Fundamentalist Fanatics?

Christian bashing is in high fashion this season. There were the usual silly things like Pittsburgh renaming Christmas as "Sparkle Season." Well, Happy Sparkle, Pittsburgh! And the ACLU is on its annual creche hunt. But there are also deadly things—like articles in, of all places, the Wall Street Journal. Some days ago Professor Arthur Schlesinger, a noted historian, in an editorial linked fundamentalists including Christians with Yigal Amir, the Israeli extremist who shot Yitzhak Rabin. Fundamentalists, he writes, "are absolutists who believe they are appointed carriers of a sacred gospel and feel so sure they are right that they have no compunction about killing heretics . . . " Really? What an incredible statement to make about hundreds of millions of believing Christians. But Professor Schlesinger goes on, incredulous that God speaks to believers. He writes: "More than a third of American adults claim that God speaks to them directly. Am I alone in finding this a scary statistic? What in the world do they mean?" Well, Professor Schlesinger, billions of people—Jewish, Christian, and Muslim—have a belief in a transcendent God. And I can tell you from personal experience precisely what it means to believe in God. When I got out of prison, I had many lucrative offers to go into business. Instead I chose to devote my life to working with prisoners. Prison Fellowship now has 50,000 volunteers in 75 countries. Half a million children will get presents this Christmas through our Angel Tree program. Why do I do this? Not because I enjoy going into prisons. I do this because I believe that God convicted me that I should spend my life ministering to prisoners. Dare I say it: He spoke to me. Professor Schlesinger apparently believes that people who listen and obey the call of God are deluded. And one might ask what the world would be like without the moral influence of Christians? People like Mother Teresa, tending the sick and dying on the streets of Calcutta. I can't help but recall the words of the nineteenth-century politician Lord Melbourne. Melbourne bitterly opposed the abolitionists in the English parliament. "Things have come to a pretty pass," he railed, "when religion is allowed to invade public life." Well, I say thank God Christians obeyed the precepts of their faith and put an end to slavery. Arthur Schlesinger is a distinguished scholar, but he is not a theologian. That is quite evident from his statement that "the profoundest Christian tradition is . . . to emphasize the unfathomable distance between man and God." This is jarring news, coming as it does at the beginning of Advent and the Christmas season, in which we celebrate the God who became flesh and dwelt among us. Christians do believe that God is transcendent and that He spoke the universe into existence—which is indeed an unfathomable feat. But Christians also believe that they live in the imminent presence of Jesus. We believe, indeed, that His Spirit lives in us. This is why we celebrate Christmas. I wish Professor Schlesinger a joyous holiday season and invite him to reflect upon the real meaning of Christmas: the coming of Immanuel—God with us.


Chuck Colson



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