I used to feel like I had to put everything into one of two categories: right and wrong. There were certain things that were the right things to do, while other things were simply wrong to ever consider. It's a default stance to take for anyone who needs answers to every question, and I believe a lot of people have felt that same way. What I've found is that arrogance, a hard heart, and the inability to consider the opinions of others often comes with the need to decide what is right and wrong. I know it did for me. These days, I ask a different question.
"What works, and what doesn't work, in living and sharing the love of Christ?"
On June 18th an article entitled "Bully Pulpit" is being run in The New Yorker magazine. The article is about Bryan Fischer - his life, history, current doings, and the controversy his opinions and rhetoric have stirred up in recent months. Jane Mayer, the author of the piece, interviewed me. Bryan was my pastor in the 90's at Community Church of the Valley. This is a quote from the piece in regards to my son, Nate.
Dennis Mansﬁeld came to a similar conclusion in 2000, when he was running for Congress. Six days before the election, his teen-age son was arrested on drug charges. Mansﬁeld says that, although he had helped found Community Church, Fischer told him that he was unﬁt to be an elder there, arguing that if he couldn’t run his own house properly he couldn’t run God’s house. “It was such a painful experience,” Mansﬁeld says. His son died after a long battle with addiction. Fischer attended the funeral.
Apperently Bryan has said that this portion of the article is not true. I stand beside the author's words - what has been reported is correct.
The piece is largely about Bryan Fischer's stance on homosexuality, specifically in regards to his involvement in highlighting how the Romney campaign hired an openly gay man, Richard Grenell, in April. Bryan posted a controversial tweet that apperently snowballed into Grenell stepping down. According to the article, Grenell referenced "hyper-partisan discussion of personal issues."
Debating the rightness or wrongness of homosexuality in our culture is something that Bryan Fischer is actively engaged in, and has been for over a decade. You know what? I used to be there too. The term "righteous anger" would have been an appropriate term to describe the ferocity with which I would debate this issue, and others. The problem is that it doesn't work. Somebody who yells and screams makes for great entertainment, but little else. I've found that is is exponentially more difficult to shut my mouth, and listen. It is also exponentially more rewarding.
Pushing your own agenda using the veil of religion has been used all throughout history. Today is no exception, and individuals in the evangelical community do it as much as anyone else. When someone wraps their own hate speech in a "god blanket" it makes it easier for a subset of people to accept, and eventually it may even gather a following. The problem is that anyone outside of that subset is turned away from not only that particular subset, but from the entire religion.
I'm going to end with two quotes. One is from The New Yorker piece. The other is from 1 Corinthians, chapter 13.
Fischer thinks that Islam is a violent religion, and argues that Muslims should be stopped from immigrating and barred from serving in the U.S. military. He believes that the country was a Christian nation when the Bill of Rights was written, and therefore non-Christians “have no First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion.” He has said that Native Americans are “morally disqualiﬁed” from ruling America, and that African-American welfare recipients “rut like rabbits.”
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.