(RNS) I was scanning my Facebook news feed when I read articles about murders in Iraq.

Facebook logo seen through a magnifying glass on a screen.

Facebook logo seen through a magnifying glass on a screen. Photo courtesy of Gil C via Shutterstock

It seems Islamic extremists in Syria are using beheadings and crucifixions to intimidate opponents. Photos and videos look eerily like scenes from illustrated Bibles.

I read about right-wing hate speeches on the steps of the Massachusetts State House in Boston, stirred by opposition to immigrants but proceeding on to everyone else they hate.

I read about gay bashing in the military. Anti-Semitism in Europe. Domestic violence in Baltimore. And on and on.

I have two responses. First, I applaud those who post such things on Facebook. Cat pictures are fine, but if this ugliness is going on in our world, we need to know about it.

Second, has humanity entered some new depth of degradation? Or do we just know more?

Warfare is never pretty. Hatred and intolerance are nothing new, even in a land supposedly founded on tolerance and respect. “Man’s inhumanity to man” is a recurring theme in every age.

I suspect we just know more. Our hunger for information extends into every corner and therefore into every genocide that we once missed seeing, every missile attack, every scream of rage. I suspect the world has been falling apart for a long time. Now we see it on our TV screens and computer monitors.

That means we can’t hide in our comfortable places and “make the world go away,” as Eddy Arnold once sang.

The depths are always before us. So what do we do? I think we privileged Christians need to get our act together and stop fretting. We need to be light in the darkness, not nattering about liturgy. Raising voices of hope and reconciliation, not taunting other Christians for being different from us.

We need to stand for justice, tolerance, respect, human dignity, kindness — and if that puts us at odds with some noisy, smug and dangerous people, so be it.

We need to grow our churches, not for reasons of institutional survival, but because God needs boots on the ground and hands at work. Our boots. Our hands.

We need to see that faith is a call to action, not a promise of personal perfection. That action must include political action — not be limited to it, but definitely include it. I don’t mean something as easy as endorsing a candidate for public office. I mean community development, grass-roots organizing. Conservative Christians already know this. Time for progressives to enter the fray on something other than sex.

Tom Ehrich. Photo courtesy Tom Ehrich

Tom Ehrich is a writer, church consultant and Episcopal priest based in New York. He is the president of Morning Walk Media and publisher of Fresh Day online magazine. His website is www.morningwalkmedia.com. Follow Tom on Twitter @tomehrich. Photo courtesy Tom Ehrich

We need to preach and teach about wealth and power. And if the wealthy and powerful don’t appreciate hearing a Christian perspective on wealth and power, too bad. Jesus devoted an estimated two-thirds of his teachings to wealth and power. His message was crystal clear: be generous, be grateful, give it away.

One final call, though I don’t expect this to happen without significant changes in generation and leadership: I think Christians need to stop fighting each other and join forces against the powers of darkness. We have done all the franchise-building that we need to do.

Time for us to remember what we agree on and be a force for good, not for further division.

(Tom Ehrich is a writer, church consultant and Episcopal priest based in New York. He is the president of Morning Walk Media and publisher of Fresh Day online magazine. His website is www.morningwalkmedia.com. Follow Tom on Twitter @tomehrich.)

YS/AMB END EHRICH

30 Comments

  1. samuel Johnston

    Hi Tom,
    “Christians need to stop fighting each other and join forces against the powers of darkness”. I agree
    Give up on:
    1. One God, and only one understanding of religion is acceptable.
    2. Hell and other forms of divine punishment for unbelievers.
    3. Belief, rather than conduct being the measure of religious virtue.
    Then we can unite against the forces of evil, intolerance, and cruelty.

  2. The church got so focused on gay marriage and abortion they forgot
    Ephesians 5:18 says don’t get drunk and 1 Corinthians 6:10 says that
    all drunkards go to hell. Bible says that if you have a sharp tongue your
    religion is worthless so mean people who have sharp tongues and gossip
    are wrong! The Bible talks about the fruit of Repentance/changing not
    just doing good deeds because many non-believers do good deeds and
    that’s why the Bible says Repentance and faith are required to be saved!
    Bible says Repent and believe the Gospel. We must Repent! It’s shocking
    how many in church still gossip,get drunk,smoke dope,cigars/cigarettes,
    be mean/have sharp tongues,gamble,sleep around/live no different from
    the world. The wine that Jesus made was new wine/diluted and the Bible
    says don’t get drunk on strong wine so people who get drunk with wine
    are also wrong! Coveters/the greedy/jealous haters needs to Repent!
    Bible says Repent or perish! Jesus said you are one of Mine only if you
    follow Me and that many will say to Me Lord,Lord and not enter heaven!
    People have premarital sex then get married thinking that they covered
    it up but they never Repent and agree that havin premarital sex is wrong!
    It doesn’t matter how spiritual people are if they aren’t Biblical they are still
    lost/headed for hell. Two guys were next to Jesus on the Cross and only
    one guy went to heaven! Why? Only one guy Repented. We must Repent!
    If you say you love Jesus and then still don’t follow the Bible/religion no
    Truth is n you! It’s not enough to just believe. We must Repent and follow!
    Bible says Repent and believe the Gospel. Bible says Repent or perish!
    We all must Repent then follow! We must Repent!

    • You said the word “Repent.” The gay activists get VERY angry when Christians say the word “Repent” out loud. (They also get angry if we whisper it.)

      So all Christians must STOP saying “Repent”, and all Christians much stop mentioning the Bible’s direct claim that homosexual behavior is a sin. Christians must accept gay marriage as not only legal but also morally OK. “Dangerous maniacs”, as labeled by the gay-marriage side, must be assimilated or eliminated. The word “repent” must be kept quiet.

      Then the in-fighting will stop, and Christians will all become a unified force for good (and for gay marriage). Yeah.

    • @ Karla, Repentance is an ongoing and lifetime process, something required of most of us everyday, no one attains to perfection in this life. It is the goal and the ideal, but it only comes completely to people in faith after they have been translated from this present vale of tears. And to all the rest, the article is addressed specifically to people who call themselves Christians, others need not comment or reply.

      • samuel Johnston

        @Diogenes,
        If Christians would keep themselves to themselves (oh happy day), there would be no need for the rest of us to comment. Unfortunately, they insist on identifying themselves as Christians in public-political life, and pushing their agendas-not just as citizens-but specifically as Christians. I am a “none”. My agenda is to have freedom of religion- meaning keep it in your Churches, your hearts, your private groups, but keep it out of our common political life.

        • Samuel,

          I am neither democrat, republican or independent, not getting involved in politics at all (nor in war, for that matter), since I am a theocrat or supporting God’s rule through his Kingdom or heavenly government, with Jesus as King.

          That heavenly kingdom is a major theme of the Bible, which I will always consider as the Word of God, or truth, which he inspired various men or secretaries to write for our benefit. This would make sense since He created us and knows what is best for us (through the laws, principles and commandments contained there).

          It is also the only book which provides “good news” of meek mankind’s future, that of God’s kingdom putting an end to ALL human governments, which are corrupt, selfish and greedy (Daniel 2:44).

          All the things God promised in earlier prophecies in the Bible came true and we can be absopositively guaranteed that the promises concerning his Kingdom and the exquisite blessings to be provided will take place in the near future:

          “With that I heard a loud voice from the throne say: “Look! The tent of God is with mankind, and he will reside with them, and they will be his peoples. And God himself will be with them. And he will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be any more. The former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:3,4)

          God has so much love for mankind (John 3:1) as well as the power to accomplish these things, which man and his governments do not and never will.

        • All citizens are informed by their worldview, to demand that Christians leave their viewpoint at home when engaged in public discourse would rob them of their free speech rights and those of political participation, certainly you would not ask that of humanists or atheists whose views by dictionary definition meet the criteria of a religion.

          • samuel Johnston

            “All citizens are informed by their worldview”
            True
            “to demand that Christians leave their viewpoint at home when engaged in public discourse would rob them of their free speech rights and those of political participation”
            False
            individuals have constitutional rights, groups do not
            (notwithstanding recent S.C. rulings that are murky at best)

            “certainly you would not ask that of humanists or atheists whose views by dictionary definition meet the criteria of a religion.”
            False
            A religion is based on a individual submitting/subordinating himself to an authority. Atheism (being a negation) is a very broad term, granted, but it is basically asserting one’s self as the ultimate authority.

  3. Samuel Johnston

    Tom,
    I was a paid choir member in a wealthy Episcopal church for a decade. The members were nice, respectful, well behaved, and very well socialized. They were also mostly disengaged from any seriousness concerning Christian theology or religious requirements. They certainly knew how to put on a good parade and organize beautiful services and celebrations, but any serious discussion was discouraged. In some ways they even outdid the Unitarians in the flexibility of their thinking.
    It is way past time for them to stop calling themselves Christians. I have many stories- here are a couple:
    I asked a middle aged college math teacher whom, I had met in church, whether he believed in the Virgin Birth, The Ascension of Christ, etc., as actual events. He replied, “of course not, they are symbolic.” I then asked what they were symbolic of? I am still waiting for a response.
    A similar question (Virgin Birth) was asked Dean Gibson in an adult class setting. He responded,
    “Faye, you are just trying to get me in trouble!” He quickly moved on to the next topic.

    • Samuel,

      That is really a sad state of affairs. Even I was confused as to why the statement was made that the virgin birth of Jesus and his ascension were “symbolic” instead of literal.

      Of course, those events literally took place as described in the Bible. Not everything in the Bible is literal, however, because the parables of Jesus were stories told about morals or sutuations.

      Also, the “lake of fire” mentioned in the book of Revelation is “symbolic” in that it represents eternal death, not eternal torment (Revelation 20:14) since the human condition of “death” will be put to death, as outlined at Revelation 32:1-4. It is impossible for a human condition like “death” to be thrown into a “literal” lake of fire.

  4. The Great God Pan

    “…the powers of darkness.”

    Yikes! This article is an excellent illustration of why I prefer the right-wing fundamentalists to the “religious left.”

    With the fundamentalists, the insanity and malevolence is right there for anyone to see. “We’re a bunch of crazy witch-hunters, and we’re going to burn YOU next!” they cry. From the Republican politicians to the mega-church preachers to RNS commenters like Doc Anthony and Lles Nats, we know where these dangerous maniacs stand. They aren’t hiding anything. They’re not smart enough to know that they SHOULD be hiding it, and I appreciate that.

    But “liberal” and “moderate” Christians like Mr. Ehrich here make all the right noises about helping the poor,setting aside hot-button social issues like homosexuality, etc. And so they get a free pass from the “faitheists,” the “social justice” crowd, the secular liberals and leftists who ought to know better. They get to say absolutely insane things about “forces of darkness,” and we just look the other way and say, “Well, we can work with people whose beliefs we disagree with.” Or, even worse, “Who are we to say he’s wrong? It’s all relative. Nothing is objectively true.”

    “Forces of darkness?” Are you kidding me? That is crazy talk. That is the kind of stuff Andrea Yates babbled about before drowning her children. It’s what the maniac is terrified of when he opens fire in the shopping mall or on the playground. Nobody sane talks about “forces of darkness.” It should not be socially acceptable to talk about hallucinatory “forces of darkness” in public, and if Sarah Palin or Glenn Beck said it, it would be just one more thing to mock and revile them for. But there are “progressive” churches full of “nice” people who talk about “forces of darkness” and camouflage it with nicey-nice rhetoric about how Jesus loved the poor, and we fall all over ourselves to praise them for their kindness and empathy and charity and compassion, and we forget to be leery of people who actually believe that world events are being manipulated by a fallen angel who has it out for mankind.

    Demons are not real. Full stop. They aren’t real. Satan isn’t real, and demons aren’t real. They exist only in the minds of those who believe in them, and those people are dangerous regardless of their political stances.

    • Great God Pan,

      If Satan had not tempted Adam and Eve to sin and disobey God, they would probably still be alive today, unless someone one else tried to tempt them.

      That’s the reason why we grow old, get sick and die. Adam and Eve believed Satan’s lie that they would not die if they partook of the fruit God told them not to eat. That was a test of their faith, and Satan and his demons, (and the human Satanists who worship Satan today) since that time have taunted God’s right to rule over mankind.

      Thankfully, Satan and his demons, and those who follow them, will face eternal death with no hope of resurrection (Revelation 20:10). These are real persons, not figments of our imagination.

  5. Samuel Johnston

    @GGP,
    Yup. The “religious left” give cover and a bit of respectably to the to the “Forces of darkness”. They are all sociable and multicultural, and will remain so until the nut cases come for them too.

  6. After reading the diatribe against Tom Ehrich’s nice article regarding Christians need to stop attacking each other, I had to read the article again. I still came out with liking what he wrote. I did notice I had seem many, many comments by the same persons that love to rage on other RNS sites.

    • Samuel,

      Yes, Jesus rightfully called the religious leaders of his day, the Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites. They were then teaching the common people traditions which were quite burdensome (Matthew 15:3) instead of God’s laws and commandments.

      The same can be said of many religious leaders today, preaching man-made traditions (such as Christmas, Easter, Trinity and hellfire doctrines) instead of the truths found in God’s Word, the Bible.

      • samuel Johnston

        Hi Fran,
        The Bible is many things, but God’s word it definitely is not. Once, I too was taught such things by very sincere people, but as I became more interested in the subject, I began to read books by knowledgeable scholars.
        I suggest “The Origins of The New Testament by Alfred Loisy. Professor of Sacred Scripture at the Institute Catholique from 1889 until he was excommunicated for his “Modernism” in 1908. After his excommunication, he became a lay intellectual. He was appointed chair of history of religions in the Collège de France (a more prestigious professorship). He served there until 1931. Died 1940.

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