Why are some Christians so quick to believe the worst about each other?
Last week, I wrote a post entitled, Rick Warren’s Surprising Video On Church Size & Attendance. It was well received by most people. But there were some folks who don’t like it whenever I say something nice about Rick Warren. And they always let me know.
I’ve never met Rick, but I like him. A lot. I believe he has been a gift to the body of Christ like few other ministers have been in the last 25 years or so.
But now I’m being told that I’m not supposed to listen to anything Rick Warren has to say because he’s a proponent of one world religion and a supporter of Chrislam (a hybrid of Christianity and Islam) who’s gone soft on the teachings of Jesus and is trying to get everyone in the world to follow the Pope.
Oh sure, Rick’s been preaching the Gospel faithfully for decades. But apparently this has all been a multi-decade ruse to earn our trust so that he can lure the faithful away from the teachings of Jesus and into following a watered-down pseudo-Christianity.
How do we know this? Because people on the internet say so, that’s why. (No, I’m not going to link to those posts. They don’t deserve the attention they’d get from that. Google it if you dare. You’ll get thousands of responses.)
Every time I mention Rick Warren in a positive light, people tell me all these horrible things about him.
There’s just one problem with their claims. They have no proof.
Yes, there was an article in the Orange County Register in 2012 which seems to be “ground zero” for the Chrislam rumors. (You can read the Register article here.)
Never mind that Warren immediately and regularly denounced the claims made in that article. (You can read Warren’s response here.) Or that he has declared on thousands of occasions that he believes Jesus is the only way to heaven. People on the internet say otherwise, so they must be true and Rick must be lying.
After all, Warren has admitted to [gasp!] being friends with his Muslim neighbor! And he was invited to speak at a Muslim conference! And he actually went there! (see the video, below). Then, when he arrived, he told them he loves Muslims! And Hindus! And (hold on to your hats) Gays, Straights, Republicans and Democrats! And many others with whom he has disagreements.
Loving people he disagrees with? Get a rope.
So why does Warren speak to Muslim groups? Here’s why, in his own words:
As an evangelist, I spend much of my time speaking to non-Christian groups. You cannot win your enemies to Christ; only your friends, so we must build bridges of friendship and love to those who believe differently so Jesus can walk across that bridge into their hearts. (ChristianPost.com)
You may disagree with his methods. Even his theology. That’s a valid debate. But I choose to believe what he says about his own motives. Not because I’m naive, but because his 40 year record of leading people to Jesus backs up his statements. And because I want people to do the same thing for me.
Ed Stetzer put it well in his post about the Orange County Register misstatements when he said, “when we read well-known Christian leaders quoted as saying something in a local paper that seems out of character or contrary to their views over many decades, perhaps we might give that person the benefit of the doubt.”
Internet Christian Soldiers, Marching As to War – Against Each Other
In the Brave New World of the internet, anyone can say anything about anyone and a lot of people will believe it.
The sad thing is that Christians are as quick as non-believers to read, watch, believe and pass along gossip, rumor and innuendo as though it was fact. Often about each other.
If there’s the smallest hint that a well-known minister said something that might possibly be construed as anything other than pure orthodoxy, then never mind a forty year history of preaching the Gospel. Forget about their denial of the rumors. That one rumor trumps all.
And God forbid that they might actually say something that’s incorrect. It used to be that if someone misspoke, they could offer an apology and it would disappear. Not any more. If it’s on video, audio or in print, it will live forever.
Take Perry Noble for example. Last Christmas, he preached a sermon on the 10 Commandments, based on a false assumption about the word “commandment”. The video went viral. Pastors denounced him. On one Facebook discussion page for pastors, the minister who posted the video commented, “I’ll bet this guy is a big Joel Osteen fan,” thus hitting two fellow ministers with one tersely-worded stone.
That’s not healthy debate or even healthy disagreement. It’s mudslinging.
Not to mention Noble’s acknowledgement of and apology for his error hasn’t been passed around nearly as much as the video.
Many think Perry’s apology didn’t go far enough. That’s a fair debate. This post is not intended to be a defense of Perry Noble. Or of Rick Warren. Or of anything stupid, debatable or wrong that I may have said or written.
This is not a call for less disagreement. It’s a plea for greater civility in the way we disagree.
Love Speaks Louder
But I don’t agree with everything I’ve said or written either. Because I’m as capable of making mistakes as anyone else is. I use Rick Warren’s “10% Grace Rule” because I want people to treat me that way, too. And I really do believe Jesus meant that whole “do unto others…” thing. (Oh yeah, that.)
You don’t have to agree with Rick Warren’s approach to Muslims. Or Perry Noble’s interpretation of the 10 Commandments. I have questions about both. Being nice should never trump being truthful.
But believing the worst about someone is not the same as defending the truth – or the faith. Jesus never said “By this will all men know you are my disciples. If you maintain pure theology and talk bad about fellow believers based on rumors and misspoken words.”
Theology matters. A lot. But love speaks louder. At least it should.
See How They Love One Another!
The world will not be attracted to Jesus by watching us fight over what we believe. The greatest attraction of our faith to an unbelieving world is “see how they love one another!”
For those of you who are already warming up your typing fingers to remind me that it’s not loving to let someone continue on in false teaching, I agree. We should always seek truth. And we can and should have strong, vibrant debate in the church. But that can’t happen when we pass along rumor as fact, when we believe the worst about each other instead of the best, and when we won’t accept someone’s apology when they do misspeak.
I will continue to challenge fellow believers – and especially fellow ministers – when something needs to be corrected. In private when possible. In public when necessary. Just like I’m doing in this post.
After all, one of the foundational principles of The Grasshopper Myth and NewSmallChurch.com is to challenge some of our faulty presuppositions about church health and growth.
We don’t always have to agree. But we should always disagree in an agreeable way.
The goal should always be to lift each other up, not tear each other down.
Always seek the truth first. The truth from scripture. The truth about what was said. And the truth about what they meant to say.
By the way, for anyone who hasn’t seen the “gotcha” video that supposedly “proves” Rick Warren is a proponent of Chrislam, here it is.
And for those who want a clear, recent statement from Rick on what he really believes about heaven, hell, Jesus being the only way and more, this video interview with John Piper is just one of hundreds of ways you can hear that in his own words.
You don’t have to like Rick Warren, Perry Noble, Joel Osteen, Mark Driscoll or me. We don’t even have to agree with each other. In fact, it’s a guarantee that we won’t – on some very important issues. But as Christians we have to do three things:
1. Seek the truth
2. Ignore the rumors
3. Speak and act with love
If you want to believe the worst about fellow believers and ministers, you’ll find a willing audience to go along with you.
But count me out.
So what do you think? Are you doing everything you can to speak the truth in love?
We want to hear from you. Yes, you!
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