Did you make Jesus a liar?
“Religious organizations have a lot of stake in the truth. Truth is our core product, our brand, and our calling card.” (DONNA SCHAPER; JULY 20, 2015 RELIGION, LIES, AND VIDEOTAPE)
“When any Christian group distorts the truth with malice, that distortion damages the health of that organization. Dishonesty and hate are a cancer. They destroy vitality. They destroy our credibility with others. They hurt our reputation.” (DAVID TAYLOR; April 12, 2014. Hypocrite!) Increasingly Evangelicals misrepresent facts and slander people in order to exert power and privilege. This willingness to compromise truth and love seeped into the culture of Evangelical organizations, especially doing battle in the culture wars. It is the kind of hypocrisy condemned by Jesus in the gospels and Paul, who obsessed about the Church’s reputation in his letters. Like Esau who traded his birthright to Jacob, Evangelicals traded truth and love for power and privilege. Recently, Ed Stetzer wrote an article for Christianity Today suggesting Evangelicals were simply gullible rubes. He never acknowledged that it was the Evangelical driving the “fake news” in many of the cases. Bob Smietana soon thereafter, wrote another article for Christianity Today. Confirmation bias was the justification for being fooled. He listed five ways to spot fake news. Worse than Stetzer, he seemed to suggest that another phenomenon called “morality that blinds” leads Christians to be gullible. Righteous behavior makes a person more susceptible to dishonesty — especially if it confirms our own righteousness. This sounds like nonsense to me. Once again Stetzer and Smietana push the victim narrative so prevalent with groups that are losing power and privilege. Stetzer’s next article on the heels of all the “fake news” embarrassing Evangelicals asked why progressive Christians weren’t outraged over an old video unethically shot and edited with dishonest and slanderous commentary. It only confirmed his complicity in furthering this trend with Evangelicals. It is hypocrisy. Although not the first to use the argument, CS Lewis’ often pressured people to decide if Jesus was a lunatic, liar, or Lord. The strategy was misguided. It oversimplified complex and ancient biographies. Ironically, a Hindu was closer to an effective strategy for persuading others to embrace Christianity. He said, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” People watch those who follow Jesus to see what He might be like because God remains hidden from our eyes. A Christian’s ideas, emotions, and actions paint a portrait of Jesus Christ for others. If we believe it is ok to win at any cost, if we feel comfortable with dishonesty and indignation, if we slander others, then we make Jesus a liar. Evangelical churches and parachurch organizations are facing an unprecedented blowback of vitriol within their own ranks as well as from without. They should temporarily take down their mission and vision statements. They should interrupt business as usual for an emergency audit of every internal communication and human resource policy to see if truth in the context of love and grace is their core product and/or service. (Ephesians 4:15) They should evaluate their strategic plan, their marketing material, and every external piece of propaganda. Do they reflect truth, love, and grace first and foremost? In order to be salt and light in this world we must speak the truth in love. The apostle Paul insists on it. We cannot live like those who disagree with us. That is not the way. We need to stop misrepresenting the facts and speak truthfully to our neighbors. When we get angry we cannot sin. We cannot indulge worthless gossip. We need to rid ourselves of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. We need to be the truth and love Jesus embodied or we make Him out to be a liar.