus said in Revelation, "He that leads into captivity shall go into captivity: he that kills with the sword must die by the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints." Christian martyrdom is not a battle to be fought for God's glory but a public testimony, with one's own blood as a witness, that the war is already won.

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