they said what?

October 6, 2004 | 5 Comments

It’s kind of interesting to compare what contemporaries have said about Christians at different times in history. This first one is documented from around 1900 years ago:

Their oppressors they appease and make them their friends; they do good to their enemies…they love one another, and from widows they do not turn away their esteem; and they deliver the orphan from him who treats him harshly. And he, who has, gives to him who has not, without boasting, And when they see a stranger, they take him in to their homes and rejoice over him as a very brother; for they do not call them brethren after the flesh, but brethren after the spirit and in God. And whenever one of their poor passes from the world, each one of them according to his ability gives heed to him and carefully sees to his burial…

Now, here is a quote from an article that was published today over at

The problem not only with fundamentalist Christians but with Republicans in general is not that they act on blind faith, without thinking. The problem is that they are incorrigible doubters with an insatiable appetite for Evidence. What they get off on is not Believing, but in having their beliefs tested. That’s why their conversations and their media are so completely dominated by implacable bogeymen: marrying gays, liberals, the ACLU, Sean Penn, Europeans and so on. Their faith both in God and in their political convictions is too weak to survive without an unceasing string of real and imaginary confrontations with those people — and for those confrontations, they are constantly assembling evidence and facts to make their case.

But here’s the twist. They are not looking for facts with which to defeat opponents. They are looking for facts that ensure them an ever-expanding roster of opponents. They can be correct facts, incorrect facts, irrelevant facts, it doesn’t matter. The point is not to win the argument, the point is to make sure the argument never stops. Permanent war isn’t a policy imposed from above; it’s an emotional imperative that rises from the bottom. In a way, it actually helps if the fact is dubious or untrue (like the Swift-boat business), because that guarantees an argument. You’re arguing the particulars, where you’re right, while they’re arguing the underlying generalities, where they are.

Now that article from today is obviously political in nature, but let’s just set that aside for now, and deal with what he says about Christians. These may be the words of one man, but they are, unfortunately, the thoughts of many.

As a follower of Jesus, I would much rather be described by the first quote than by the last — I’m sure most, if not all, followers of Jesus would agree. The problem is, far more people who aren’t followers of Jesus would describe Christians more along the lines of the second quote than the first.

How can we change this and regain credibility in this world? How can people once again view followers of Jesus as caring and compassionate, instead of as argumentative and arrogant?

I think that the AIDS crisis is a good place to start. What if every dollar that was spent by Christians on books and seminars about apologetics in the past year was instead channeled toward dealing with the AIDS pandemic? What if Christians didn’t do this as an advertisement of their faith, but as something they were compelled to do out of compassion? I don’t think it’s much of a limb to be on to say that dealing with the AIDS issues would win out over apologetics in regaining our credibility in this world.

  • Brewster

    I found a similar quote written about 150 years after Jesus lived about Christians. You may have read it…its pretty cool. I think it is written by an observer, but I could be wrong.

    Here it is:
    “Christians are not distinguished from the rest of mankind by country, by speech, nor by customs, but although they live in both Greek and foreign cities and follow the local customs both in clothing, and food, and the rest of life, they exhibit the wonderful, and, admittedly, strange nature of their own citizenship. They live in their own homelands, but as sojourners. They share all things as citizens and suffer all things as aliens. Every foreign country is their homeland, and every homeland a foreign country. They marry as all do – they bear children – but they do not discard their children as some do. They offer a common table but not a common bed. They find themselves in the flesh, but do not live according to the flesh. They pass their time upon earth, but are citizens of heaven. They obey the established laws and surpass the laws in their own lives. They love all and are persecuted by all. They are put to death and made alive. They are poor but make many rich. They lack all things yet abound in all things. They are abused and give blessing. They are insulted and give honor. When they do good they are punished as evil doers. When they are punished they rejoice as those receiving life. By the Jews they are attacked as foreigners and by the Greeks they are persecuted – and those that hate them are not able to state the cause of their hostility.”

  • Yeah…it would be nice to be described that way too! Where did you find that quote?

  • Gary

    It’s unfortunate, really. I hear so many Christians talk about the decline of morals in our society and how horrible it is the way that people are blantantly rejecting God. It seems fairly clear from this article that the rejection isn’t so much of God, but of his “ambassadors.”

  • Brewster

    The quote is from some historical source and is called the letter of Diegnetis from 180 AD. I tried seraching on the web for more background but got no results.

  • Brewster

    Oh and the whole thing about them not discarding their children refers to Rome – apparently when people did not want or could not support their baby they put them out on the street with the trash (thats what I’ve heard).