Saturday, October 23, 2010

What Christians Should Learn from the Juan Williams Controversy

It was brought to my attention this recent controversy regarding NPR's firing Juan Williams over his comments about Muslims. (Disclaimer: I don't tend to follow political news because I find it often becomes as much of a waste of time and brain drain as the rest of TV, but justified under the rubric of "being informed".)

Most people are focused on the merits of his firing and the political correctness involved. For Christians, I think a more fundamental issue should be raised about his comments, one that no one seems to object to because it is almost assumed in America, whether by conservatives or liberals.

In the interview, Juan Williams spoke of people on planes who wear "Muslim garb": if they are "identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous." The premise here (as held by many others) is that you should not be obvious about your faith convictions, that you should not "wear your religion on your sleeve". A friend of ours this morning said a Hasidic Jew once expressed bewilderment as to why Christians are so eager to blend in, to not be noticed.

In America, it is very typical for people to, in practice, identify themselves first as Americans, then a Christians. This is seen in what they talk about, the activities they do, the excitement they show, and in ideas like this one: we should not be so "public" with our faith; it is a private thing. Would anyone say patriotism is supposed to be equally private? (This would certainly exclude military service, if not cancel various holidays and silence our political debates with friends and family.)

We should commend people who"identify themselves first and foremost" by their religion. That's the very essence of "religion". It refers to that which is of uttermost importance. This does not mean we agree with all they believe; but we do affirm the fact they get genuine commitment. What and who you identify with shows what you are loyal to, what you live and die for. Anything is pure hypocrisy.

A great danger to the the name of Christ and the world are Christians who identify themselves first and foremost with any country, state, or political party (even if not consciously). In contrast to Juan Williams, each of us should say, "If Christians don't identifying themselves first and foremost as Christians, I get worried. I get nervous."

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