For Christ's Sake
Last month I was standing on a street corner in Superior, Wisconsin, with the northland chapter of Grandmothers for Peace as they held their first Iraq Moratorium event. I was holding a sign that said “Who Would Jesus Bomb?” when, sure enough, some guy starts across the street looking for trouble.
“Hey, tough guy” he says to me, (which immediately throws me off since I don’t envision myself as such), “why don’t you peace types pick on the Muslims for a change? Why are you always picking on Christians?”
I started to tell him that I consider myself a Christian and that my sign is an expression of what Christian faith I have, but he was having none of it. He interrupted me with a couple of outbursts that I didn‘t fully hear and then abruptly marched off down the street hollering about how Jesus will be coming back with a sword, and literally all hell is gonna bust loose. His intensity was palpable.
Based on our exchange I’m assuming he’s an Armageddonite; a Christian with a damned dark worldview indeed. The book of Revelation is not something to be read to small children as they go to bed at night. It’s absolutely brimming with a graphic description of the horrors to be endured by the unbelievers.
I will confess that I haven’t attended church regularly for 35 years, but when I was growing up I went religiously, no joke, to Sunday school, Bible school in the summer, the confirmation process, you name it, at a small Methodist church in southeastern Minnesota. I broke with the church in my teenage years after we got a Pentecostal type preacher who was way more than I wanted to put up with, and I never went back.
But in earlier years we had a couple of moderate pastors and a lot of good hearted women who pretty much ran the church. My mother and my aunt Janice were both mainstays, and so was a very sweet older woman named Verna Larson. They all taught Sunday school, sang in the choir, made lunch for the funerals, kept the books, cleaned the place, sat on the church board, etc. We wouldn’t have had a church without them.
And they taught a theology of Jesus and his love. The Prince of Peace. Not his flaming sword. Not rivers of blood and tribulation beyond imagination. Jesus and his LOVE! We sang “ Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world” and “ I love to tell the story of Jesus and his love”. Love, my angry Armageddonite friend. Not hate, love.
What’s most disturbing about all of this is that some folks estimate that there are 20 to 30 million Armageddon fans out there in the United States. How can this be? Where does this kind of theology come from? Perhaps more importantly, where are the proponents of the love based theology that I remember from my youth? Can’t these folks come together and shout the sword wielding Jesus crowd down somehow?
I know it’s daunting to challenge people who have a bit of a murderous tinge in their eye, but it’s actually all the more reason to try and reason with them, or to openly repudiate their theology of bloodlust and vengeance. C’mon, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, United Church of Christ, Episcopalian, United Methodist Church, whomever, get together and issue some kind of response to this madness. Do it for Verna Larson , or for my mother and my aunt Janice, and for all the blue-haired old ladies that make your church possible. Good God, if for no other reason, do it for Christ’s sake.