The other night, just before turning in, I flicked the TV channel (as you do) over to one of the ‘God’ channels; I think it was ‘Revelation’ (Sky 585), though it could have been their sister channel ‘Genesis’ (Sky 592). I do look in on the many religious channels from time to time, though you may remember from previous entries that I’m not over-enamoured with most of their output.
Anyway, this time I landed in the middle of a ‘phone in discussion – a repeat as it happened – about human sexuality. On the panel of two in the studio sat a quiet spoken minister of the Presbyterian persuasion, and a woman who seemed to be a bishop of some kind or other. Both wore large dog-collars – usually a sign of the conservative evangelical, but in the case of the female bishop, not so. The man was defending the traditional evangelical stance on homosexuality and the biblical texts relating thereto; the woman was being much more open and ‘liberal’ in this area, attempting to balance the texts which speak of God’s love and desire to save people with the few specific passages which condemn homosexual practise.
What shocked me about the programme was the lack of courteousness of the people who were ‘phoning in. The poor female bishop took quite a battering, with one woman caller telling her she was disgusted with her and could not call her ‘sister’. A few months ago, I saw a minister of the Reformed persuasion get similar treatment for suggesting that most of the spiritual gifts listed by Paul were meant for the early Church and not for today.
I wondered, as I often do at such times, why militant evangelicals can so often put forward a negative, aggressive and dour image of what it means to be a Christian; even, sometimes, accusing their opponents of not being Christians at all, simply because they look at some things differently or don’t toe the party line. Why is it, when we are so clearly instructed by our Lord to love, not only our neighbours, but our enemies, that some of us can’t even show a little love and charity towards other Christians we disagree with?
I’ll admit that it’s very easy for us to get hot under the collar when we feel that one of our cherished beliefs seems under threat. But there’s something about Christians with different opinions being rude to each other in full view of the world which I find really hard to stomach. Next time I land in the middle of a ‘Christian’ ‘phone in, I may just switch off.