For someone who wants to rail on those who supposedly don't do their research and who claims to set forth a message of no judgment, the author of Newsweek's current cover story might want to preach to himself first.
All throughout the article is a clear message of judgment towards Christians – who, apparently "scream," "wave their Bibles," and "worship at the base of granite monuments to the Ten Commandments." We, according to the author who would like to teach us a thing or two about the Bible (which he apparently understands despite his lack of cited sources or quoted experts), are "frauds," "hypocrites," and "cafeteria Christians."
And while the point is well taken that each Christian would do well to study the Bible for themselves - indeed, the Bereans are praised in Scripture for searching out God's Word for themselves and not relying only on one teacher – the mockery and misrepresentation that occurs in the article is simply not acceptable as a mainstream news story.
The article presents a mocked and misrepresented Jesus, claiming that He would be "horrified" by thousands of Americans gathered together to pray and that, "to Jesus, family was an impediment to reaching God." Quite to the contrary, when Jesus was in the middle of the very act that would allow mankind to reach God – dying on the cross – He instructed His disciple, John, to take care of Jesus' mother. Caring for His family was one of His last earthly acts. The verse the article takes out of context is one in which Jesus was preaching that, if we are required to give up our families for the sake of Christ, we ought to be willing to do so. Such verses apply much more so in this current world to the valiant Christians of the Middle East and other persecuted areas where people actually are forced to leave their families to follow Christ. Such was the situation back in Jesus' day for some people, too.
And as to public prayer, praying in public is actually not condemned in Scripture. Newsweek neglects the fact that, in the New Testament, Jesus often preaches and teaches about the state of the Christian's heart. When the Pharisees stood on the street corner, praying, they were praying with the motivation of drawing attention to self and of glorifying self. It's unlikely that they were typically leading groups of people in prayer on the street corners but instead, spewing long, fake prayers that were intended to make the common citizenry stand in awe of them.
Whether Rick Perry, Bobby Jindahl, or any other Christian who dares pray in public falls into the Pharisee category is not for the Newsweek writer (who, incidentally, roundly condemned judging) to judge. Since it comes down to a matter of the heart, only God can accurately judge Perry's and Jindahl's motivations.
What is clear is that the act of public prayer is not wrong. There are multiple accounts in Scripture of Christians, gathered together, praying together. (See Acts 4:24, Acts 12:12, Acts 16:13, and Acts 16:25, among others.) The Bible says that where two or three gather together to pray, there God is in their midst. If followers of Christ rightfully gathered in upper rooms and riversides to pray together in New Testament times, we can rightfully gather together to pray in football stadiums today. What it comes down to is the motivation of the heart in each person who prays. And that, indeed, is a matter of God's judgment.
The author also chooses to create controversy and "contradiction" where none actually exists. For instance, he chalks the following up to a contradiction and a confusing mess:
"The water flooded the earth for 40 days (Genesis 7:17), or 150 days (Genesis 7:24). But Noah and his family stayed on the ark for a year (Genesis 8:13)."
In reality, it's very easy to accept all three as true when you read the verses for yourself. For 40 days, it rained and poured, flooding the earth. For the remainder of the 150 days, the earth was still flooded, covered in varying amounts of water. And for the remainder of the 365 days, the earth dried out. Not all that complicated, confusing, or contradictory.
The article also makes the outlandish claim that Evangelicals "don't like to talk about" the books of Psalms, Job, Exodus, and Isaiah because "monsters and magic" are present in all of them. And yet, I can hardly think of a more favorite Bible book than Psalms among Evangelicals. Job and Isaiah are often preached from, and the story of Moses is a top favorite. Nor are we afraid to address global climate change or other scientific issues. The Bible itself teaches that we are to be responsible stewards of the earth, and the Bible teaches the scientific fact that human life begins before birth, in the womb.
Scripture must indeed be taken in totality…no, a person is not condemned to Hell solely on the basis of a homosexual act, just as a person is not condemned to Hell solely for adultery or solely for a lie. (Christians do commit these acts.) But Scripture is clear that our sin does condemn us to Hell, unless we rely on Christ alone for salvation. Scripture is also clear that, while we are not saved by our good works, our good works – and choices to stop sinning – prove to the world that we are saved.
Should Christians speak out only against homosexuality and no other sin? Of course not. But that's hardly what Christians do, despite Newsweek's preferred beliefs. Perhaps so much attention is given to the speaking out against homosexuality because it's easy to sensationalize and misrepresent – not because it's the only sin we speak against.
I mean, really, what kind of a story would come out of the myriad of Christians who speak out against adultery, deceit, or gossip? And yet, those things are indeed discussed and spoken against in Evangelical circles. Admittedly Christians who speak out against abortion – more simply called the killing of innocent children – are also given attention, but that's about it. The rest of it just rarely makes a great story.
Newsweek also strangely attempts to claim that "Christians are believed to have massacred more followers of Jesus than any other group or nation." But who exactly "believes" that? The facts certainly don't prove it. This can be seen on a basic level simply by evaluating who the author is including as "Christians." People who don't believe in Jesus as God killing those who do believe in Jesus is God isn't a case of Christians killing Christians. And Gnostics, by and large, aren't Christians either.
And while it's true that Jesus did not come to "abolish the Law and the Prophets," the writer conveniently leaves off that He did come to fulfill them. That's a truth that can't be separated, despite Newsweek's attempts to do so. Jesus Himself is the completion of the Old Testament law that was directed at the Israelites – the law that no human could completely obey in his or her own strength. And yet, despite our culture's distaste for a system of morals, we are still subject to the commands given in the New Testament and the laws that stretch throughout the Bible.
In the end, while we live in a world obsessed with understanding and making sense of every single detail of every single thing, Christians would do well to remember the words of Romans 11:33-34: "Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?"
Oh – and the Bible actually does claim that it is the inerrant Word of God. That is, if you believe that "God-breathed" and "inerrant" are the same things. This Christian, for one, certainly does. (II Timothy 3:16-17)