Last night I was watching Bill Maher with the Butcher. His guests were that Aslan dude who’s everywhere trying to be the face of cute, smart Islam, Bradley Whitford (a liberal Christian), and Sandy Rios (a conservative Christian) who I’d never heard of but who scared the shit out of me.
She scared the shit out of me for two reasons, that are intertwined. First I found it scary how sure she is that her beliefs are right, even when they seem to directly contradict (for instance, she was talking about how Jesus would not mind us torturing people because the Bible says that Jesus is going to come back as a warrior and then talking about how the Bible asks us to do very difficult things like turning the other cheek rather than fighting). And the second was how certain she seemed to be that she was right in the interpretations of her religion.
For instance, Bill was talking about the two Fox journalists who’d faked converting to Islam in order to be freed. And Rios was all “Well, they obviously weren’t Christian, because Christians are required to lay down their lives for their beliefs and so, if they were Christian, they’d be dead.”
And my heart just about froze in my chest. That utter lack of compassion coupled with her piety really made me feel like I was staring at evil. I mean, I understand the Biblical precedent for what she believes, but I also can’t help but think that anyone who would insist that one’s love of Jesus can only be proven by your willingness to die rather than to stay alive for the people who need and depend on you seems to have missed the fundamental lesson God was trying to teach Abraham when He hauled him up on the mountain and took a goat for a sacrifice rather than his son.
Human sacrifices are not necessary to the Christian god. He says so himself. Looking down your nose at people who make hard decisions in desperate situations is not Christian.
It reminded me of one of the last things I did for the Church before I quit. I was the UMYF leader and the Butcher and two of the kids from the youth group were going to this conference-wide MYF meet-up doohickey and they needed a chaperone. I volunteered to go.
The first night, they had this speaker who was not Methodist, but was more of an evangelical bent. Fine. He got the kids riled up and singing along and praising Jesus and, while not my cup of tea, everyone in the room seemed to be into it. And he was charismatic and really seemed to speak to the kids right where they were.
And then he told the story.
Imagine a group of Muslim terrorists burst into this room, armed with machine guns. Imagine they said they were going to kill everyone in this room who didn’t renounce Jesus. If you stand up and say, ‘Jesus is my Lord and Savior,’ they’re going to kill you. All you have to do in order to live is to stay seated. I want you to think about that. You all say that you’re Christian, but when push comes to shove, are you really? Are you sure enough in your faith that you’d be willing to die for it if that’s what God asks?
And folks, I’m not even doing it justice. It was like the pressure you feel at an altar call, before anyone goes forward, when you can just feel that tension in the air. Will folks go or won’t they? But there he is telling a story in which accepting Jesus Christ means instant death. Jesus laid down his life for them, would they lay down their lives for him?
The pressure was enormous, but so far, all the kids were sitting. I was hoping beyond hope that they’d stay seated, that they’d see this madness for what it was, but you know they didn’t.
One by one they started to stand, until it was just me and the Butcher and his friend sitting, looking at each other like we were the lone sane people in a world gone crazy. The people around us were staring and some of them looked at us with fear and some of them seemed pissed.
None of them could have been as afraid and angry as me.
“Are you going to stand?” I asked the Butcher.
“Hell no,” he said.
“Then let’s get the fuck out of here.”
We walked to the door where two adults stood.
“You can’t leave. The service isn’t over yet.”
“What?” I said.
“You can’t leave.”
“The fuck I can’t. This is what it’s come to? You’re going to try to keep me here against my will? The fucking Church is going to kidnap me?”
“I’m their leader. I’m the adult and we’re walking out of here.”
And so we did.
I guess there’s a big difference between shooting someone in the name of your god and being willing to be shot in the name of your god. I just don’t see it. Both attitudes seem to me to go hand in hand. And being more than willing to train your children to do one or the other? To train your children to gladly kill or be killed? To insist that, in order to prove their love for a god of life, they choose death?
It seems monstrous to me.