Two weeks ago I wrote about some troubling events in the modern church and how unsettling I find that (you can read it here). This post goes along the same theme of how Christians can make it difficult for others to believe Christianity.
Amid all of the voices that have spoken out against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been a stream of Christians who follow the mindset voiced by Pat Robertson here. Robertson like so many others believes that Russia’s invasion is part of the roadmap to “The End” laid out in Revelation and such thinking bothers me. It is difficult for me to listen to such thinking because hearing it has a detrimental effect on my faith. I have identified three basic issues I have with Robertson’s comments, and highlight a real issue within the Church and that is the lack of a commitment to truth:
- It is a misreading and thus a faulty understanding of Scripture (which these same people claim to cherish and make the dominant guide in life).
- Such a misinterpretation often downplays the the real problems while stirring people to focus on non-existent threats.
- Such comments lead Christians to trust conspiracy theories which ultimately undermines our witness to the Truth.
There is a long history in this country of Christians cherry-picking Scriptures to support a view of “The End” which corresponds to the events that are going on around them. Much of this theology seems to grow from a tradition that believes the best way to convert people is to scare them into belief. While such thinking is clearly not part of Jesus’ original message it is a large part of American Revivalism and populist interpretations of Revelation support such a mindset. Now any real calamity from Hurricane Katrina to Russia’s aggression must be placed on the map of fear that leads to God’s final judgment. Though the fearmongering plays well and people tune in it is radically inconsistent with a proper reading of Scripture. Where does Scripture mention Russia or anything like what we are seeing? No where! The only way to see the events of today in Scripture is to twist it beyond recognition– to master Scripture instead of allowing it to influence you. Anyone who seeks to have a high view of Scripture will take the time to understand that what Robertson and others are doing actually makes less of Scripture than what God would want. They do not allow the true message of Scripture to speak, which means they are doing the very thing they decry.
Secondly, if Christians are taught that Russia’s invasion is part of the Beast’s, or worse God’s, plan they will not be motivated to stop the true evil that is happening right now. We are commissioned by Jesus to stand against the evil in this world, but how are we to stand against evil when we are told it is part of God’s plan? This is a lie that undermines the work of the Church by taking our focus away from our true purpose. But if this conflict comes from God can we ever oppose it? Can we work to end the evil and help the innocent? Planting such thoughts in the minds of Christians disrespects our calling to help the innocent and heal the strife. If this mentality is accepted by Christians we will cede our work to those who are outside the Church and we will be shamed. I am thankful for those Christians who have spoken up for the innocent people harmed by this conflict (on all sides) and I encourage more to do the same. To spread the message that God is somehow working through Putin to bring about “The End” is to make the Church sound to the world like we condone evil and God approves of it.
Not only is this crisis revealing a poor reading of Scripture and harming the Church’s ability to resist evil, it also exacerbates a larger problem we are facing, the discrimination of misinformation. I was already planning to write about this problem when Robertson’s comments came out, they just changed the focus. The day after my post on my issues with the Church came out I had a painful encounter with a Christian who told me that his political beliefs are the lens by which he judges scientific facts (as he spread conspiracy theories). That encounter touched a nerve because I realized my faith was hurt because this individual was not committed to truth in all cases. The desire for many Christians to find current events in the Bible very often leads to being sucked into misinformation, falsehood, and conspiracy theories. I have heard people talk about many conflicts being the precursor to Armageddon, many leaders being the Beast, and many inventions being the Mark of the Beast and none of these has proved true. In my life I have heard countless false claims and conspiracies based on trying to interpret Revelation to fit the times and it has cost numerous people their faith.
Whether it was Q-Anon or COVID in the past few years white Christian men (my demographic) seems to be near the top of the list of those who believe in conspiracy theories. This hurts, it hurts because it is my demographic and I do not want to be lumped in with such conspiracies. It hurts even more because Christians are supposed to recognize the Truth and we consistently believe falsehoods; and this reality tests my faith. How am I supposed to remain confident in the truth of the Gospel message when those proclaiming it seem to have taken crazy pills. I recognize there are other groups who are even less committed to the truth, yet that does not help when I believe their worldview is insufficient, I need those who share my faith to commit to truth. I had multiple people tell me that same thing yesterday; each expressed the same thought, “How can I hold to my faith and think myself sane when fellow believers also believe that?” The Atheist claim is that only ignorant unthinking people believe in religion (including Christianity) and we are making that claim seem accurate. Think about Jesus’ words:
“If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities." Luke 16:10 cf Matthew 25:21
Among the little things we are called to be faithful with is knowledge and truth. It is imperative we guard our lips (Proverbs 13:3) not allowing falsehood to spread through us, because falsehood is the speech of Satan. We must do better, our witness depends on our commitment to truth as does the faith of our brothers and sisters.