Friday, January 22, 2010

Turning the other cheek

Bridget McConnell is the head of Culture & Sport in Glasgow - and thus head of the department that helped fund the controversial MOMA exhibition that included an invitation for people to write comments on an open Bible (surprise, surprise many of the comments were offensive to Christian beliefs). Since then it appears she has been the target of an unpleasant campaign by some Christians who see her as attacking Christianity with public money. In an interview with the Times (see it HERE) she reveals she has received almost 2000 letters and emails, some which include statements such as 'Filth' , 'Shame on you' and Bible verses such as 'The soul that sinnneth it shall die'.
The fact that those behind the nastier elements of this campaign will just be a tiny minority of Christians is of little consolation when we see headlines like the one above. Such tactics play into the hands of those oppose Biblical faith - it reinforces the stereotype of dangerous religious fanatics. Look, says our secular and liberal media, Christianity is just another bullying and vindictive religion. Just as extremist Muslims intimidate authors and artists- so now come evangelical/fundamentalist/ Bible-believing (take your pick!) Christians.
But what does the Bible say about how to respond in such situations - I mean if someone is going to extremes to defend it you would hope they would be familar with its contents. One might think on the basis of some the attacks on Dr McConnell that the Bible is full of teachings such as:
If someone slaps you in the face (physically or metaphorically) - keep on slapping them back until they repent;
Curse those who persecute you
Hate your enemies
Do ill to those who harm you.
Yes the exhibit was deeply offensive and an abuse of artistic freedom. Yes, Christians are rightly grieved by it and understandably feel their faith is being singled out for disrespect (let's face it, such use of the Koran would never be countenanced by a local authority in the UK today). But the Biblical response is to respond with gentleness, kindness, humility - to seek to do good to those who would do us harm. We are to follow in the footsteps of Jesus who, 'When they hurled their insults at him, did not retaliate; when he suffered he made no threats. Instead he entrusted himself to him who judges justly' (1 Pt 2:23). Yes those who dishonour God and His Word will answer to God one day (unless they seek His forgiveness first) - but their accountability is to God in the future not to Christians now. Like Jesus we need to leave such matters in God's hands.
If that appears to be weakness to some - an invitation to walk all over Christians - then so be it - but the way of the Cross is nonetheless the power of God to those being saved. I'm not suggesting we never write a letter to explain our Christian viewpoint or even take legal redress where that option is legitimately open to us - but that personal attacks, vilification, hostility, intemperate language are all inconsistent with the Gospel - they contradict the very thing they claim to uphold.
That Bridget McConnell feels threatened and abused by Christians, whatever her disregard of them has been, is a great shame on the church in Scotland.


John Thomson said...

Couldn't agree more. At a level even below 'turn the other cheek' such reaction is wrong. 'Do unto others as you would that you do to you.'

Alex said...

Dont know what you mean John in your comment.. are you saying that Christian should never protest against this sort of abuse? that we should just walk on, and forget this grave insult aimed at the word of God?

Alexander Lennox said...

Hi Andy, the Bible says that there is a time for everything under the sun, surely there has to be a time of genuine protest by Christians against people like Bridgett McConnell. McConnell makes accusation against Christians for sending her hate mail, how do you know she is telling the truth Andy? Is it because the papers say so, you surely do not believe everything the papers say, or indeed, what McConnell says. Is it possible that her interpretation of the said letters could be wrong?

Let’s not forget that apart from genuine Christians like Mr Bob Handyside and his team there were also nominal Christians protesting, so how can one distinguish between what they wrote, and what we wrote?

Sure, there are those genuine Christians, who might have written in the heat of the spirit but not to the extent where they should be likened unto extremist.

Sometimes action is necessary, this was one of those occasions.