Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Evangelical Hammer

            In a recent discussion on Facebook I witnessed the classic evangelical punch in the nose.  The discussion began with a post comparing current Islamic terrorism with the lamentable behavior of the Westboro Baptists. The contention being that we shouldn’t judge all of Islam by the behavior of Isis, just as we wouldn’t want to judge Christianity on the basis of the Westboro Baptists. By the way the underlying point has some validity, but I pointed out that it was a poor comparison. There are about 45 Westboro Baptists who protest with signs, and about 35,000 members of Isis that are glad to cut the heads of all infidels.
            Here a woman joined in the fray. After a little give and take she declared that she was an agnostic and wanted to live by love and by what seemed right to her. I remarked, “Do you believe that "Amor vincit omnia" (Love Conquers All)?” and adding, “it does, but only through Crucifixion.” She made it clear that she generally tried to listen and see if it made sense to her, and that didn’t make sense to her. She declared all the major religions were dangerous and that for her part she intended to live on the basis of love and her own experience. I pressed the point by remarking that I didn’t always think that I could judge things by my own experience.
            At this point the Evangelical Hammer leapt from the sidelines and entered the discussion and delivered an Evangelical punch in the nose by preaching some strong doctrine at her. His punch was doctrinally correct. The woman countered making it clear that she wasn’t interested in being saved. This was followed up by the Evangelical uppercut; more hard-nosed Christian doctrine. She weaved and ducked the punch and said in effect that she had better things to do. The Evangelical Pummeler couldn’t resist a parting shot, but the woman had already left the ring.

            I don’t mind a little enthusiastic debate, but I was saddened by the insensitivity of the Evangelical Hammer, who although “right,” effectively closed off the discussion. Being adamantly right is not good manners, and it is not always good evangelism. I am reminded of a quote from G. Campbell Morgan, an early 20th Century British Evangelist, “There is a zeal for orthodoxy which is most unorthodox.” Hammering a point home without love leaves no room for further discussion.