The Apostle Paul on Public Discourse

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May 23, 2012 by Old Soul

Disclaimer: This post is not a Christian bashing expedition. It is a plea to Christians for a practice of Constitutional rights that is biblical in scope. This includes civility in behavior, cogency in reasoning, and grace in presentation.

This post was prompted by a video on YouTube titled “Christian Mob Surrounds Muslim Man Outside the White House“. The title notwithstanding, not all the behavior shown was objectionable. It is fourteen minutes but it worth watching as an example of how Christians should not behave; especially those who have a biblical understanding of citizenship under our Constitution. Take special note of what the young woman says near the end of the video regarding the Muslim man’s prayer.

A few questions:
1. Is it biblical to elevate your citizenship for the purpose of equating your nationality with your faith?

2. Is it biblical to defame someone who is living peaceably among his neighbors?

3. Is it biblical to harass non-Christians under the guise of free speech?

Answers: 2nd Timothy 2:24-26 and Acts 17:16-34.

These questions are worth asking given the assertions by the participants. We should also note the presence of Randall Terry and Pastor Terry Jones. Both are well known among Christians and in the media.

The Apostle Paul understood his rights as a Roman citizen, but he did not flaunt them or use them to harass non-Christians. He did not use his faith in order to assert a right, he did it in order to engage others. He actually did what most informed and conscientious citizens should do; he used the agora (marketplace) as a forum to engage people in through their culture and religion without diminishing or demonizing them. He believed that the agora could be a place for espousing competing ideas and took advantage of the opportunity.  Yet he managed to do so in a manner that actually piqued the interest of some of his hearers.  Offense should never be intentional. Therefore the constitutional right of free speech and freedom of assembly must be tempered by grace according to these Pauline precepts.

Why was such an approach effective? It was effective because God himself appeals to man’s conscience through propositional truth. Baiting and the pricking of emotions do not encourage reasoned response and constructive conversation. The video reveals that the Muslim’s conduct was more in keeping with the biblical imprimatur. He prayed for the Christians and appealed to reason. He did not attempt to conjure a sense of rightness (righteousness) in order to overwhelm or unduly influence those who opposed him.

Additionally, the Christians threw their crosses on the ground! Is their any defensible reason for this? This Muslim gentleman was right. Christians should respect the symbols of their own faith. I would add, not as objects of worship, but for what they represent.  Based on recent history, it is not beyond reason to think that some of these same Christians would rail against non-believers for disrespecting this symbol. Have we not learned a lesson from Andres Serrano about disrespecting or desecrating Christian symbols?

I am aware that the video was edited. I am also aware that its title is suggestive. Yet and still, the facts are evident. This particular situation was not hostile or denigrating towards Christians. As individuals we are accountable to the biblical standards of public discourse and engagement. We should not equate our faith with our nationality; we should enhance our understanding and practice of citizenship by the proper understanding and practice of our faith.

Humbly Submitted

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