Thursday, May 01, 2008

The Intolerance of Christ

While I was away with the other four Catholic men in the First District at the Knights of Columbus Tennessee State Convention in Franklin last weekend, Franklin Graham came to Knoxville. Katie Allison Granju was not impressed:

Mr. Graham has a right to his opinions, although many active, devout Christians disagree with them. And Mayors Haslam and Ragsdale certainly have a right to their personal opinions.

But I am surprised that our mayors decided to attach the influence of their offices to a message of exclusion and intolerance such as this.

First things first-I like Katie, and I'm not just saying that. She strikes me as a genuine person who really does try to reach out to others. In my limited dealings with her, she has been exceptionally kind and understanding and I have thoroughly enjoyed corresponding with her. She is both professional and courteous, and from what I have seen she is a fine lady. I also agree with her about Mike Ragsdale attending the Graham event-although for a different reason. Ragsdale is involved in what Catholics "back in the day" used to call notorious public sin. It is public knowledge that he has committed adultery against his wife who happens to have cancer. He shows no public remorse for what he has done, and because of that he does not do the cause of Christ justice by appearing at such a function for a public address (he is certainly free to attend the services and doubtless has spiritual needs to be served by them).

Like most liberals, Katie Allison Granju is well-meaning, and like most modern liberals she misses the point both of Christianity and of Christ. It is true what most so-called liberal Christians say about Jesus-he was the ultimate progressive of his time. He didn't just declare that he had come to forgive sinners, he ate with them and associated with them. He declared that anyone who believed in Him could be saved-regardless of their race, even going so far as to declare that a Roman Centurion had greater faith than any he had seen in Israel. He embraced women into his fold of followers, and when he rose from the dead he appeared to two women with the message first, who he then told to tell his Apostles-who at first did not believe them. Christ declared that God loved the world, not just the Jews-and that was indeed revolutionary thinking in those days in First Century Judaea.

There was another side to Christ, however. He didn't just declare a new day and a new way, He declared that there was only one way to God. He was (and is) that Way (John 14:6):

Jesus saith to him: I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No man cometh to the Father, but by me.

Jesus elaborated on that theme over and over again in His preaching. Contrary to what is now proposed by many, that there are many paths to God, Christ maintained in rather stark terms that He was the only valid way to God. John 10:1-10:

Amen, amen I say to you: He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up another way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he hath let out his own sheep, he goeth before them: and the sheep follow him, because they know his voice. But a stranger they follow not, but fly from him, because they know not the voice of strangers.

This proverb Jesus spoke to them. But they understood not what he spoke to them. Jesus therefore said to them again: Amen, amen I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All others, as many as have come, are thieves and robbers: and the sheep heard them not. I am the door. By me, if any man enter in, he shall be saved: and he shall go in, and go out, and shall find pastures. The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I am come that they may have life, and may have it more abundantly.

Further, Christ made it clear that while his mercy was infinite, there really is such a thing as sin, and that after you are forgiven of your sins, you are to be free of them (John 8:2-11):

And Jesus went unto mount Olivet. And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came to him, and sitting down he taught them. And the scribes and the Pharisees bring unto him a woman taken in adultery: and they set her in the midst, And said to him: Master, this woman was even now taken in adultery. Now Moses in the law commanded us to stone such a one. But what sayest thou?

And this they said tempting him, that they might accuse him. But Jesus bowing himself down, wrote with his finger on the ground. When therefore they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said to them: He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again stooping down, he wrote on the ground. But they hearing this, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest. And Jesus alone remained, and the woman standing in the midst. Then Jesus lifting up himself, said to her: Woman, where are they that accused thee? Hath no man condemned thee?

Who said: No man, Lord. And Jesus said: Neither will I condemn thee. Go, and now sin no more.

The following verse was when Jesus proclaimed Himself "the Light of the World." The reality of sin, the need for a Savior, and the exclusivity of Christ as Savior are as much a part of the Christian message as love of neighbor and compassion for one's fellow man. Conservatives sometimes ignore the latter part of Christ's message, even if not purposefully. Liberals often try to say that Jesus didn't mean it when he said those things about being the only Way, or even that He didn't say them or the Bible doesn't really mean them.

As a Catholic, it is a fair assessment to say that Franklin Graham and I wouldn't see eye-to-eye theologically, but when Graham said that abortion is a murder and a sin, he is right-it is murder, and it is sin (not to mention a grave injustice against humanity). When he says that homosexuality is a sin, he is correct, it is a sin-period. The whole point of Christ is that even in the face of the worst sins there is the opportunity for forgiveness, reconciliation, and hope.

Liberals say that a message like the one Franklin Graham delivered is intolerant. By the standards of modern liberalism, Jesus Christ, the great progressive of His time, was very intolerant. His message is not one that makes the tolerant comfortable. It is a message that got Him crucified.

Liberals do not have to embrace Christ's message, and they can call it intolerant all they like (by their standards, I suppose they would be correct). It isn't my place to judge them for not accepting that message-that responsibility goes to God alone. The message is the message of Christ, however. Franklin Graham is a minister of the Gospel, and therefore we should not expect him to say that we should all hold hands, sing Kumbuya, and that any path to God is okay. That is not the Christian message.

If Mayor Bill Haslam wants to lend a few moments to endorse the Christian message, the Left does not have to like it-but he is well within his rights to do so. Is the message intolerant by liberal standards? Yes. It is the message of the Gospel. They didn't care for it much in Jesus' day, either. Christianity is not the faith of the tolerant, it is the reality of the Ressurrection and the Blessed Hope of the Redeemed.

You don't have to agree with it, but you shouldn't expect the message to be something other than what it is.

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At Saturday, May 03, 2008 3:41:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Intolerant indeed. Like an authoritarian regime... there is no other way but mine and if you don't obey me, I will torture you in hell ... of course you will turn it around and blame it on the victim. Great religion you got there. What kind of a god has the need to torure his non-believers?
I guess yours does.

At Saturday, May 03, 2008 9:53:00 PM, Blogger Dave Oatney said...

Nothing at all about torture in those passages-re-read them.


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