For me, this latest eruption of pious alarmism began as I noticed several far-right Web sites claiming that "disturbing video footage has surfaced showing Oprah Winfrey openly mocking Jesus Christ and the Bible," and that we need to see this video evidence quickly "before she takes it down." Not content to charge her with apostasy and blasphemy, one site referred to her as "the legendary race-baiter" as well -- the use of the definite article "the" (as we tell our language students here) implying that Oprah's aggressive racism is common knowledge. News to me!
And the scandalous video that has "surfaced" is nothing more than some glimpses of Oprah, about nine years ago, pitching her usual blend of Christianity, self-help, and New Age ideas, as millions of other Americans also seem to do -- and why would good, solid, orthodox Christians be surprised by this phenomenon? After all, we have become known, far too often, as people who simply turn nasty in the face of opposition. And this mean-spiritedness, and lack of curiosity and empathy, sadly confirms the skeptics' suspicions.
Is it fair to say that Oprah Winfrey is mocking Jesus?
There is nothing wrong with us inviting her to discuss the ideas we think are wrong, and to raise those issues in public. But charging her with mocking? Thanks to the Bible, we know what mocking Jesus looks like. After his arrest and arraignment, the temple police made fun of him. They blindfolded him and then struck him, saying "Prophesy! Who hit you?" (Luke 22:63-64.) In a passage of heartbreaking cruelty and stunning irony, Matthew (27:28-31) describes how Herod's soldiers held a pretend coronation before bundling the Prince of Peace off for execution. Even during the execution itself, the religious leaders mocked him, saying, "he saved others, but he can't save himself." (Mark 15:29-31). How could anyone dare to compare Oprah's well-meaning spiritual synthesis (no matter how much we think it goes off on tangents) to this deliberate cruelty to the One who only offered his tormentors grace?
Over and over I marvel at how so-called Christians are ready to bear false witness against those they/we disagree with. Apparently, this is what passes for evangelism now. Not to be outdone by the corrupt West, Russia's champions of "traditional-value" Christianity display equally jaw-dropping insensitivity, with a prosecutor actually asking for three and a half years in prison for an atheist who looked for Pokémon in a church.
I feel like Isaiah spoke for many of us when, at his commissioning as a prophet, he said these words:
"Woe to me!" I cried. "I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty."Isaiah confesses having unclean lips, but doesn't stop there: he lives among a people of unclean lips. Have we Christians, who dare to claim fellowship with the Lord Almighty, advanced all that far from the condition of those people? James, the brother of Jesus, switches metaphor from lips to tongue, but is equally blunt: (... drawing on Eugene Peterson's The Message, for James 3:7-10...)
This is scary: You can tame a tiger, but you can’t tame a tongue -- it’s never been done. The tongue runs wild, a wanton killer. With our tongues we bless God our Father; with the same tongues we curse the very men and women he made in his image. Curses and blessings out of the same mouth!Let's not play fast and loose with what it means to mock Jesus. When we present a compromised Gospel that actually mocks our enemies and trashes those who disagree with us, while conveniently propping up Caesar, it is damnably self-serving to charge that their response is somehow mocking Jesus. Maybe they're mocking us, and maybe it's not always fair, but chances are good that they might actually yearn for some evidence of a true Savior. We should at least be ready for the costly work of testing that possibility, and then doing what we can to respond. And in the meantime, bite our tongues!!
Friday PS: A few years ago, I wrote a blog post challenging Christianity's critics to apply the same fairness to the topic of Christian faith that they routinely apply elsewhere in their lives.
Terry Mattingly on journalistic standards, the U.S. president, and today's executive order on religious liberties. Does the Washington Post's coverage measure up?
The King comes riding into Jerusalem, on the back of a borrowed donkey.
How Micah's faith blew up....
How did Nancy Thomas first become aware of the light?
Deportation: meet the "worst of the worst".
We recently enjoyed the Lunar Brothers live at Moscow's B.B. King Blues Club.... Here's a sample of their energy and range.