Select a passerby at random on a crowded city street and ask him to describe Christians and you are likely to hear words like “judgmental, divisive, and narrow-minded”. In some circles, the word “Christian” has become synonymous with bigotry. Ironically, denigrating an entire group of people based on what they believe fulfills the definition of bigotry. Pot, meet Kettle. But is it true? Are Christians judgmental, divisive, and narrow-minded?
This line of attack is very familiar to conservatives, both in the political realm and the theological. It’s rooted in the Alinskian doctrine of Shame & Ridicule. Progressives have been using it for decades, yet it’s only now that the vapid erosion of the American mind has progressed far enough for it to gain any serious traction.
The doctrine teaches that ridicule and shame are nearly invincible when weaponized. Not only are they uncomfortable for the target, but they leave a stain whether the claims being made are true or not. As the old adage goes, if you want to put someone on their heels, ask them how long it’s been since they stopped beating their wife. Their attention shifts from offense to defense.
In days past, this tactic was often seen as dirty pool by all except the most parasitic of community organizers and labor union bosses. After all, who was willing to tarnish their reputation by slandering someone falsely? Fast forward to today’s climate of hedonistic moral relativism and there’s no reason not to use Shame & Ridicule as freely and deceitfully as one desires.
The tactic has achieved such fantastic success against political conservatives, it’s often being used to attack theological conservatives now. Just as in the political arena, it plays on the paralyzing fear of “losing our audience” through the stigma of dogmatic adherence to conservatism. On the theological battlefield, it plays on the fear of driving away potential parishioners because of divisive doctrine. As the Republican party flouts the will of Republican voters to push amnesty for illegal aliens, large portions of mainstream Christianity are poised to kowtow on the issue of so-called gay “marriage” against the wishes of most Christians in the pews.
This fear and ideological uncertainty has led many so-called conservatives to “evolve” their positions on these issues, in order to alleviate some of the Shame & Ridicule. Unfortunately, this is what happens when leaders are placed in positions of prominence because of what they say, instead of what they believe and how they act. The cowardice displayed by prominent leaders on both fronts is simultaneously disheartening and infuriating. The most popular churches in the land are led by men who play it safe.
Lakewood Church, led by Rev. Guy Smiley, will not preach about sin because he’d rather tickle the ears than magnify the grace of Christ. Pastor Andy Stanley of North Point Ministries in Alpharetta, Georgia has no problem with open homosexual relationships in his church but believes that Christians have a “branding” problem, as if we were a line of basketball shoes. Pastor Bill Hybels in Barrington, Illinois promotes environmentalism and New Age mysticism from the pulpit at Willow Creek. These are just three men, but between them they regularly speak to nearly 100,000 Americans every week.
From the outside looking in, these men represent a good portion of the American church; the same way Tim Cook and Bill Gates represent a good portion of the computing industry. All the signs of success are present: the fannies are in the seats and the tithes are flowing like champagne. But what does that mean? Is it a sign of God’s favor that their ministries have been so richly-blessed? Or is it akin to the mounds of gold heaped up by the Church’s sale of indulgences in the Dark Ages? In that situation, the Church offered her benediction upon immoral and unrighteous lifestyles in return for material wealth and adulation. Is today’s Church any different? Or are these men engaging in the same economic transaction by accepting a buy-out to avoid uncomfortable convos?
At least on the surface, the answer to the question “Are Christians divisive and narrow-minded?” seems to be “No”. The largest pulpits in the land preach a brand of belief as free of division and judgment as possible. When pressed for any absolute boundaries, they yammer relativist platitudes and retreat to their shop-worn soundbites. But is this an accurate representation of Christianity? Author Michael Horton answers in his book Christless Christianity:
To say, “I don’t have it in my heart to condemn people” is to point to one’s own niceness rather than to the judgment that holds us all accountable as transgressors before God. The proper preaching of the law—God’s holiness, righteousness, glory, and justice—will not create an us versus them self-righteousness but will expose the best works, done from the best motives of the best among us, as filthy rags before God’s searching judgment. Bad law-preaching levels some of us; Osteen’s omission of the law levels none of us; biblical preaching of the law levels all of us.
So the answer to our question is “Yes…and No.”
No, Christians are not divisive, because properly-understood, biblical preaching of the law is the most egalitarian application of morality possible. It says that Mother Theresa is no more righteous than Ted Bundy. We all stand convicted before a thrice-holy God.
And Yes, Christianity and its adherents are divisive, narrow-minded, and judgmental because truth requires it and the gospel is founded upon it.
As Chesterton quipped, the point of having an open mind is the same as having an open mouth—to close it upon something solid. Christianity is a worldview which claims to be true, absolutely. That means to believe in it, you must disbelieve in that which contradicts it; which is very narrow-minded. The Apostle Paul described the Word as sharper than a sword, “piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow”.
So get out there and be divisive. Not needlessly so, obviously, but don’t allow aspersions of shame and ridicule to intimidate you into a mealy-mouthed, moral morass. Be proud of your narrow-mind and always be prepared to share what you’ve decided to close your mind upon.