Name Calling in the Name of Jesus

March 14, 2008

Jim Evans has an excellent column today at Ethics Daily entitled "Name Calling in the Name of Jesus." It deals with the recent remarks by Richard Land of the SBC's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission calling Senator Chuck Schumer the "the schm*** from New York" (which was first noted on this blog). Here are some highlights from the column by Evans:

In the face of mounting criticism, Land finally released a statement in which he seemingly apologized for the remark. You can judge for yourself the depths of Land's contrition. "In reviewing these criticisms I have learned some consider the word crude, if not obscene," he wrote. "I apologize for my ignorance of that fact."

But then, not wanting to dwell too long on the edge of penitence Land continued, "I am deeply offended that anyone would interpret my remarks as anti-Semitic."

Apparently a Jewish slur against a Jewish Senator is now what passes for Christian love.

Whether anti-Semitic or not, the comment and subsequent response reeks of arrogance. This is what happens when faith becomes immersed in partisan politics. When faith gets involved, its not just party loyalty anymore--it's sanctified party loyalty. It's not just competing political ideas open for debate, it's God's word versus the forces of darkness.

The dangers here are obvious. Once a group convinces itself, as Land and other Christian conservatives have done, that they alone speak for God, then whoever opposes them is fair game. Opponents are no longer mere political adversaries. The opposition party becomes the enemy of God. And apparently once you become the enemy of God the children of light are free to use offensive gutter language to talk about you.

Mr. Land should apologize not only for his ignorance, but also for his arrogance. And even better than an apology would be some genuine repentance. I don't know what Mr. Land has been reading lately, but he might want to revisit the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus put name calling on the same level as murder.

Should Richard Land step down from his post as president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission? Southern Baptists need to think about that. After all, what does it say about a denomination that allows its leaders to call people names in the name of Jesus?
Amen! Evans beautifully captured the problem with Land's remarks and response. Even if he did not mean the insult as a racial slur, it is not civil, ethical, or appropriate to mock the Senator's name and call him a jerk. Such name-calling should have no place in Christian communication.