I work at a Christian school with students and staff members from more than 100 different local churches. It goes without saying, then, that a wide variety of theological views are represented: views that often come into conflict. Much of this conflict is healthy (especially when it leads to dialogue) as it forces us to think carefully and cautiously about what we believe and why. But some of the conflict points to an important problem for the Church. Not all theological beliefs are created equal. In fact, some are quite dangerous.
Why should I care? What effect does someone’s belief have on me? After all, a belief doesn’t change the facts under which the world operates.
But it does.
A belief, by its very nature, colors the way I view the world. Each belief serves as a prism through which I filter experience. As a result, my beliefs also direct my interactions, dictate the ways in which I view others and the treatment they will receive from me.
Dr. Jerry Falwell, the recently-deceased president of Liberty University, held the belief that every event is an act of God. In other words, the collapse of the Twin Towers in 9/11 was a God-ordained act that killed thousands of innocent Americans in order to teach the country a lesson about the evils of homosexuality, abortion, and feminism. Falwell also made the bizarre claim in the late 1950s that African-Americans were generally opposed to integration because they recognized the hand of God in their subjugation by white society.
“The true Negro does not want integration. . . . He realizes his potential is far better among his own race. . . . We see the hand of Moscow in the background. . . . We see the Devil himself behind it. . . . It will destroy our race eventually. . . . In one northern city, a pastor friend of mine tells me that a couple of opposite race live next door to his church as man and wife. . . . It boils down to whether we are going to take God’s Word as final.”
The thinking individual should be able to see that this is a theology that justifies acts of terrorism and genocide.
Author and historian David Barton, founder of WallBuilders, published an online essay in which he indirectly called for the elimination of the capital gains tax, federal minimum wage, inheritance taxes, and the end of a progressive income tax. Barton used as his text the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30), the parable of the landowner and laborers (Matthew 20:1-16), the command in Exodus for a half-shekel tax as well as the description of the tithe in Leviticus, and a variety of scriptures that deal with inheritance (Proverbs 13:22, 19:14, I Chronicles 28:8, and Ezra 9:12).
“In the Bible, the more profit you make the more you are rewarded. . . . The landowner had a right to determine the wages his workers received. . . . The current income tax structure in the United States mandates a higher tax rate or percentage the more a person makes. This tax system is contradicted by scripture.”
The thinking individual should be able to see that this is a theology that favors the rich over the poor, encouraging those, who have, to gain even more at the expense of those, who have not.
Interesting to note, then, that Jesus’ only act of violence, recorded in scripture – the use of a whip and the overturning of tables – was an attack on Jerusalem’s free market economy, which he identified as thievery.
a theology that favors the rich over the poor, encouraging those, who have, to gain even more at the expense of those, who have not