Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and other New Atheists cite Fred Phelps, Jerry Falwell, and Ann Coulter as ontological proof that all Christians are hypocrites. Using this logic, I could turn the tables around and pick out, say, the Marquis de Sade, Mao Tse-tung, and Marilyn Manson. I can use their stories to prove that all atheists are sadists, dictators, and really bad rock musicians. In the words of Dana Carvey (a.k.a. former President George H.W. Bush), “Not gonna do it. Wouldn’t be prudent.”
While Phelps, Falwell, and Coulter clearly represent minority views, the Christian community still implodes in popular perception when it comes to the hot button issue of homosexuality. But as we pray about how to address this controversial topic, can we at least come to a consensus that proclaiming “God Hates Fags” during funeral services for servicemen killed in Iraq supposedly because they’re defending a pro-homosexual nation, blaming the 9/11 terrorist attacks on gays and lesbians, or, most recently, calling Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards a “faggot” are moves that go directly against Jesus’ teachings?
Lest anyone think I am picking only on conservatives, I remember a nasty few run-ins I had with John Shelby Spong back in the early ‘90s. He stayed on my dorm floor at Yale Divinity School for a month while he was researching a book. Suffice to say, I got more than an earful of his diatribes against orthodoxy. Like Falwell and friends, Spong preferred to stand on his soapbox hawking his wares rather than engaging in genuine dialogue with those of us who dare to differ with his rather strident views.
So, what should Christians do when both the New Atheists and the media act as though the actions of extremists on both sides of the political spectrum are indicative of Christianity as a whole? Do we stay silent and hope they will just fade away? And if we should speak, how do we respond so that the love of Christ shines through?
Becky Garrison is author of Contemplating Coulter Christianity, an Amazon short.