Making a Point while Missing the Mark

I recently read the essay Sometimes reforming: Martin Luther, the church and the rest of us, and if it had ended with "Sometimes the most we can do is 'give a witness' by our dissent and hope for reformation when future generations take up the cause for social and spiritual transformation," I would have thought that essay was a brilliantly-worded treatise on why Christians should reflect on Luther's words and actions this October 31st. Unfortunately, the essay didn't end there, and its author, Bill Leonard, spent the succeeding paragraph lashing out at non-Baptists and pro-Trumpers. (And just to be clear - I am decidedly NOT pro-Trump. I have publicly spoken out against Trump on many occasions, but that's another story.)

Throughout the "On All Hallows' Eve 2023" paragraph, Leonard doesn't mince words when he equates the actions and attitudes of those with whom he disagrees with the 19th-century pro-slavery crowd and suggests that evangelicals are on an equal footing with the rest of today's sin-obsessed society. (Note that from a historical perspective, Leonard's pro-Baptist sentiments conveniently overlook the pro-slavery views held by the Southern Baptist Convention that upheld slavery and helped pave the way toward Civil War. Leonard also fails to mention that it was largely evangelicals from the Second Great Awakening who opposed slavery, and he makes no mention of Methodists who referred to slavery as the "execrable sum of all villainies," but I digress.) Leonard's entire "All Hallows' Eve 2023" paragraph is nothing short of "denomination bashing," which is a behavior that ultimately portrays all of Christianity in a bad light, and for which people have said to me on numerous occasions: "That's why I wouldn't want to become a Christian: you Christians are always fighting each other."

When viewing this essay as a whole, what started out so well as a history lesson about Martin Luther and a call for contemplation on the role of dissent within our Christian lives quickly descended into a veiled attack on those with whom the article's author disagrees, and in so doing Leonard completely negates his opening quotation from Luther: "I will constrain no one by force, for faith must come freely without compulsion." With that in mind, I would suppose that some form of sarcastic kudos are warranted for the essay's author; his dissertation on Luther is so misguided that he completely misses the meaning of Luther's original prose, and he manages to publicly humiliate the church in the process. So I offer a brusque "bravo" to Bill Leonard for his essay; his opinions are exactly what the church needs today, but only if the church intends to fail miserably in modern society.

A Picture Can Wound a Thousand Broken Hearts

I wanted to reshare this photo because it was very personal to me. My wife and I have a bed very similar to this in the bedroom where our four-year-old granddaughter sleeps peacefully when she comes to visit, and I can imagine that the child who owned this bed was sleeping peacefully in it before she was senselessly slaughtered this past weekend. And what had the child done to deserve such a violent and militaristic execution? She was alive, and that was it. For thousands of years people have killed millions of Jews simply because they existed, and many of these genocides have been largely ignored by unsympathetic historians because the victims were Jews and no one seemed to care about their suffering. This is racism at its worst, and it must stop.

Hamas Kills Innocent Babies

Over the past few decades, I have also heard much about the plight of the Palestinians, and if I'm being honest, I have to agree with some of the arguments that I have heard in their favor. I believe that Palestinians should have an independent state where they can live in peace, and if you study your history, you'll see that on multiple occasions Israel offered huge swaths of land with which the Palestinians could have created a free state for themselves. But the Palestinians refused these offers, because the terrorists the Palestinians voted into power, namely Hamas, do not want to peacefully coexist with Israel. Hamas has been very vocal over the years about its intentions to wipe Israel from the face of the earth, which is what lead to Saturday's surprise attack and the deaths of hundreds of innocent Jewish people for the simple crime of not being dead already.

I occasionally see people driving around with the "COEXIST" bumper sticker that is fashioned from the iconography of several major religions. While this is a noble-sounding sentiment, it reveals much about the naiveté of the person who emblazoned their vehicle with such innocent absurdity. The problem with preaching this particular message of coexistence is that it completely ignores the actions and emotions of people who do not share a common sense of right and wrong. Americans had a difficult time understanding this disparity when 9/11 happened; the thousands of innocent lives who died in the Twin Towers and Washington DC hadn't done anything to warrant their tragic deaths at the hands of Al Qaeda terrorists, but the enemy we faced was so blinded by hatred that it could not be reasoned with. Sadly, this is where Israel finds itself today. Hamas cannot be reasoned with. Hamas doesn't want to coexist. Hamas only wants to hate Jews and kidnap families and rape women and kill innocent people - like the child who owned the bed in this photo. Being ex-military, I am angered by this image. I am repulsed by what it depicts. I want vengeance for what Hamas has done. But that's not my place, and if I'm not careful, I may find myself so consumed by hatred for Hamas that I'm no better than they are.