Fantasy Courage and Real Cowardice

Item:  At the kickoff for the 40 Days for Life in Seattle, a number of pro-abortion thugs occupied the parking lot of the University of Washington Newman Center and screamed some slogans on behalf of baby-killing.  Finally, one of the priests at the Newman Center—as gentle and kindly-spoken a man as you could possibly imagine—went out to the parking lot to inform the screamers that they were on private property and needed to move to the sidewalk.  One of the protesters screamed in his face, “You don’t intimidate me!”  What courage to stand up to a meek priest like that!

Item: Cold Case recently did a hard-hitting drama on the huge problem American society faces with Christian abstinence groups stoning the backslidden.  It always takes guts to face down those legions of killer Christians.

Item:  When asked what he would sanction in the interrogation of prisoners in the proverbial Ticking Time Bomb Scenario, six-time Planned Parenthood donor and serial adulterer Rudy Giuliani replied “Every method they could think of”.  He was interrupted by applause from the Republican-dominated audience.  When candidate Ron Paul dissented from the question and noted that the term “enhanced interrogation” (a term first coined by the Gestapo) was “Orwellian” he was ridiculed by Giuliani and derided broadly by the party faithful--because there is nothing more courageous or realistic than the Jack Bauer approach to life.  Indeed, many GOP “realists” are willing to overlook Giuliani’s long record of commitment to abortion—including partial birth abortion—because of his alleged “courage” in being willing to do whatever it takes in a Ticking Time Bomb situation.

Item: In Chicago, one Muslim parent requests a couple of Ramadan decorations be added to some traditional Christmas decorations in the local school district and the school district responds by panicking.  They issue a draconian decree—which the Muslim parent had not at all requested—that abolished any recognition of Christmas. The guy who made the request is gobsmacked by the jittery district's over-reaction.  Eventually, sane parents (including many Muslims) coax the school district back to acknowledging the existence of Christmas—and Ramadan.

One useful spiritual exercise is to look at the covenant blessings and curses of Leviticus 26 and see what light they shine on our lives today. Admittedly, those blessings and curses pertain to the covenant with Moses, not directly to the New Covenant. But, as Paul says, "These things happened to them as an example, and they have been written down as a warning to us, upon whom the end of the ages has come." (1 Corinthians 10:11).

As I contemplate the stories above, one passage from Leviticus 26 stands out in particular:

But if you do not heed me and do not keep all these commandments... I will make [them] so fainthearted that, if leaves rustle behind them, they will flee headlong, as if from the sword, though no one pursues them; stumbling over one another as if to escape a weapon, while no one is after them--so helpless will you be to take a stand against your foes! (Leviticus 26:14; 36-37)

What strikes me about our culture when I see things like these stories is how much courage we have in the face of highly imaginary threats, and how incredibly timid we are about the things of God.  The Planned Parenthood shill pats herself on the back for facing down the threat of a baby and soft-spoken priest.  Cold Case is boldly gutsy in warning, yet again, of the entirely imaginary menace posed by those Phantom Theocratic Christians. The politician has a sure-fire applause line that wins over people who once claimed to care about the unborn when he bravely confronts a situation which virtually never occurs in real life. 

For the fact is, the priest was no threat to the woman who felt so gutsy screaming at him (though pro-lifers do regularly get harassed and harmed by pro-choice thugs and lawyers).  There are no legions of Abstinence-Promoting Killer Christians out there stoning people to death (though there are plenty of Muslims abroad stoning people to death).  And though every episode of 24 and every excuser of Bush Administration Torture Policies loves to cite it, the reality is that Ticking Time Bombs Scenarios are vanishingly rare staples of television suspense fantasy, not a realistic scenario ripped from the headlines. 

In short, we are teaching ourselves to be enormously courageous in the face of increasingly imaginary menaces even as we are becoming increasingly fearful of our own Christian culture.  So when a leaf rustled in the Muslim community of Chicago, the people entrusted with teaching the next generation panicked and ran when no one was even pursuing them.  If Leviticus 26 is any indication, that’s not a sign of a spiritually healthy culture.

Copyright 2008 - Mark P. Shea