Lectionary Reflection: Mark 8: 27-38: Stand

            I went overboard.  I did.  Someone asked a question on one of the Linked-in forums that piqued my interest.  They offered a quote, “Neither God nor man will tell me what to write.”  I read a long string of responses.  Among those responses were many expressions of faith which basically said if God told them what to write they would not hesitate to write it.  Good for them.

            Then one jerk got on the line.  He said everybody should shut-up about their faith and keep it to themselves.  He said, “What, are you afraid God is going to strike you down if you don’t get on your knees and pray (the speaker of the quote) into hell?”  He went on to put down the Vatican as a “Laughing stock of the last four hundred years.”

            I’m sorry, but I have low tolerance for bigotry of any kind.  Sadly, anti-religious bigotry seems the last bastion of safe bigotry in this nation.  I am not Catholic, but what is to be gained by ridiculing the Vatican?  What is appropriate about belittling people for their faith and telling them to keep their faith to themselves?  The good, ordinary people I read up to that point were simply responding to the quote with their own feelings, thoughts and beliefs.  Why should that be threatening?

            So I went overboard.  I responded.  “I did not read anyone being worried about God striking them down or wishing anyone into Hell.  I read people honestly responding to the quote.  Did you ridicule the Vatican and belittle the people of faith for our benefit or to placate your own fears?”  Of course, he missed the question mark.  He came back and said he was being threatened in some way.  No threat.  Just a question.

            You see, I have found that those who approach religion and God and attempt to cast aspersions on the whole enterprise by ridicule and mocking others and telling faithful people to shut-up are in fact afraid.  It is a cliché defense mechanism.  I think such people are afraid that there might actually be a God to whom they may someday have to answer.  There is no other reason to get so nasty just because someone says they believe in God.

            These last couple of weeks I have followed along the Jeremy Lin “chink in the armor” controversy.  Whether the headline writer intended the pun or got caught unaware of the bigoted connection did not interest me.  What interested me was the fact that so many people were offended, responded to ESPN and defended Jeremy Lin and his ethnicity against the statement, ESPN felt obliged to placate the masses and fire the guy.  The Asian American Journalists then got together and drafted a letter suggesting what might be appropriate or inappropriate in covering the athlete.  Whether that move proves wise and effective again was not the point for me.  The point was Jeremy Lin has more defenders against perceived bigotry than he can possibly know what to do with.

            And who is equally defending religion, God and faith in America?  Who is defending Christ in the marketplace and in the face of the jerks of the world?

            Anti-religious, and most often, anti-Christian bigotry is rampant in our society.  It is considered “cool.”  It wins accolades from much of the media and many college professors, entertainers and political elites in this society.  Yes, you can make jokes about the Amish (for example).  After all, what is there to fear?  A drive by shooting in a horse and buggy with a blunderbuss?  But when people make jokes about God and Christ and good Christian people (like the Amish and including all of those people who supposedly cling to their Bibles) mostly what I see in response are Christians who believe they are supposed to turn the other cheek.  So they don’t respond.  So the bigotry continues and grows more bold.

            No.  I’m sorry, but I don’t accept bigotry of any kind, and anti-religious bigotry certainly makes the list.  And as always, I am brought back to the Word of God.  What good is it to keep quiet and thus gain the approval of the media and those college professors, entertainers and political elites?  Do we risk forfeiting our soul?

            I have said I am not Catholic, but I have a serious question.  Have we traveled so far down the anti-Christian road that the government believes it has every right to force the Catholic church institutions to do something utterly contrary to their faith?  Are religious sensibilities no longer worthy of respect in this nation?

            I believe it is past time for Christian people – Catholic and protestant, mainstream and evangelicals – to stand up for themselves and their faith in public.  It is well past time to stop those who mock and heap ridicule on the church and belittle people of faith.  Such people need to be seen and known as the bigots they are.  And it is past time to stand up for the faith in the public square.  It may be America is not the “Christian nation” it once was, but that does not mean we should become a secular-atheist nation with all matters of faith removed entirely from sight and people of faith told to shut-up.  This removal of faith from every corner of public life does not show tolerance for other faiths.  It only shows intolerance for all faiths.

            It is time to stand up.  The Lord be our guide:  If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” (NIV).

            Listen.  God knows my heart on the matter, and he knows yours, too.  To borrow in advance from next week’s reading:  John 2: 23-25, (NIV)  23 Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, many people saw the signs he was performing and believed in his name. 24 But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. 25 He did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person.

            In those last days in Jerusalem, Jesus did not trust himself in the hands of the people.  Today, can he trust himself in our hands?  When people yell at us for supposedly proselytizing, and claim that somehow we are forcing our religion on them and the country simply for declaring our faith – when they insist that we keep our faith to ourselves, should we agree and feel guilty about saying anything at all?  When they tell us to shut-up, are we supposed to believe it is a bad thing for people to come to know Jesus?

            My sense is far too many Christians shut their mouths, slink home and never speak a word about their faith in public.  Too intimidated by the bigoted religion mockers.  Too ready to agree that religion is only a private matter and only belongs at home… Is that that why Jesus went to Jerusalem instead of staying home?  Is that why they crucified him, and all of the disciples through the centuries that followed after him?

            It is past time to speak..  I will not remain silent anymore.  I honestly believe that the best thing for my neighbor and my nation is to get back to being a Christian people and a Christian nation.  I believe the love of God in Jesus Christ is the best, and what the whole world needs.  And I will say so.  I am not ashamed, and I will no longer allow the culture to make me feel ashamed of what I believe.

            The truth is, I can respectfully disagree with those who think other than the way I think, but I have little tolerance for bigotry of any kind, and anti-religious bigotry certainly makes the list.

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2 thoughts on “Lectionary Reflection: Mark 8: 27-38: Stand

  1. “This removal of faith from every corner of public life does not show tolerance for other faiths. It only shows intolerance for all faiths.”

    Well said.

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