When Jesus healed the man with the withered hand in the synagogue on the Sabbath the religious leaders were livid (“filled with senseless rage” – Luke 6:11 NASB).
About half of the English translations of this passage render it as “madness.” Jesus does a radical miracle in front of them and instead of celebrating the man’s healing, because it was done on the wrong day of the week they were filled with a mad rage! The Greek term here literally means a lack of thought or in the vernacular, to be out of one’s mind.
Their fury led them to caucus to determine what to do about it. Some versions say they “communed with one another,” that is, in their crazed anger they found common ground, a sort of fellowship with each other. Church folk have fellowship talking about their love for Jesus over cookies and coffee, theirs consisted of making a plan to get rid of him. And they weren’t talking lawsuits or censorship. They plotted his assassination.
The only other time this term is used in the New Testament is when Paul described a decidedly inglorious version of Christianity in the “last times” (2 Timothy 3:1-9). He issued a long list of traits of so-called Christians whose ideas and behaviors are off track and self-destructive.
They love themselves instead of God, they love money, they don’t love what’s good, and in terms of interpersonal relationships they are loveless. They’re boastful, proud, and abusive. They slander people and have no self-control. They’re treacherous, rash, and conceited. Their minds are depraved. Like earthworms they wriggle “their way into homes and gain control over the gullible.”
Furthermore, “they will maintain a facade of ‘religion,’ but their conduct will deny its validity.” (Phillips) Their lifestyles reek of such madness that Paul warns his protégé to steer clear of them altogether!
He likens them to the magicians who momentarily plagiarized Moses’ plagues on Egypt. If there’s a positive note, he says “they will not get very far, for their meaningless nonsense and ignorance (i.e. madness) will become obvious to everyone.” (Amplified Version)
Unfortunately, we don’t have to ponder long to identify contemporary examples of this senseless rage in our country. But the one I’m most concerned about these days is the madness of Christians (so-called) who call for a violent uprising against fellow Americans whose politics are different than theirs. We saw it up close and personal on January 6th when a bellowing, weapon-wielding, sign-carrying mob broke into the capitol, many identifying themselves with religious messages. It was the “Jesus Saves” signs set alongside a gallows erected on the capitol steps calling for the assassination of Vice-President Pence that I found most disturbing!
By now everyone has seen dozens of videos capturing their mindless rage when they stormed the building with Congress in session in order to turn over the election. I can’t get over how many of them did so in the name of Christ! When they broke into the Senate Chamber many removed their hats, bowed their heads, and called on the name of Jesus as though he led them there and sanctioned their crimes.
After injuring 150 police officers and leaving 5 people dead, Jake Angeli, QAnon shaman shouted to his fellow insurrectionists, that had fought their way into the room: “Look at you guys, you guys are f-ing Patriots!” Then leading in prayer from the dais he thanked God for “filling this chamber with Patriots who love you and love Christ.”
This is neither patriotism nor Christianity. It’s madness! Senseless, mindless, madness!
Someone might say, “What’s the point now? It’s over. Those kooks did their craziness, many of them are in jail, but it’s history. What’s the point of bringing it up again?” I wish it were just history, but perhaps you didn’t know that there are still thousands, if not millions of so-called believers in Jesus who hang on to every word that QAnon-inspired “prophets” are preaching about the need for another civil war in America.
Rick Joyner, for example, says:
“It will be a civil war, and it’s going to be increasingly worse with the increasing time it takes for Americans to stand up and push back against this evil that has taken over our land. … You know, there’s a time for peace and a time for war, it says in Ecclesiastes. Well, we’re not headed towards peace right now … and we need to prepare for it. We need to put out the word that people need to be prepared… Militias will pop up like mushrooms and it was God. These are good militias… The Lord has seeded our country with veterans from our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and should be joined by armed Christians!”
He went on to say that a new civil war is necessary from heaven’s perspective because the Revolutionary War and the Civil War did not fully accomplish their goals.
So what? I’m a Christian and I’m not joining a paramilitary militia, so what’s the point of worrying about a few kooks and outliers? First, it’s not a few kooks and outliers. Groups like The Three Percenters, Oath Keepers, Boogaloo Boys, Proud Boys, Patriot Prayer and many others (some estimate more than 200 militia groups) are alive and well in your state, especially if you live in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Idaho, and Oregon. Beside the capitol insurrection, everyone remembers the recent militia’s attempt to kidnap Michigan’s governor in response to coronavirus lockdown.
Second, though your personal slant on religion and politics may not be as outlandish as some of these groups, many Christians buy and sell their rhetoric.
It’s not one size fits all. Each group has its own distinct identity and ideology, and most of them don’t identify monolithically as “Christian,” yet have many Christians involved in their orbit.
“It’s hard for us to believe in a Jesus who would rather die than kill his enemies,” says Brian Zahnd. “It’s harder yet to believe in a Jesus who calls us to take up our own cross, follow him, and be willing to die rather than kill our enemies.”
Jesus said “Take up your cross,” not “Take out your sword”! The cross isn’t a weapon we wield against our enemies. (Someone should have told this to Constantine!) It’s the perpetual reminder to love them. Between cross-carrying and sword-wielding Christianity there is no contest.
Zahnd also said, “The road of ‘God is on our side, and he shall surely smite our enemies’ is a wide road. A lot of parades have gone down that road. It doesn’t take much courage to travel that road; just fall in step and follow the crowd.”
Some reading this will object to my recurring stern criticism of Christians or those who claim to be. Why not just overlook these infractions in the Church and build up the reputation of the Body of Christ instead of rebuking our family of believers in front of the world?
First of all, I critique the actions of these false prophets as a warning to reasonable Christians to steer clear of them. It’s not like Rick Joyner or other well known spiritual propagandists read what I write. The Bible is replete with warnings against errant teachings and false prophets (Deuteronomy 18:20; Ezekiel 13:9; Jeremiah 14:14; 23:16; Luke 6:26; Matthew 24:24; 2 Timothy 4:3-4; Acts 20:28-30; 2 Peter 3:14-18; Matthew 7:15-20, etc.).
Secondly, though my tiny audience is primarily made up of professing believers, there are a few pre-christians listening, and the madness they observe in the Church acts as a repellant to faith. They’re not blind. They see the senseless rage and cry, “Madness!” I consider it my duty to inform them that not all of us are proponents of the craziness and that there’s a version of Christianity that actually practices love of neighbors as well as enemies (at least we do our best to).