Maybe Senator McCain was taken out of context this week. On a morning talk show, he was shown a video clip which captured a Syrian jet crashing in flames while onlookers chanted “Allahu Akhbar! Allahu Akhbar!” When the host expressed concern that some religious people would take pleasure in such violence and carnage, Senator McCain came back with a completely unexpected response. “Would you have a problem with an American Christians saying ‘Thank God? Thank God?’” McCain inquired with a look of condescension, “That’s what they’re saying.”
Answer: “Yes, Senator, I would have a serious, serious problem with Christian bystanders shouting ‘Thank, God! Thank, God!” while watching their enemies die violently. That would be neither Christian, compassionate, nor even civilized.” In the church, we are commanded to love our enemies. We are taught that God is glorified by the way we love.
In his inaugural sermon, Jesus set forth an ethic that he would teach all the way to his execution on a cross. “I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.'” (Matthew 5:44) Later, Paul would elaborate that we should not hate those who oppose us: “To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” (Romans 12:20)
I’ve seen Christians donate time and money to assist strangers devastated by all kinds of catastrophes and calamities- even devastation by earthquakes and tsunamis in Muslim nations. I’ve watched conservative Christians praying quietly outside abortion clinics. I’ve observed liberal Christians expose themselves as human shields to prevent the aerial bombing of one military target or another. I’ve even seen video footage of American soldiers who express their faith by comforting terrified children behind enemy lines. Yes, I’ve seen followers of Christ go to great lengths in all kinds of calamities in order to demonstrate the love of Christ. That’s because disciples of Jesus Christ are about saving lives and… yes, saving souls!
But I have never seen crowds of Christians applaud any horrendous act of bloodshed and violence by invoking the name of Christ or suggesting that God delights in the death and destruction of our enemies. Should I ever see such an atrocity, I would quickly and unashamedly denounce it in the name of our Lord. Many others in churches around the world would join me.
Thank you, Senator McCain, for giving us in the church an opening to clarify what the love of God actually looks like. May God bless you, for I am sure you were attempting to make a different point.
Lift up the Cross!