Light Doesn’t Hide From Darkness: On Christian Isolationism

DSC01668For the past thirty years, the Religious Right claimed that the US government and liberals are doing all they can to persecute Christians. The rational response is that such persecution does not exist (unless you’re Todd Starnes and just make stuff up). However, since 2001 religious persecution has existed in the United States. Many people, especially right-wing aligned Christians, have done all they could do in order to persecute Muslims. We can recall the controversy over the “Ground Zero Mosque” that forced developers to abandon their plans. Recently, however, a gun shop owner received praise by proponents on the right for refusing to allow Muslims to enter her store. Her criteria for if someone is a Muslim is if they have an Arab-sounding name. Even Texas’ state representative Molly White forced Muslims to declare allegiance to the United States before they could enter her office.

With recent events, of course, there’s a real reason to fear extreme Islam. After all, though ISIL and Boko Haram weren’t created in vacuums and there’s certainly a cause to their reaction, they are still Islamic-based and it’s worrisome. These are violent groups and we’re right to worry about extremism in any religion (or political ideology). Regardless, does such a concern justify treating all Muslims with disdain?

Leaving aside the political and legal quagmire of discrimination and privately-owned businesses, let us look at how Christians should respond to Muslims (or others). As Christians we of course acknowledge that Islam is wrong, that it is a heresy of Christianity. In fact, it was St. John of Damascus, writing under the Caliphate, that stated Islam was a heresy of Christianity. We do not embrace Islam and find it to be false. There’s nothing wrong with disagreement and such disagreement can create very healthy, interesting, and challenging discussions with Muslim friends. Why, then, do we isolate ourselves?

Sadly, Muslims aren’t the only targets of Christian isolationism. Throughout history many have faced the wrath of Christian isolationism. Martin Luther encouraged the German princes to oust all the Jews from The Holy Roman Empire, even if they converted. At other times it was witches. The Moors faced great persecution in Isabella’s Spain. Even Africans had much to worry about from Christians (even though the Pope declared slavery heretical and was defied by the European powers). Native Americans, American slaves, and many other groups felt the wrath of Christian isolationism, while few Christians stood for the ostracized and brutalized people.

Leaving aside the legal arguments for whether or not someone can or should deny service to another person, let’s look at the Christian perspective. Should a Christian refuse a Muslim – or anyone for that matter – service at his business? A very quick look at Christ’s life gives the obvious answer: No.

One can serve others without partaking in their respective sins or beliefs. After all, Jesus did it quite a bit. He still partook in the Temple gatherings even though the Pharisees dictated the rules. He still attended feasts where sinners were very present. He still drank with prostitutes and laughed with tax collectors. While Jesus did not own a business, he displayed his message in a very clear manner. He also called on Christians to duplicate what he did:

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:13-16 ESV)

The point being Christians are to be a light and to serve others in all instances. How does that work as a business owner? If you deny services to a certain group of people then how are you being a light to them? How are they seeing your light if their only interaction with you is to face rejection?

Matthew 16:18 has Jesus telling Peter that the gates of hell shall not prevail against the Church. The funny thing about gates is that they don’t move, they don’t charge into battle, they just stand still. For gates to prevail means they’re being attacked and pushed against. To not prevail it means that attackers have broken through the gates. For too long Christians have used this passage to justify believing that hell won’t conquer them, but they have it the wrong way around; hell has no choice but to be conquered by the Church. Hells gates stand not because they are properly fortified, but because too many Christians hide away in fear from them and refuse to charge in.

Jesus was a friend to all those who needed it. In Matthew 9 he points out that it is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. It is after that when he says, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” We who claim Christ must acknowledge that we, too, are sinners. That without Christ we are no different than any group we wish to malign; all are lost in darkness and violence.

Christ came to save all. Those of us who have embraced Christ, imperfect though we are, are still called to be light to the darkness. We can’t be light if we seek to segregate ourselves from the darkness. In order for light to matter it must permeate within the darkness. In order for gates to fall they must be attacked by an invading force. And in order to see Muslims come to Christ, they must interact with Christians, and sometimes that includes your place of business.


Loving God but Hating His Image, or How Our Attitude Toward Illegal Immigrants is Reprehensible


Photo Courtesy of Voice of America

This article is not about how the U.S. should handle the massive influx of children illegally crossing the boarder.  I do not pretend to understand all of the variables involved in this complex issue and it is not my intention to argue in favor of any particular form of legislation or promote any one solution.  In fact, I’m not interested in politics at all (at least within the context of what I’m about to say).  This article is about our attitude toward thousands of impoverished at-risk youth living in conditions so bad they’re willing to risk their lives just to make it to our boarder.  More specifically, it’s about Christians who allegedly love God yet make disparaging, heartless, and down right selfish comments about illegal immigrants.  It’s about those who claim to know the Lord but, through their actions (or lack thereof) and attitudes hate His divine image. 

Let us begin with a self examination.  Do you find yourself looking down on those who illegally cross our boarders?  Do you find them an inconvenience or a nuisance?  Do you resent them?  Do you find yourself indifferent to their plight?  Do you feel they are underserving of your charity?  Are you angry or embittered by their presence?  Do they annoy you?  Do you believe their plight is no business of yours? . . . If you answered yes to any of these questions it’s important for you to realize these feelings stand in complete opposition to the Gospel.  They are selfish, prideful, heartless feelings.  They are, in short, sinful attitudes unbefitting a follower of Christ (oh yes, I went there).

Let’s review three crucial points of theology to help us understand why:

 (1) Man Is Made in the Image of God

Christians believe every man, woman, and child has objective value, dignity, and worth because everyone–no matter their age, race, culture, gender, nationality, or sexual orientation–is made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-28; Wisdom 2:23).

(2) We are Commanded to Love our Neighbor

Christ states that the first and greatest commandment is to Love God, “with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matt. 22:37).  Interestingly, our Lord follows this by stating that the second commandment is like the first: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.‘  On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (Matt. 22:39-40).  Why is loving our neighbor with all of our might like loving God with all of our being?  Because man is made in the image of God.  Therefore, anyone who truly loves God will truly love His image and likeness.  This is why Jesus also taught that to discard, belittle, or ignore those in need is to discard, belittle and ignore Him.

(3) If We Don’t Love our Neighbor, We Don’t Know God

The Bible teaches it is impossible to know God–to have saving faith or a personal relationship with Him–and harbor ill-will or hate in our heart toward our neighbor (I John 2: 9-11; 4: 20-21).  St. James, echoing the teaching of our Lord, states that a faith without love (i.e., works) is dead (Matt. 7:17-23; 25:31-46; James 2:14-26).

Take a moment and seriously dwell upon these truths.  In fact, take time to look up the passages I’ve cited and let them sink in.  Then, ask yourself if your attitude toward illegal immigrants (not the impersonal concept “illegal immigration” but the actual people: the helpless children, the father’s desperate to be with their families, the women fleeing sex traffickers . . . ) is truly a Christian one.  Forget your political affiliation, forget your nationality, forget your social status.  If you profess to be a Christian you claim, first and foremost, to be a citizen of the City of God; a part of the Kingdom of Heaven; a member of the Body of Christ.  Your deepest and truest loyalties transcend all worldly categories and all worldly affiliations.  Your chief duty is to love, to serve, and to lay down your life for your neighbor (including your enemies).  This is your chief duty precisely because the greatest commandment is to Love God; but it is impossible to truly love God and hate His image.

As I peruse Facebook statuses, read comments on news articles, and listen in on conversations, I grow disheartened.  I am appalled and embarrassed by the reprehensible attitudes of professed Christians toward illegal immigrants.  I feel disgusted by those who, in virtue of their attitudes, fail to empathize with or care for those suffering and in dire need of help; and I wonder how long we shall ignore the sound of their voices screaming for help?

My American brothers and sisters, please stop.  Stop speaking heartlessly; stop acting selfishly; stop worshiping your country; stop discriminating based on nationality; stop discarding, belittling, and ignoring your neighbors; stop your crummy attitudes.  My dear brothers and sisters, love your neighbor as you love yourself; for without love you are nothing.



The Impossibility of Love or, the Either/Or of our crisis

IMG_1007Christians are reluctant to give into the pondering of the pessimist, to allow that love is impossible for humans. The unromantic and nihilistic notion of the materialist is that love is an emotional state of being, nothing more and nothing less. There is, to put it bluntly, nothing substantive to “being in love” or “loving a wife.” Such sad materialistic notions have somehow become a new view of romance, such as believing that we “fall in love” rather than choose to love. There are those who say, “You can’t help who you love,” as though love is no different than a passing whim or an uncontrollable biological reflex. Pop Christianity, however, desperately clings to the idea that love is a permanent state, something that we cannot alter, and they fight desperately against the claims of the materialist or secular idealist.

Yet, I tend to side with those who argue that love is an impossibility for humans. Certainly love does exist independent of human interaction; it is much more than an emotional state of being. Love, like breathing underwater or flying unaided throughout the air, exists, but it is impossible for humans to engage in it, at least successfully. See, love between us, no matter what, will always fail. The divorcée and the widower both have in common that they once loved, but the object of that love is no longer around. The experience of love is one that will inevitably end, either through a fight, drifting apart, or death. Love is like a firework; a beautiful explosion of passion, leaving those involved in awe of its beauty and power, but still dissipating rapidly into the night.

Much to the chagrin of the Christian, such experiences tend to put a negative view on the possibility of love. When over half of marriages end in divorce and infidelity is so high that it’s almost expected to occur within a marriage, where does idealism lead us? We can preach on the absolute nature of love, but we find ourselves waking every morning to an ever loveless world. We see death, wars, starvation, human rights abuses, oppression and the like occurring all over the world. We speak of love, but we might as well speak of unicorns or dragons. Yet, deep down every human knows love exists; after all, while the empirical case for love might be on par with unicorns, we instinctively continue our search for love while only the crazy and insane seek out unicorns. If love did not exist, we would not seek it out on an impulse. Why, then, does it seem like an impossibility? After all, either love exists and our seeking it is the definition of sanity, or it doesn’t exist and we are all insane.

What about the act of self-sacrifice, the core of love? What about when someone gives everything? Wouldn’t this show that love is a possibility for us mere mortals? In such an instance, we do not create this act of self-sacrifice, that is, we do not create love. We do not even originate that love. The object of our affection has always been loved and love has always been directed to him or her, we merely become the conduit in that time and place for the love that has always existed. In choosing to love someone, to perform sacrifice for someone, we manifest a love that is already there and partake in what already exists. Such an act forces us to transcend ourselves, to move beyond who we are, even to appease Nietzsche and to move beyond good and evil, and engage in a raw act of unification.

When we do engage in an act of true love, even then it only lasts for a moment. We see the impossibility of love, because if we give up our food so that one might eat, if we willingly die for a person so that she might live, inevitably that person will perish. Inevitably, that person will undergo further difficulties. That moment of love will not last forever, thus displaying its impossibility. The love itself, the not-always-actualized but always extant love, will remain long after our participation. And we, the conduits of this love, are equally loved whenever we act within love. Like Moses, we must leave the mountaintop, we must walk away from such heights and once again enter the sweltering valley, but we are still forever changed by this event.

Perhaps it is better to recognize that we do not craft love, we do not make love, it is not something crafted from our own hands. If it were then it would be the ultimate absurdity, to seek after something we can simply create. No, love must exist beyond our control, but still tangible enough for us to experience. That we can experience love and not create it makes all the difference on the impossibility of love, it deals directly with the crisis of love: Either love is something we create and therefore means nothing, or love exists independent of us and therefore means everything. We do not make love, but we find ourselves experiencing love, wrapped up in the arms of the Lover. Thus, when our experience of love towards the other inevitably arrives, that experience still lives on in the eternal memory of the ultimate Lover. And so long as we pursue him, that experience lives on within us as well. Love only becomes a possibility when we realize we are not the source, but the participant. It is then that we invite others into this experience with us, knowing that while the experience may end in the here and now, it will continue on forever with the Lover.

Love LGBT People As You Love Yourself or A Modern Day Good Samaritan

Christianity affirms the intrinsic goodness of creation and the essential goodness of man made in the image and likeness of God.  These are bedrock beliefs with far reaching implications.  In the realm of ethics and civil law these presuppositions  provide the only viable foundation upon which to build a case for civil rights and human dignity.  From a theological standpoint, they provide the context necessary for understanding Jesus’ profound summation of the Mosaic Law found in St. Matthew’s Gospel:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40).

But exactly who is your neighbor?  A lawyer, who desired to “justify himself” once asked our Lord a similar question.  Jesus’ response was to tell a story–a provocative story that is known today as the Parable of the Good Samaritan (see Luke10:29-37).

Sadly, this parable is no longer shocking; as it most certainly was to its original audience.  Frankly, it’s become rather trite–reduced to that of a charming bedtime story for children (or a slapstick musical comedy if you prefer the Veggie Tales version).  I feel quite comfortable saying the beloved parable hardly evokes the following emotions within the soul of today’s average reader:  conviction, disgust, anger, confusion, regret, sadness, empathy, or shock.  Yet this story is a fire starter!  It should turn your world upside down; it should force you to re-examine your life; it should pierce your heart, shatter your pride, and cause you to question your very standing before God.  But, for most of us, it doesn’t.

One way this is evidenced is by our general lethargy concerning the plight of the LGBT community.  In between sermons in which the pastor passionately proclaims in a bright red face that, “homosexuality is an ABOMINATION,” or attending a protest against same-sex marriage, Christians are often entirely indifferent to the emotional struggles of LGBT children who have taken their own lives due to bullying.  We sometimes yawn when we hear about the violent, and downright disgusting, mistreatment of LGBT people in Russia and other countries around the world.  Our general disinterest in the suffering of the LGBT community stands in direct opposition to the parable which seeks to explain the second commandment that is like the first.  More specifically, our behavior is discordant with the Christian principle that human beings have intrinsic dignity, value, and worth because they are made in the image and likeness of God.

Perhaps if we retold the story–taking our current mental environment into account–we might, once again, be shocked out of our self-righteous stupor?  Thus, I ask again:  who is your neighbor?

Let me tell you a story . . .

“A man was walking home from the office one night when a couple of young gang initiates pulled him into an ally, stabbed him, emptied his pockets, and left him for dead.  Now by chance a well respected pastor from a local mega-church was going down the road; and when he saw him in the ally he passed by on the other side.  So likewise a beloved seminary professor, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.  But a successful gay business man, as he journeyed home that night, came to where he was; and when he saw him he had compassion.  He immediately went to him and, seeing that his injury was potentially fatal, bound up his wound using a piece of fabric torn from his own shirt.  He carried him out of the ally into the light of the street lamp, pulled out his cell phone and dialed 911.  As he awaited the arrival of the ambulance he held the man tight and spoke words of encouragement to him.  Later, he followed him to the hospital and remained there until the doctors assured him he would pull through.  It was then that he discovered the victim of this heinous crime only worked part-time and did not have medical insurance.  So he made arrangements to pay off the gentleman’s hospital debt himself.”

Which of these three, do you think, proved neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?

Transforming Our Culture From the Bottom Up (Part Two)

In my last post I critiqued what I call ‘Top-Down’ approaches to cultural transformation.  Such approaches can be summed up in one phrase: political activism.  Any attempt to transform the culture through legislation and political cajoling–such as court battles, petitions, electing certain individuals into office, etc–will ultimately be unsuccessful because at the heart of every culture is . . . the human heart.  Thus, true cultural transformation, I argued, could only come from the bottom up.  Because, when individuals are transformed, the culture will be too.

In light of this reasoning, I challenged Evangelical Christians to stop funneling the majority of their time, energy, and money into futile ‘Top-Down‘ methods and to start focusing on making true disciples of Jesus Christ.

This is not to say we should be totally silent in the public square or that Christians should not be involved in politics at all.  It is especially not to say Christians should stop utilizing political approaches when it comes to issues regarding the sanctity of human life or social justice.  Certainly, we must do everything within our power to stop the daily slaughter of innocent children through abortion or to put an end to human sex trafficking.  These issues, almost by necessity, will include political and legal interaction.

It is to say, however, that a ‘total’  or ‘big picture’ approach to cultural transformation should primarily focus on discipleship and not political activism.

The idea here is simple: the more Churches invest time and energy cultivating virtue among their parishioners, engendering and strengthening the faith of their children, helping people grow in the knowledge and understanding of God, engaging in acts of service, and inviting the Holy Spirit to transform the hearts of the lonely and the lost through both the preaching and daily living of the word of God, the more our culture will be renewed.  As individual lives are transformed, individual people will bring their faith to bear on important decisions at the office, or in the laboratory, or at the film studio, or on election day, or walking in the park . . .

After all, true disciples are called to live out their faith, to bear good fruit, in whatever circumstance they find themselves in: whether they are a doctor, a lawyer, an educator, an artist, a filmmaker, a shoemaker, a scientist, a soldier, a plumber, a scrap metal worker, or even homeless.  Whether slave or free or Jew or Gentile, we are all called to view our world through the truth of God’s Word.  We are all called to good works–as St. James states, “faith without works is dead.”  The more we behave like disciples, and the more disciples we make, the greater long term impact we will have on our culture and, indeed, the world.

A Southern Baptist and a Lesbian Couple Walk into a Bar…(Part I)

A friend of mine related a very interesting story to me the other day and I wanted to share it here*. He’s a lapsed Southern Baptist who is shopping around for a different denomination, but for the time being is Southern Baptist.

He was out getting a beer at a bar (as I said, a lapsed Southern Baptist), sitting outside enjoying the beautiful weather. Apparently some guy was smoking his cigar and blowing it in the direction of a lesbian couple trying to enjoy their early dinner. My friend gave them a look that said, “Is he really doing this?” He then offered them his table since it wasn’t downwind of the man with the cigar. They laughed and said it was okay and then invited him to sit with them. He happily obliged and enjoyed a great conversation. Of course, he was reading a book while he was there that was theological in nature and it caught the eye of one of the ladies at the table. From here I’ll try to duplicate the conversation as best as I can from what he told me (we’ll call the ladies Jane and Sally):

Jane: “So what is that you’re reading?”

My Friend: “It’s a book on how we’re all made in the image of God.”

Jane: “Oh, so are you studying that for a class or are you religious?”

MF: “I’m reading it for fun, I’m a Christian.”

Sally: “Oh, so you must really hate us” (she said this with nervous laughter)

MF: “Not at all. Like I said, we’re all in the image of God, so to hate you would be the same as hating myself.”

Jane: “Oh, so you’re one of those Christians who doesn’t see a problem with homosexuality?”

MF: “Well…I do see the act of homosexuality as a sexual sin, but we all sin.”

Sally: “Yeah, I’ve heard that before. ‘Love the sinner, hate the sin’ and all that. But in the end you still think we’re going to Hell. Why do you think so low of us for falling love, for simply doing what we are?”

MF: “There’s a lot in that statement! Look, I’m really enjoying my time with you and I’d love to unpack that statement, but if my presence is offending you then I can leave.”

Jane: “No, go ahead and talk, I want to hear what you have to say.”

MF: “Alright, but if I start making you angry just let me know. First, I think the whole ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’ statement is really stupid. I get the sentiment, but even the way it’s worded is wrong. ‘Sinner.’ It still calls people ‘sinners.’ And yeah, we’re all sinners, but I think we know that. We should just love people, which means we’ll hurt for them when they’re caught in sin.”

Sally: “So we’re ‘caught in sin!’ It’s still the same thing!”

MF: “We’re all caught in sin. Both of you have kids, how have you felt when they’ve harmed themselves thinking they’d enjoy it?”

Sally: “But homosexuality doesn’t harm me.”

MF: “Think about it through a Christian perspective just for one second. From what we’ve talked about I can tell you’re a great mother. How would you feel if she brought home a guy that made her happy, but you could tell just wasn’t good for her? What if this guy led her away from you? Wouldn’t her decision to be with a guy you know is wrong for her negatively impact your relationship?”

Sally: “Yeah, it would, but that’s different.”

MF: “And I’m not here to convince you otherwise, just to give you my perspective. So if her actions would harm your relationship, would you still love her and even desire after a deeper relationship with her?”

Sally: “Of course I would! Nothing could change my love for my daughter!”

MF: “But that’s how God feels about you and every single person in this world. I know that you think sin sends you to Hell, but it doesn’t. Sin erodes our relationship with God and while He loves us and desires after us, our choice to act in sin prevents Him from engaging with us. We’re His rebellious daughters going after what we desire, but He knows that ultimately what we desire isn’t good for us.”

Jane: “So are you saying we’re not going to Hell? Do you believe we all go to Heaven?”

MF: “It’s not my position to say which individual will or will not go to Heaven. That’s completely up to God. I will say that some will go to Hell, but that’s the wrong focus. It shouldn’t be a focus on Heaven or Hell, but on our relationship with God. Sin doesn’t become something we avoid through a set of rules we follow, it becomes something that harms our relationship with God. For instance, Jane, you don’t cheat on Sally because of some rule, but because you love her, right?”

Jane: “Yeah, but it’s kind of a rule that if either of us cheated it’d be over.”

MF: “No, that’s a consequence that we treat as a rule. The reality is that love is a very real thing, perhaps the thing that makes everything else real…”

Sally: “Now you’re just being too philosophical.”

MF: “Ah, I’m sorry. That’s just a view I have on creation, that because God is love and reality, that love makes everything real since He created out of love. I won’t bore you or run off on that rabbit trail. Anyway, because love does exist and is more than an emotional feeling, when that love is violated we feel real hurt. That’s not a rule anymore than scraping your knee from falling off a bike will result in pain is a rule; it’s just a natural consequence. So sin the the same thing with us and God. It’s us going against what He wants for us, which results in natural consequences because those things aren’t good for us to begin with.”

Jane: “But how does that make homosexuality a sin? How are Sally and I hurting God or hurting our relationship with Him?”

MF: “Well there’s a lot of debate and beliefs behind that. Honestly, outside of having a relationship with Christ and understanding His reason for sex and marriage and family life, I really don’t see how anyone could understand it. I’d say that it’s far more important to have a relationship with Him first and then deal with obstacles, so why talk about an issue that would be later down the road?”

Sally: “So is there where you ask us to pray a prayer with you?”

MF: “Not at all! I’m just trying to have a friendly conversation with you and explain my position. You could never accept Christ, but I’d still like to be your friend.”

Jane: “So you don’t think low of us, but you think we’re sinners. I don’t get it.”

MF: “I think you’re struggling with it because we Christians have failed to love sinners. There’s an account in the Bible about Jesus talking to a woman who was getting water at a well. He confronted her because she had been married multiple times and was living with a guy who wasn’t her husband. He never shied away from the fact she was in sin, He just didn’t go on and on about it. Instead, He displayed who He was and that forgiveness was found in Him. Same with the woman the religious leaders wanted to kill; He never said she wasn’t sinning, He just loved her and forgave her, asking her to stop sinning. But that’s just how Jesus is; He’s always around the prostitutes and the druggies, He’s always around sinners, because while He knows they’re sinning, He wants to build a relationship with them to help them stop sinning and hurting themselves. So I try to look at you as Christ would look at you; yeah, you’re sinning, but you’re His creation, His image, so what excuse to I have not to love you or treat you as His daughters?”

Sally: “Wow…”

Jane: “I’ve never heard any Christian put it this way before. I still think you’re ignorant though…”

MF: “I promise you that I’m very ignorant! Just maybe not on this, but who knows. I’d love to talk about them more, or we could talk about something else entirely.”

At that point, they exchanged numbers and the couple invited him over to dinner. He hasn’t gone to dinner yet, but it was interesting.

Tomorrow I want to offer my analysis on the whole conversation and what I think was at play. What can be seen now is the civility and love, that love calmed the situation down and allowed both sides to talk.


* Some parts or all parts may or may not be a conversation that took place in one mind in order to prove a point, or the context actually did occur and sentences have been changed to protect the identity of those in the conversation. Or it could all be true. Who knows (the one true part is the love that existed between my friend and the couple).

The Bulldog Bullies or How to Share the Gospel of Hate Effectively or Jesus Loves You and Doesn’t Want You to Overheat

bulldog ministries equal bulldog bullies

When I was in Houston a group of militant Christian activists who went by the moniker “Bulldog Ministries” showed up at the annual Gay Pride parade on Montrose Blvd–right next to our church.  They held signs with nasty messages like, “Gay’s are an abomination!” and “Hell awaits you!”  As you can imagine, the participants in the parade did not react well to this.  The situation escalated quickly as an angry mob surrounded the street preachers in protestation.  Soon, around six or seven police officers entered the scene–forming a wall between the two opposing forces.  Just when we thought things couldn’t get worse, someone from the crowd threw a punch at one of the sign holders.  Like any good Christian would do, the man with the sign punched his attacker back, yelled at him, and ran off.  The police reacted quickly, pushing both sides (who were working their way into a frenzy) away from each other.  Eventually the Bulldog Bullies called it a day, packed up there signs, rubbed their bruises, and headed home (it was never clear whether the police told them to leave or they simply left voluntarily).

The effect of this exercise in hate–done in the name of the gospel–was tragic.  That night, hundreds of people learned two things extremely well: (1) that God and his followers hated them and (2) that Christians were pretty much no different from the rest of the world.  We knew that something had to be done to rectify this horrible situation.

So, after Bulldog Ministries had cleared out and things calmed down we moved forward with our plan.  It was July, one of the hottest months in Texas, and everyone was dying from heat exhaustion.  Our plan was simple:  to hand out hundreds of bottles of free ice cold water as an act of love.  When people would ask us why we were handing out free bottles of water, our response was simple: “because Jesus loves you and doesn’t want you to get overheated.”  Armed with several large containers of iced water bottles, we embarked on our plan to reverse the damage caused by the Bulldog Bullies.

As people began to notice our motley crew handing out ice cold water we were quickly surrounded by hundreds of thirsty paraders–that’s when the miracles began to take place.  A lesbian couple, incredibly grateful for the rehydration, asked me: “Why are you giving this away for free?”  I responded with a simple statement about Jesus loving her and not wanting her to pass out with heat exhaustion.  After saying this, one of the young girls looked straight into my eyes and began to cry: “is that really why you are doing this?” she asked.  I nodded my head in affirmation and this young girl embraced me like I was her long lost brother.  “Thank you so much,” she said as tears rolled down her cheeks.

This reaction was duplicated over and over again as we continued handing out water.  A tall muscular gay man bent down and gave my friend Pastor Rollyvic a huge hug and kissed him on the cheek saying: “thank you so much.”  I spoke for an hour with a young man wearing a rather beautiful dress–we spoke about Jesus, the Church, and true Religion.  He shared with me about his families distaste with his cross-dressing and I was probably the first Christian he had ever encountered who just listened.  Before long,  people in the crowd began to say to others passing by:  “these Christians are not like those other ones – they actually love people!”

That night hundreds of people learned one important thing: that Jesus loved them and cared about their well being in spite of the fact that they were living a lifestyle contrary to his design and purpose . . .

“Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that i will give him will never be thirsty again.  That water that I will give him will become in him a spring ow water welling up to eternal life.’ The woman said to him, Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water” (John 4:13-15)