Wednesday, February 24, 2016

A Christian Viewpoint on Extremism


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The Apostle Paul wrote what the Lord revealed to him in the passage below, as  being the under-girding framework of all Christian wisdom and illumination when it comes to understanding what the Bible states, and how true Christians are transformed.

10 But God has revealed them [deep biblical truths] to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. 11 For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.
13 These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. 16 For “who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ. --1 Corinthians 2:10–16 (NKJV)

Recently the "Barna Group" released a survey entitled "Five Ways Christianity Is Increasingly Viewed as Extremist." They begin the article with this:

"Society is undergoing a change of mind about the way religion and people of faith intersect with public life. That is, there are intensifying perceptions that faith is at the root of a vast number of societal ills."

A quick read showed me, that it isn't just Christianity that many are concerned with as the title implies; Muslims and the Koran are also mentioned. However, I do agree that within the ranks of some "so-called" Christian groups we do find extremism, vis-à-vis Westboro Baptist, all snake handling groups, and any other cult-like group tagging "Christian," or in Westboro's case, "Baptist" onto their name. But it would be unfair for the population to rank all Christians as extremists. The survey certainly does not conclude that, but it does conclude some things that are alarming about religion. 

The Biggest Concern
Barna ranked the findings into four categories. (visit the survey to read all four)

Category one is the category where four in five adults consider, "using religion to justify violence, refusing standard medical care for children, and refusing to serve a customer whose lifestyle conflicted with their beliefs"* as qualifying factors for extremism. They go on to say: "For the most part, these three elements were viewed to be extreme by a majority of all demographic segments as well."**

As a strong Christian believer I can also see where using religion to justify violence would be alarming and extreme. I think we could mostly agree that any violence is alarming, and thankfully, the bulk of violent crimes in America are NOT committed by any group calling themselves Christian. I can also see where refusing standard medical care for children can also be extreme. So-called Christian groups such as Jehovah's Witnesses commonly practice this. I certainly do not fault those who are biblically illiterate or non-believers for thinking Jehovah Witnesses qualify as Christian since, for the most part, they do not understand how the Bible defines a true Christian group. If they did, they would quickly see that Jehovah's Witnesses, like the Westboro Baptisians, do not measure up to the Bible's litmus test. That test is found in (but not limited to), 1 John 2:3, 5, 3:14, 16, 19, 24, 4:6, 13, and 5:2.

It is the third statement that concerns me the most, refusing to serve a customer whose lifestyle conflicted with their beliefs. This issue has to do with Christian liberty in America. If left to stand on its own, I believe the way the sentence is structured is not complete and is misleading. I do agree that it is a travesty, and an act of deliberate disobedience to God, for anyone who says they are Christian to refuse service to any patron based upon race, sex, ethnicity, hair color, etc. However, that is not what is at stake in most instances. What I have heard of, is Christians who refuse to service a patron if participation in the requested services is explicitly required or implied. In the recent cases concerning bakers and florists refusing to participate, for example, in a gay wedding or decorating the cakes for a gay wedding, the testimony of the vendors was they had served the plaintiffs numerous times over long time spans with no partiality. The line was only crossed when they were asked to create something that would define them, in their convictions, as participating or celebrating in what they felt was against their Christian faith. 

The Illusion of Perception
I believe perception is what we are dealing with here, not reality. I like what Marianne Williamson wrote: "Old Newtonian physics claimed that things have an objective reality separate from our perception of them. Quantum physics, and particularly Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, reveal that, as our perception of an object changes, the object itself literally changes." In the cases of the faith based vendors, their actions have been perceived subjectively as bigotry and discrimination and not objectively as one offs based upon celebratory participation not general service. It is a shame.

So here we stand, according to this survey, looking at four in five adults who see Christians who stand for their faith as being extreme. Why? Because anything that a Christian does in the public arena is viewed subjectively by secularists and must line up with their secular worldview, including their perception of what Christians should be. By this, the Christian either stands or falls--is either condemned or justified, and that, unfairly. But here is the problem, Christians do not line up single file to receive their instruction for living the sanctified life from a Christ-less world. The true Christian's marching instructions come from the Bible and they are empowered by the Holy Spirit. This point the world will never fully understand. Again, the Bible states, But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned (1 Cor. 2;14).

Could this be why Jesus was crucified by the unbelieving public and the powers that then existed? Why eleven of the twelve apostles were murdered for their faith? Indeed, it is part of the reason. Today, true Christians are vilified for many reasons not the least of which is standing for their faith. We believe according to the Scriptures that Jesus died for our sins, arose from the dead on the third day, and then ascended into heaven. We also believe that He will be returning very soon. Christians live not just to serve the Lord and others in the present, but we also live for the day when we will serve the Lord in His coming Kingdom (Rev. 20:1-6) and for eternity. Peter referred to believers as "pilgrims" ( 1 Pet. 1:1, 2:11). The author of Hebrews referred to us as "strangers and pilgrims on the earth" (Heb. 11:13), and Jesus told us to store up treasures for ourselves, not on earth, but in heaven (Mt. 6:19-21). Christians are Christians because He lives in us, (Gal. 2:20).

I know the unbelieving and the atheists do not understand this, or rather, cannot internalize this. But we live in a world that is not one-sided either for the unbelieving or for the Christian. We live in a world that is spiritual at its heart because it was created by God. Because of this, the friction between the world and the Christian, the Spirit and the flesh, the seen and the unseen, and the temporal and the eternal will wage on. The best we can do as Christians is to serve our Lord with all of our heart. If we must stand and be labeled as radical or extremist then so be it. Rejoice as did the apostles when they were counted as worthy to suffer shame for His name, (Acts 5:41).
As it is written:

“Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense,

And whoever believes on Him [Christ] will not be put to shame.” --Romans 9:33 (NKJV)

If the offense of the gospel ceases then we are no longer living the gospel.
Old Newtonian physics claimed that things have an objective reality separate from our perception of them. Quantum physics, and particularly Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, reveal that, as our perception of an object changes, the object itself literally changes.
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/perception.html
Old Newtonian physics claimed that things have an objective reality separate from our perception of them. Quantum physics, and particularly Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, reveal that, as our perception of an object changes, the object itself literally changes.
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/perception.html

 * -  Barna Group, Five Ways Christianity Is Increasingly Viewed as Extremist https://barna.org/research/faith-christianity/research-release/five-ways-christianity-increasingly-viewed-extremist#.Vs3gjeZbTnM accessed 02-24-2015

** ibid




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