I don’t know which hurts worse: the false, hypocritical image of
Christianity held by much of the secular world — or the sneaking
suspicion that they got that view from listening to some of those who
call themselves Christians.
Just when it seemed safe to identify the Clinton administration as
Baal’s agents for what passes for American foreign policy — slashing
and burning their way through the Balkans, murdering the innocent in
their Don Quixote-styled quest to punish the guilty — a new voice
emerges from the “Christian” landscape, pushing the envelope.
Speaking of political assassinations, “it would just seem so much
more practical to have that flexibility,” said Christian Coalition
President Pat Robertson. His “remarks” were broadcast nationally on the
700 Club. Note that the secular press described that program as “his
nationally syndicated religious television program” (Washington Post,
Aug. 10, 1999, p. A7).
I find it significant (as well as significantly depressing) that the
only voice quoted in opposition came from Americans United for
Separation of Church and State. “In my Bible, Jesus never said anything
about assassinating heads of state,” said the organization’s executive
director. Of course, if America behaved more like a Christian nation,
maybe we wouldn’t have so many enemies in the world? And maybe
Christians wouldn’t have so many enemies here at home, either?
Mr. Robertson went on to qualify his statements. That’s the terror of
being around a loose cannon as it fires: anybody can become be a victim.
As it was, he blasted only the usual suspects: Serbian
president Milosevic, Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, North Korea’s
leader, and the Baal administration’s favorite terrorist, Osama bin
Laden. Mr. Robertson then defended his statements, saying “I just think
it’s the intelligent thing to do. I don’t see anything un-Christian
And therein lies the rub. It might well be the intelligent thing to
do, especially from the perspective of human wisdom. But then, the Bible
has a lot to say about human wisdom. We can start right
at the beginning, where Cain murdered his brother Abel (Gen. 4:8).
Cain’s justification? He wanted God’s approval for his way of life, and
Abel stood in the way of that. Humanly speaking, it was the intelligent
thing to do.
Things didn’t improve over the years, and by the prophet Jeremiah’s
time God had a few choice things to say about Israel’s reliance on human
wisdom as the intelligent thing to do:
“Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, burn incense
to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, and then come
and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say,
‘We are delivered!’ — only to go on doing all these abominations? …
Behold, I myself have seen it, says the Lord” (Jeremiah 7:9-11).
In a later chapter the Lord summarized his complaint: “The heart is
deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt; who can understand
it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) “That’s funny,” we reply, “it seemed like the
right thing to do at the time. …”
You see, the intelligent thing to do can vary greatly, depending on
who and where you are situated. I suspect that from Milosevic, Hussein,
and Osama bin Laden’s point of view, the intelligent thing might well be
to get rid of President Bill Clinton. Or Pat Robertson. I’m sure they
would see nothing un-Christian about it. In fact, all of us know people
whom we could easily convince ourselves that the world would be better
off without. And ditto for them.
The point of Christianity is that we don’t do the intelligent thing
from the human perspective — we do the intelligent thing from God’s
perspective. We give up our human manipulation in order that we may be
taught the intelligent thing to do in God’s name. We trust that God
knows more about the matter than we do, and has our best interests — as
well as those of the rest of the world at heart. Jesus explained the
situation quite clearly to the religious leaders of his day:
“Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear
to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to
do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning. …”