Lost Sayings of the Jedi Christian 6

Fundamentalist? Evangelical? Fusion.

Are Jedi Christians fundamentalists or evangelicals? The question arose after Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Jimmy Swaggart and Rev. Jerry Vines made provocative comments about Islam and then were described by a leading newspaper as “evangelicals on a new crusade.” Evangelicals immediately drew a line in the sand “we may share broad agreement on doctrine, but fundamentalists are fighting culture and evangelicals are building bridges.”

The distancing was understandable. Falwell called Mohammed “a terrorist.” Robertson said he was “ a wild-eyed fanatic. Adolph Hitler was bad, but what the Muslims want to do to the Jews is worse.” Vines, proclaimed at the Southern Baptist Convention, “Mohammed was a demon-possessed, pedophile who had twelve wives, and the last one was a nine-year-old girl.” Swaggart said, “ we ought to take every single Muslim student in every college in this nation and ship them back to where they came from.”

All of these qualify as “fighting words” and none build bridges to Muslims, who after all, God loves with an everlasting love. It is ironic that whether using words or bombs, Christian or Muslim, fundamentalists are irrepressibly warlike. Certainly the Jedi Christian is not a “fighting fundie.”

The media loves to feature these feisty personalities, because as Deborah Tannen has observed, we live in an argument culture with a media formula requiring two extremes, yelling past each other. It is a day when diatribes producing a lot of heat have replaced constructive dialogue leading to light. The more extreme and quotable fundamentalists get press, but they do not represent bridge-building evangelicals who are a larger population than fundamentalists. It would be useful for the media to do their homework and draw distinctions in their coverage of what are arguably two of the most significant religious movements in the early 21st century,

But evangelicals shouldn’t let themselves off the hook too easily. The conciliatory bridge builder can easily become compromisingly comfortable with the culture. Philip Johnson rightly observes “our faith thrives in the long run when we are persecuted, painful as that may be for those who have to endure it. What Christianity can’t stand is wealth and respectability.” The evangelical’s fawning, easy familiarity with wealth and respectability poses as big a threat to robust Christian witness as does the intemperate, reckless, in-your-face comment of the fundamentalist provocateur.

Furthermore evangelicals find great kinship with the intellectual tradition that birthed it’s own movement, a tradition peopled by brilliant but sharp tongues like Harold Ockenga and “black and white” apologists like Francis Schaeffer. Nancy Pearcey reminds us; “One factor that made Francis Schaeffer so effective was that he clarified the search for truth by sketching, in stark outline, what the basic choices are.”

The Jedi Christian is a stylistic fusion of fundamentalist and evangelical. We recognize that the body has many parts and no part can say to another I have no need of you. Our differing personalities and gifts naturally propel us towards either feistiness or friendliness. But the feisty will be reminded that the feistiest of all, The Apostle Paul, urged us to produce the fruit of the spirit which disallows the unloving, intemperate sound-bite. The congenitally kindly will recall that Barnabas was teamed with Paul and John the beloved spoke the truth boldly about darkness having no fellowship with light.

Jesus was situationally inspired and fused feisty and bridge building exquisitely. He effortlessly modeled that blend of speaking the truth in love so that no one could seriously peg him fundamentalist or evangelical. And he prayed that his followers would be one as He and the Father are one. If fusion is good enough for Jesus, it is good enough for the Jedi Christian.

Posted in Staublog, Thoughts in November 20, 2002 by | No Comments »

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