Why Christians can’t ignore the mote in their eye (COMMENTARY)

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Tom Ehrich is a writer, church consultant and Episcopal priest based in New York. He is the president of Morning Walk Media and publisher of Fresh Day online magazine. Photo courtesy of Tom Ehrich

Tom Ehrich is a writer, church consultant and Episcopal priest based in New York. He is the president of Morning Walk Media and publisher of Fresh Day online magazine. Photo courtesy of Tom Ehrich

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(RNS) When we deny any culpability, we merely perpetuate ignorance and hubris in our own ranks and make ourselves seem dishonest and dangerous in the eyes of the world.

  • So, Tommy. You’re saying that it wouldn’t surprise you in the slightest if someone carved out the Christian State somewhere, ordered all adherents of the Islamic religion there to convert, leave or die and started beheading its enemies And don’t forget that a great many so-called Christians continue to support such evils as abortion.

    Point being that if you feel the need to temper your “condemnation” of the Islamic State by pointing out bad stuff Christians did a long time ago, you’re not really condemning the Islamic State at all.

  • Larry

    Untrue. What he is doing is firing a broadsides at the rather silly Christian Fundamentalist arguments being bandied about:
    “ISIS is typical of Islamic savagery” and
    “Christianity is by its nature different and would never do such things”

    By pointing this stuff out, it knocks the smug Christians out of a false sense of superiority. Many of whom seem to be under the quixotic impression that the best way to fight Islamic extremism is with Christian extremism. By pointing out such foibles Mr. Ehrich is declaring that all extremism is bad.

    “if someone carved out the Christian State somewhere, ordered all adherents of the Islamic religion there to convert, leave or die and started beheading its enemies”

    Besides Its been done before (ex Cromwell’s England, Massachusetts Bay Colony, Franco’s Spain, Croatia under the Ustasha, Bosnia in the 1990’s).

    Some people in America look to create such states now. We call them Dominionists. Every time you see some nutball blubbering about the “myth of Separation of Church and State” or “America is a Christian Nation”, it is precisely this kind of theocratic state they are asking for.

    American Christians are already demanding that gays be imprisoned or murdered in various countries abroad. Many gladly support Russia’s entanglement with the Orthodox Church. So ultimately the point is if one wants to see a Christian version of ISIS, they don’t have to go very far. Extremism comes in all flavors.

  • Stephen Lewis

    We don’t have Christianity in America being taught or practiced except for the non-violent communitarian Christians who follow Jesus’ teachings and do not make wars or create social injustice unlike traditional Pauline Christian church goers following Paul instead of Jesus Christ. It was Paul who commanded Christians to obey their government leaders or face God’s condemnation to hell and that’s the reason why Pauline Christian history is filled with un-Christian wars and acts of hideous anti-Christ behavior by supposed “Christians”.

    Until Paul’s theology is tossed aside except for his most excellent words on love, we won’t have real Christianity in our world, We have this god-awful imitation from Rome that Paul foisted on all Christians.

    I teach Celestial Torah Christianity, the world’s oldest religious system with recognizable religious symbolism going back 35,000 years. Rabbis do not know the origin of the word “Torah” and have palmed off their priests of Judah earthly imitation that fouled all Abrahamic religions ever since with tribal politics overruling spiritual truth.

  • Karla

    Stephen Lewis-Jesus came to fulfill the Law not to abolish it and Jesus said
    you are one of Mine only if you continue in My teachings/follow Me so you
    need to read the whole Bible not just part of it. Jesus appeared to Paul so
    that’s why he changed his name from Saul to Paul/converted to Christianity.

  • Doc Anthony

    No, I think Tom has a valid point on this one, although it’s clearly an over-stated point. Christians are not without sin, not without evil. We do need to get off our “high horse” sometimes.

    At the same time, there is no American Christian equivalent of ISIS, there is no American Christian cousin to Boko-Haram. That stuff ain’t us; American Christians do not have a policy of viral Internet severed heads.

    Obama did NOT do a good job of making that fact clear. But Tom’s not going to call Obama on his failure (because both Tom and Obama are liberals), so that task is left to others.

    Side note: Both ISIS and Boko have already defied and defeated Obama for the rest of the year. That’s done. When it comes to foreign powers, Obama’s always going to be a good talker — and very little else. Good thing Vlad Putin ain’t in the mood to annex the White House, or Mr. Obama would OUT ON THE STREETS by dinnertime tonight !!!

  • Larry

    I like how you qualify the statements with “American Christian” as opposed to just “Christian”.

    We all know well enough there were Christian versions of ISIS throughout history. The last one was only 20 years ago. They were called Republika Srpska. They still exist, but now just satisfy themselves with genocide denial tracts.

  • Frank

    Your ignorance is embarrassing.

  • Doc Anthony

    I thought about that same “qualifier” thing, Larry, but honestly, both Obama and Tom primarily directed their respective remarks to American Christians. Trying to deny and defeat “American exceptionalism” like good libbies do.

    Obama mentioned the Crusades and Inquisition, but that’s ancient history, and the fact is that American Christianity has NEVER gone there, throughout the entire duration of this nation.

    That only leaves Obama’s other topic, “Slavery and Jim Crow”, and of course that IS a reasonable reminder. Some Christians did support them, even as other Christians opposed them. But even those horrors doesn’t equate — not even close — to what ISIS and Boko Haram are consistently doing to THEIR victims (and Boko is far worse than the KKK on black girls!!).

    Indeed, Larry, just ask the parents of young American aid worker Kayla Mueller — who was apparently given to an ISIS commander for his personal hobby (or his personal forced-wife, or his personal punching bag, or his personal party favors, or something) and now she’s just plain DEAD from it all.)

    You think they are going to buy into Obama’s trying to put American Christian mess on the same plane with unbelievable ISIS / BOKO mess? I think not. Really doesn’t look that way.

  • I won’t presume to speak for Islam. But we Christians can find nothing in our Scripture or better natures that would justify our brutish behavior.

    Fraudulent use of the first-person plural always disgusting.

  • Greg

    It is not that the Christians have a false sense of superiority, but that they are bound to the Truth, and are challenged to stay pure, and not share in another person’s sins. (1Tim 6:22). And I would say to all the Leftists here on this site who complain about Christians supposedly sitting on their high horses, well I would state that you guys are doing the same from your own peanut gallery, throwing your own grenades. The difference is this: the world we all live in in the product of Christianity; it is a Christian society. And it is so simple to just say how better things would be without God, but your godless world is only beginning, and only when it has stood the test of time for centuries on end, as Western Civilization has, then you can boast about it, but until then, show a little appreciation for the Christian culture.

  • Larry

    “It is not that the Christians have a false sense of superiority, but that they are bound to the Truth”

    So why do they make such bad excuses and lies about their history?

    “The difference is this: the world we all live in in the product of Christianity; it is a Christian society.”

    No we don’t. We live in the product of people getting away from Christianity. Getting away from the tribalism and sectarianism so endemic to Christianity. Embracing reason and respect for all faiths. The longest most fruitful peace the developed world had seen has had nothing to do with your religious beliefs.

    “Christian culture” does not exist. Its just what people like yourself say when you want to take undue credit for things.

  • Larry

    In 2011, Anders Behring Breivik, a self-professed Christian, launched a horrific assault in Oslo, Norway to defend “Christian Europe,” using an arsenal of weapons to kill 77 people — most of whom were teenagers. In November of last year, suspected Christian terrorist Larry McQuilliams mounted a full-scale attack on Austin, Texas, firing off more than 100 shots in the city before embarking on a botched attempt to burn down the Mexican Consulate. And in central Africa, the Lord’s Resistance Army (which, similar to ISIS, seeks to establish a theocratic state based on the Ten Commandments) forcibly recruits child soldiers, terrorizes local villages, and is thought to be responsible for the deaths of 100,000 people in Uganda and the displacement of 1.7 million in the greater region, according to the United Nations.

    Read more: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2015/02/10/fox-news-host-claims-nobody-was-killed-recently-in-the-name-of-any-religion-but-islam-the-facts-say-otherwise/#ixzz3ROR9Vktw

    “Indeed, Larry, just ask the parents of young American aid worker Kayla Mueller”

    So what are you doing about them? Are you supporting efforts to wipe them off the map or just trying to undermine efforts to do so. As I see it, Conservative Christians would rather make excuses and feign indignation than bother to do much about this sort of thing.

  • Greg


    Why don’t you pick up a history book on Western Civilization, and read it; I read the two-part series text in college, and even in that secular presentation, the Church was saturated through and through it. You cannot understand Western Civilization, without the Church. You can deny it all day long, but that doesn’t change it.

    And nobody is making bad excuses for their history. Of course there were many stumbles that mar the body of Christ, but by forgiving and being forgiven is how we get past those times. Love must be the driving force. I think the big difference between Islam and Christianity, is that there is no Love in Islam, and no forgiveness in Islam. Christianity is the exact opposite, Hope, Faith, Love, and Forgiveness are the staples of Life in Jesus. If you claim to be Christian, and have no Love, then you are not a Christian (1Cor 13:1). Love, however, does not stand idly by, and watch people destroy themselves.

    I really think you should take a trip to Medjugorje, to get a first hand taste of that Love, direct from the God that Loves You.

  • I teach Celestial Torah Christianity, the world’s oldest religious system with recognizable religious symbolism going back 35,000 years.

    And you’re Marie of Roumania to boot.

  • Pingback: A wolf speaks…and surprise, he attacks the church | Laodicean Report()

  • Susan

    Well, you’ve ignored the biggest mote in the eye of Christians, the murder, persecution and hatred of Jews and Judaism. Have you ever read Martin Luther’s On the Jews and Their Lies? Do you know what St. Augustine thought about Jews? I could go on and it continued into modern times, especially in Russia and all of Eastern Europe. It was the Catholic Church that first put Jews in Ghettos and forced them to be marked visibly as Jews.

    You did mention the Crusades and the Inquisition, but you didn’t mention that Jews were victims of both. The Inquisition was founded mostly to discover Jews who were forcibly converted to Christianity and then practiced Judaism in secret. The Crusaders murdered Jews and vandalized Jewish areas all through Europe, especially in Germany along the Rhine

  • Jack

    The writer is flatly wrong when he says that the Catholic Church didn’t stop supporting authoritarian dictators until Pope Francis came around.

    In reality, the change began in the years after Vatican II.

    And Latin America is an apt example. By the 1980s, while people in the writer’s church were patting Fidel on the head and supporting communist guerrilla movements against authoritarian regimes, Pope John Paul II and the church were supporting a third way which was neither communist nor fascist, but pro-democratic.

  • Jack

    The writer claims to be repenting for Christendom’s past sins by saying “we,” but it’s intellectually disingenuous since the “we” invariably is code for the “they” who happen to be on the opposite side of the writer on every issue.

    It’s not really repentance, but a form of pride which says, “look at me, I’m better than those bad old Christians of the past or those bad new Christians of the present who dare to disagree with me on anything.”

    IN other words, there is little evidence that he has actually repented for any attitudes, beliefs, or actions of his own….

  • Jack

    All true, Susan, but how about explaining why, when Christian posters confirm everything you say, and even add more details about Christendom’s horribly anti-Semitic history, even to the point of locating the specific sources of Christian anti-Semitism and calling them out, you never comment on them? It’s as if that somehow ruins the narrative on Christian anti-Semitism. But actually it doesn’t. Christian condemnation of anti-Semitism within Christendom is quite valuable indeed. It actually confirms and underscores its reality, ie that Jews are correct about its existence and virulence.

  • Larry

    the Church”, you mean several Christian sects vying for control and influence, causing a great deal of conflict throughout Western civilization. There is nothing specific to Christianity which is the center of Western culture. If anything the conflict between sects, the discord and violence it inspired, was a prime mover.

    Our civilized western society exists as it does now by ignoring centuries of teaching by churches and the conflict it produced. Violence between Christian sects didn’t end in Western civilization until the tail end of the 20th century.

  • Larry

    We are not amused. 🙂

  • Larry

    The Catholic Church certainly had no problem standing behind right wing dictators for most of its history until the end of the Cold War.

    Romero’s opposition to El Salvadoran government excesses were an outlier. For the most part they either supported such regimes or looked the other way. They helped create the longest standing Fascist regime, Franco’s Spain. They also supported one of the most violent of all Nazi Collaborationist regimes, Croatia’s Ustasha (a group whose excesses made even their SS advisors wince).

  • Larry

    You are the only Christian here who ever bothers to make such apologies.

    Most condemnation coming from Christians on the subject is backhanded in nature. They oppose such things but still are tone deaf enough to expect Jews to eventually convert to Christianity. Worse still, they continue talk of all those who do not accept Jesus as being consigned to hellfire, not realizing or not caring how offensive such statements are.

  • Frank

    The truth can be offensive. Jesus is the only way to God. No changing that. If you are offended by that you have made yourself an enemy of God

  • Jack

    Larry, I’m far from the only one. Everywhere I go, I see it happening, and that’s good.

    Susan is right-on, but the flip side of condemning anti-Semitism is standing tall with genuine philo-Semitism so the fight against anti-Semitism can gain real ground in as many places as possible. Both are essential to the fight against this bigotry.

  • Jack

    I’m focused on post-Vatican II, Larry. Pre-Vatican II Catholicism supported Franco Spain and other authoritarian and Fascist movements.

    Vatican II was the dividing line, not, as the author alleges, Pope Francis. As I said, long before Pope Francis, the Catholic Church had moved away from supporting far right regimes and toward supporting democracy.

    A good example is El Salvador, where the Vatican supported Duarte, the liberal democratic land reformer over both the fascist death squads and the communist guerrillas. In contrast, plenty of people high up in the author’s church supported the communist guerrillas.

    An entire generation of radical church leaders in America supported the communist guerrilla movements and their front organizations in the US, cutting the legs out from under the supporters of liberal democracy…which ironically helped the right-wing death squads.

  • Doc Anthony

    Well, if you want to merely list Christian crooks Larry, I can similarly round up some atheist and gay crooks who got that mass-shooter virus inside them as well. Such as Columbine and Virginia Tech (atheist shooters), and the FRC headquarters in Washington (gay shooter).

    In fact, the very latest shooting (Chapel Hill, NC) that’s in the news today, was an “anti-theist” who decided to shoot three Muslims in cold blood. Not a Christian, but an Atheist.

    Aside from that issue, I support America evolving a backbone for justice, and taking down both ISIS and BOKO by Valentine’s Day. But you know that soft-hearted libbie Obama (and probably Tom Ehrich too) don’t want no wars with nobody, no matter what. Just Peacenik City all the way. And most voters agree. Isolationism at its worst.

    Do you support that isolationism too, Larry? What’s YOUR response to ISIS and Boko? Send ’em flowers and beg for peace?

  • Jack

    The Gospel is meant to be heard by everyone, but I will leave it to God to sort out all the complexities regarding the responses of each individual human heart.

    While Jesus is the only way, what that ultimately means is that it’s His call, not mine or anyone else’s, as to the destiny of each person. If He says you’re in, you’re in. He knows not just what you believe or don’t believe, but why…He knows the obstacles, emotional or otherwise, that a given individual faces. He knows the difference between a real rejection coming from the very heart of a person versus one that is on the surface and is driven by environmental and other more shallow influences.

    We just know the outside of a person and the words they verbalize, but He knows the inside, what’s really happening. And that’s why He implied there would be lots of surprises in Heaven…in terms of who ends up there and who doesn’t.

    The Christian’s job is not to target any one but to proclaim the Gospel to humanity and let the chips fall where they may.

  • Please, everyone, STOP promoting Jewish Orwellian Double-Speak by using their anti-Semitic hate speech of “anti-Semitism” which is used as a weapon by non-Semitic European Jewish convert descendant peoples, my fellow Zionist Ashkenazim, to politically attack those who rightly criticize Zionist Judaism as being an immoral racist imperialist ideology that has no place in our world. European Zionists coined “anti-Semitism” as a ruse for creating the very false idea European Jewish convert descendants were really “Semites” descended from Palestinian Jews in order to make a claim for owning Palestine with Abraham’s “deed”. And all of it pure fabrication of ancient Judah priests but real people have died for these Jewish myths of origin and its got to stop now. No more Jewish lies about Judaism not being a racist religion that teaches Jews to hate 98% of the human race, Christians especially. I mean, haven’t most of you Christians wondered why Jews don’t like Jesus Christ who most every recognized moral leader has cited one way or another as a moral model? The Talmud teaches Jews to hate Jesus Christ and Christians, that’s why. And today, Zionist Jews use Evangelical Christians to keep America’s weapons and money flowing to Israel–for Jewish racist settlement building on Palestinian lands. And we wonder why Muslims hate America with Americans, especially Evangelical and Jewish Zionists provoking religious war with all Muslims by invading and oppressing Palestine and Palestinians.

    Judaism deserves to be put on the museum status of ancient bad religions and God is doing this job through historical discovery debunking every Jewish myth of origin that Judaism rests on. When no rabbis can give Jews or anyone the real historical origin of their word “Torah” it’s time to toss that religion out and all its jimcrackery googahs and synagogues riches and wealth obtained by snake oil Wizard of Oz mumbo-jumbo salesmen.

    I teach Celestial Torah Christianity which no human hands can touch to pollute with man-made agendas using God for cover. It’s even Biblical as Genesis 1:14 tells believers in God to seek God’s celestial Sign Language written in the stars and motions of heavenly bodies through the course of time and space.

  • Susan

    Frank said “Jesus is the only way to God. No changing that. If you are offended by that you have made yourself an enemy of God,”

    This is the attitude that led to the Crusades and here it is in 2015. Well, I don’t think that Jesus is the only way to God. The idea that there is only one way to God offends me. It is offensive to Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and members of every other religion in the world. It is the attitude that led the Christian church to persecute and murder Jews for centuries.

  • Eric

    “At the same time, there is no American Christian equivalent of ISIS, there is no American Christian cousin to Boko-Haram. That stuff ain’t us; American Christians do not have a policy of viral Internet severed heads.”

    Historically there is. The KKK and like groups, as well as the more general white Southern protestantism that engaged in the lynching of blacks. The “that stuff ain’t us” crap is exactly what this article, and the President were on about. If you think you and your religious is immune from the horrors you rightly denounce in others, your righteous condemnation may all too easily slip into self-serving delusions of grandeur and a sense of divine mission to rid the world of the “evil” others. So, better check that log in your eye, Tony.

  • Jack

    The view that Jesus is the only way to God can be horrifying narrow or expansive and inclusive, depending on what is meant by those words.

    If they mean that the only people in Heaven are those who consciously accepted Jesus in their lifetime, that that is extremely narrow. Also, they’re unbiblical. According to Jesus’ very words, Abraham is in Heaven, and he implied the same with Isaac and Jacob. And taken together, the rest of the New Testament books basically affirm that all righteous people from the past are in Heaven, starting with the Old Testament saints.

    But if we instead view Jesus as the gate and gate keeper, where he has the final say but he judges the depths of one’s heart and mind, then that isn’t narrow at all.

    As for other religions, it is logically impossible for every religion in history to be 100% true or faithful to reality in every respect. Why? Because in the assertions they make, they often contradict each other. If one religion says “always A” and another religion says “never A,” they can’t both be correct regarding the matter of A.

    But in the end, when all is said and done, God judges the heart. Salvation is not getting the right answer on a multiple choice test. It’s far deeper. It is saying yes or no to the totality of the revelation about Himself that God gave you during your life. We Christians believe that Jesus is the ultimate Revelation of God….and that whenever anyone learns anything good and true about God, it has been revealed to that person through Jesus, whether they realize it or not. And what they do with that revelation, whether they say yes or no to it, will determine their destiny.

    Thus, if I am a medieval Caliph in Baghdad, living a millennia ago, and my conception of God is one of iron-fisted justice and nothing else, and one day I wake up with the thought that God is merciful and that I should forgive nobles who rebelled against me, that revelation came through Jesus, even if I don’t realize it. I either say yes or I say no to that revelation. If I say yes, the proof is my forgiveness of the rebellious nobles. If I don’t forgive them, that’s proof I rejected that revelation.

    And if I say yes to it, then God will give me more revelation…..and maybe he will even send a missionary who identifies for me the Revelator – -the one who’s revealing to me accurate things about God — Jesus.

    That is how many Christians view salvation…..and I agree.

    It fits with the view that Jesus is the only way….but it focuses on the heart response to God, not just being lucky enough to be born in the right place at the right time to hear the Gospel directly, and to be free enough from all sorts of prejudices of society and upbringing to be able to say yes to it.

    It is both exclusive and inclusive….and lots of Christians, including CS Lewis, have held to it in one form or another.

  • Billysees


    “Extremism comes in all flavors.”

    How true.

    Extremism bears the closest kind of watching.

  • Billysees

    Stephen Lewis,

    “Until Paul’s theology is tossed aside except for his most excellent words on love, we won’t have real Christianity in our world…”

    Well said.

    And I would add this —

    1. …our knowledge is partial and incomplete…
    2. …we see things imperfectly…
    3. All that I know now is partial and incomplete…
    (1 Corinthians 13:9,12)

    Those three points by Paul are exactly the reason it is necessary to judge and evaluate a matter based on all reasonable, ‘current’ attitudes, experiences and knowledge.

    Doing that, with the help of the ‘spirit’, will enable us to realize a more real Christianity in the world.

  • Susan

    I think that what matters is that your religion works for you and makes you a better more compassionate serene person. I think that whether it is literally true is less important, because as human beings we will never know at least in this life.

  • Jack

    I guess the answer is that there are two questions — what objectively is or isn’t true, and what are the consequences for getting that right or not.

    The solution is to try to search for what is true, and forget for the moment the second question of what happens if we choose wrongly.

    We should be seekers, because we should want to know answers.

    It’s just part of who we are as humans. We are normally inquisitive, investigative beings….and that’s partly how we’ve progressed so far in science and technology. Ideally, we should be the same when it comes to religion and to ultimate questions.

    And as to the second question, we should believe in the ultimate goodness of reality, that if we honestly seek answers to religious questions with our whole heart, we will find the right ones, whatever they may be, because the One behind reality cares about us.

  • Joe M

    I am tired of the idiots in this world referring to people as Christians. There was only ONE Christian. Jesus Christ. Following Him were His disciples. Not Christians. But disciples. Anyone else who followed Him would be called a disciples as well. There is a stigma on the term “Christian”. That name has been wiped across the dirty ass of society many different ways throughout the years. Its been at the center of media attention too many ugly times. So much so, that anyone who adopts the name will clearly be seen in many different ways depending on who’s looking at them.

    But if a person is simply called a “disciple of Christ” there is no way to look at them without first knowing who Christ was and what He did. And there is no way to be looked down upon after that. Christ is my number One. But I wouldnt want to be called a Christian. That’s a man made label. A dirty one.

  • Joe M

    The fact is. Jesus IS indeed the only way. But do not be misled to misinterpretation as we see in 99% of all churches. It does not mean become a member of a church. Or to follow certain rituals. Jesus did not command people to be labeled as Christians. And He did not tell people to worship Him like a superstar to be saved. His way to salvation was through the purification of the heart. Not through good deeds or any other worldly invention. But through separating our hearts from our sinful nature. Thus creating more focus on our spiritual state over our physical. Now you see the obsession today with physical appearance. Direct evidence is the LACK OF spiritual connection in people. They are condemning themselves. Not following the ways of Christ. They focus on their desires over being morally justified.

    We are more likely to be lost by going to church. Because institutionalizing religion is whats wrong. We should be growing at home where we don’t get charged a fee for membership.