On Sean Hannity’s Fox “News” show the other night, they were talking about ISIS. That’s certainly an important topic – ISIS is destabilizing the Middle East, killing and torturing people indiscriminately, and doing their best to drag the US back into combat in Iraq.
So the Hannity show needed someone to address the ISIS crisis. I can imagine the production meeting:
PRODUCER ONE: “Who can we get that’s an expert in Middle East policy? Someone who understands the political realities, and also has a grasp of Islam and its various sects?”
PRODUCER TWO: “How about a State Department official? Or a scholar?”
PRODUCER ONE: “Maybe . . .”
HANNITY: “How about a guy who makes duck calls?”
BOTH PRODUCERS TOGETHER (obsequiously): “Brilliant!”
So Phil Robertson was invited to hold forth on ISIS. He brought his Bible. (“I never leave home without my Bible and my woman, Hannity.”) He quoted Scripture, pingponging around the New Testament in a display of prooftexting that made my head spin. Not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with that, it’s just not how my particular tradition uses the Bible (because we believe things like context are important).
He presented himself as a minister who was speaking for Christians and maybe even for God.
And then he said, “I’m just saying, either convert them or kill them. One or the other.”
Here’s my question . . . is that really much different than ISIS telling Christians in Iraq, “Convert to Islam or die”?
Some might say the difference is that ISIS has brutally carried out its ultimatum. But while the duck call-guy is not personally threatening anyone, he is advocating on a national “news” show that the most powerful armed forces in the world “convert them or kill them.”
There is no doubt that ISIS is an organization that does brutal, despicable, evil things. I’m not smart enough to know the best way to deal with ISIS. I am thankful that we have people who are qualified to make those decisions.
But “Convert them or kill them” cannot be our mission. Not as a country, and not as Christians.
It’s not the job of the government, or the armed forces, to convert anybody. Maybe “killing them” is the only effective way to deal with ISIS, but the goal is not to convert them, but to stop them. That may mean getting them to surrender or retreat or laying down their arms. Duck-guy’s strategy would be to keep bombing and shooting until they say they love Jesus.
And sure, Christians are commanded by Jesus to spread the good news. But Jesus never even hinted that we should kill people who don’t convert. Christians have done that kind of stuff in the past – in the Crusades, in the Inquisition, and so on – and I thought we all agreed that “convert or kill” was not an acceptable evangelism strategy.
Here’s the bottom line – lots of Christians are critical of Muslims who don’t repudiate Muslim extremists. We need to get our own house in order, and distance ourselves from Christian extremism like “convert them or kill them.” If we don’t, then the extremist voices of hate will continue to shape how Christianity and Christians – and Jesus – are viewed by unChristians.
(You can watch the interview, or read a transcript, at the Fox “News” website here.)