Monday, September 23, 2013

I am a Christian

Many months ago I noticed a popup on the internet from a group inviting people to 'sign the pledge' and 'boldly proclaim' that 'I am a Christian'. The group is in the name of an evangelist for whom I have always had a lot of respect, namely, Billy Graham. Why do I have a great deal of respect for this evangelist? At one 'crusade' of his that I personally attended in my home town, I noticed that after the 'altar call' those who came forward to be prayed for and counseled were then directed to a local congregation of the church or denomination to which they belonged or formerly belonged. This included Orthodox and Catholic as well as non-Baptist denominations. I assume that, if a person's religious background or affiliation was non-Christian, they were directed to ministries affiliated with or approved by Billy Graham's organization. Somehow, I found this reassuring, that Mr Graham was not promoting his version or anyone's version of Christianity. He was simply doing what he sees Jesus doing, preaching the good news. Another way of putting it, as I often do,
'I witness for Christ, and He witnesses for the Church.'

What irks me—no, it doesn't irk me, it repels me—is that anyone who professes Jesus Christ and believes in the plain meaning of the Word of God can even say such a thing as 'boldly proclaim' that one is a Christian. When I first saw the ad—and I saw it again today, captured it 'on film' and present it here—it immediately made me think of this scene from the 2009 historical film Agora, which portrays the Christianization of the Roman province of Egypt during the reign of emperor Theodosios II and Alexandrian pope Kyrillos. I know that many will say that this is an anti-Christian propaganda movie coming on the heels of the evidence of contemporary Islamic militancy, as a way to discredit both religious faiths, but I don't see it that way. As a student of history, I know that when one digs more deeply into Christian history, what one finds is fewer and fewer followers of Jesus, and more of those who use Christ and the Christian faith as means to other ends. We see this today. We have seen it happen in recent history. Why should it have been different in the first few centuries of Christianity?

Without making judgments or taking sides, I merely want to present this film clip of the scene where a Christian servant, finding himself in the midst of a sectarian riot and commanded to take part as an assumed pagan against the Christians, kills the pagan who tries to force him to kill, and then, seeing his master watching him, throws out his hands and proclaims, apologetically at first, then with increasing fervor, 'I am a Christian,' as he falls upon his master with a weapon and nearly beats him to death. The servant's life is ended quickly by the rescuing hand of a pagan student of the philosopher Hypatia, who later becomes the Christian prefect of Egypt. All these details are, of course, the work of the screenplay writer, informed by history and his own imagination, but things such as this no doubt have happened, as they continue to do. Though we look upon certain religious faiths as violent and others as pacifistic, most have had a violent aspect at some time or another, and many still do, including Christianity.

No wonder John Lennon wrote in his song Imagine, 'and no religion too,' and in a very ironic way, he was telling the truth.

1 comment:

Sasha said...

Terrible story... and history (including now).

I've thought of Lennnon's song and its irony too.