Theology in the News!
Okay, you caught me. I know, I said our next theology-nerd topic would be “anthropology,” but an immigration story has brought us an interesting case study of bad theology...and I just couldn’t help it.
If you want to read up on the whole story click HERE.
A man seeking asylum in the UK was denied after Home Office (Homeland Security) officers cited Bible verses, particularly the book of Revelation, to refute the authenticity of his claim that he converted to Christianity from Islam because it was a “peaceful” religion.
Normally I don’t put much stock in a government agency’s ability to rightly handle scripture...and...I still don’t. If you dig through the articles online you’ll find that the verses they cite do have “violent” imagery, but are taken out of context and completely ignore genre. They don’t take the time to understand what is history, what is poetry, hyperbole, or first century Jewish apocalyptic imagery. Instead they just lift a verse, say “aha, that looks violent” and conclude that Christianity is not a peaceful religion.
Fair enough...wait...no...actually...not fair at all.
Interestingly they don’t seem to notice that they have to ignore all of the New Testament except for Revelation. All of it. Why? Because there isn’t an ounce (cc?) of evidence to support their conclusion outside of a book of prophecy that lifelong theologians aren’t entirely sure they understand.
Clearly, to claim that Christianity is violent, and therefore reject asylum by this method is sloppy theologically, and...logically. But, I would argue that Home Office’s bad hermeneutics and conclusions aren’t the worst thing about this story. Can you find the more troubling theological error? Go ahead. I’ll wait.
It’s the guy’s reason for converting from Islam to Christianity. If the sole reason for his conversion was its peaceful nature compared to Islam, that is a bad reason...and a false gospel.
(Huge disclaimer: I do not know the man, and I’m not questioning the authenticity of his beliefs, just the validity of the statement.)
This is why good, robust theology is so important. Christianity makes a certain claim that is not about living peacefully. It is not a religion designed to make people feel better, behave better, or sleep better. It is not about giving up bad habits and picking up good ones. The main drive of Christianity is not the quality of your marriage, behavior of your kids, or the contents of your bank account. The claim of the gospel is that humans are separated from God as rebellious and sinful creatures, incapable of saving ourselves, but God, being rich in mercy, sacrificed his Son, who was tortured, killed, and rose from the dead, so that we might live with, love, and enjoy him forever; that the only way to escape death is to repent and believe.
Christianity is not a preference. We don’t join the club because it’s peaceful, or the people are nice, or they have nice music. We don’t just gather to sing songs and hope that our lives get a little better. We believe, by God’s grace, because it’s the only thing that is true.
And, if your refugee status, job, or life are taken on that basis, you are in good company.
~ James, The “Prism” Theology Nerd