Lincoln is Risen! (Christianity as Insanity)

Lincoln is Risen! (Christianity as Insanity)

Joy Behar, one of the hosts of ABC’s daytime TV talk show “The View,” made quite a stir with a recent statement about the faith of Vice President Mike Pence: “It’s one thing to talk to Jesus. It’s another thing when Jesus talks to you,” Behar said. “That’s called mental illness, if I’m not correct. Hearing voices.”

Behar subsequently called Pence with an apology that Pence described as very sincere. He then urged her to make a more public apology to “tens and millions of Americans, who were equally offended by what was said.” She made that apology on a subsequent airing of “The View.” This after tens of thousands of complaints to ABC by viewers, and numerous prominent Christian organizations weighing in with alarm and outrage.

My original working title for this post was the intentionally provocative “I Stand with Joy Behar,” but a quick sampling of friends indicated low levels of name-recognition, so the title got scrapped – but the sentiment remains: One should not be pressured into apologizing for making a rational observation about communicating with dead people. I actually think Behar would have been more consistent to say that, not only hearing from Jesus, but talking to him in the first place, is mental illness. For anyone who does not embrace the reality of the resurrection of the man known as Jesus of Nazareth, and his eternal position as Savior and Lord, it is perfectly reasonable to make such a statement. You might even say it is most unreasonable for the observer not to call attention to a clear case of mental illness in someone holding high public office who believes this stuff!

The problem, I think, may be that we Christians do not often consider how very odd and irrational our faith should seem. It is not an ethical framework or philosophy. It is not even a religion, really, if religion is viewed simply as belief in God. It is wholly unique, and is firmly based on the conviction that a man, who claimed to be the Son of God, was executed, placed in a tomb, and spontaneously came back to life a few days later – and that he is, in fact, fully alive today, two thousand years later. And further, that his followers have an actual ongoing relationship with him, that he hears their prayers and accepts their worship.

Sounds simple enough, right? A straightforward profession of ordinary Christian faith. Now let’s consider what we would think of this if the man were not Jesus of Nazareth. Let’s consider if it were some other notable historical figure, greatly admired and unequivocally dead, say, Abraham Lincoln.

Imagine a world where a group of people starts proclaiming that Abe is alive. Imagine these Lincolnists writing book upon book analyzing his speeches and writings, collecting long shelves of them, gathering in large numbers at least once a week, sometimes more, to talk about him, talk to him, sing praises to him, often using songs played on hundreds of radio stations devoted exclusively to him (Lincoln radio!), building countless huge structures to accommodate their gatherings. Even dying for him in nations where they are outlawed and persecuted, unwilling to deny him at any cost.

I’m thinking we might conclude that people who embrace such beliefs are completely out of their minds, possibly dangerous. So why should Christians get a pass? The Christian faith is either true or it is not. And if it is not true, we are as insane as the Lincolnists. It should not surprise, offend or alarm us at all if people make statements like Joy Behar’s. On the contrary, it should seem very surprising that any rational non-believer should treat us as though we, too, were rational.

If, however, we do begin to feel offended, I suggest that, rather than protesting or demanding apologies, we should consider what Jesus said to his followers about how to respond: “You are blessed when people hate you, when they exclude you, insult you, and slander your name as evil because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy!”

In light of these instructions, it is hard to justify our outrage. It only makes us seem petty and thin-skinned. Why not take advantage of such opportunities? To respond with kindness, telling the Joy Behars of the world that we fully understand their point of view, that we would likely say the same thing in their position. When faced with the knowledge that we agree, that we would have to be loony-tunes to believe this were it not true, the person may then consider how safe, loving and selfless these Christians are – clearly not deranged. And if they are not deranged… what to do about Jesus?

Let the lines be clearly drawn. We do not expect or require coddling, acceptance and respect for our radical faith in a resurrected carpenter. Let us respond that Christ is risen indeed! That, if he is not, our faith most definitely is crazy talk!

8 thoughts on “Lincoln is Risen! (Christianity as Insanity)

  1. Craig Rolf

    Write more! I am now up way later than I ought to be, but I’ve stumbled on wisdom! Wish I could have shared this in time it took place, but I fear it will ring relevant in many more instances to come.

    1. Keith Brown Post author

      I am pleased to receive your encouragement, and will do what I can to be more disciplined and regular in adding to my blog. Not that I am making that a New Year’s resolution or anything…

      Thanks!

  2. Scott Rice

    Keith – your points are well taken. If I’m reading you right, you’re saying that instead of regarding her as a foe, we should stop being thin-skinned, pray for her, bless her, and treat her not as an enemy but as part of the mission field. Amen.

    And I would add that there is also, I believe -as a kindness to her – a place for a prophetic word for her to pause and think before she she heaps scorn on the King of Kings and His people.

    I believe she is of Jewish origin, so to her and her people in times past were committed the oracles of God, including Psalm 2 “Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? …saying ‘Let us break their bands asunder….Serve the Lord with fear…Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish from the way…

    Again, it would be a kindness to remind her of her jeopardy and risk, of being a foe of this King, and then hopefully be able to share with her the remedy that God has provided. We never know how the Spirit might move in her life when she hears of the goodness and severity of God.

    1. Keith Brown Post author

      Thanks, Scott, for taking the time to add your thoughts. You are correct that I would wish to counsel appropriate, radical, loving response to Ms. Behar, but she is, in this context, serving more as a foil, occasioned by the Christian uproar surrounding her remarks.

      I did not want to go too far into Joy Behar as a person, as it becomes a little complicated. (If I thought there was a chance she would read this, I would have taken more care!) She is often assumed to be Jewish; she is, in fact, of Italian heritage and considers herself a Christian. I’m not sure it was her direct intent to heap scorn on anyone but Mike Pence. Indeed, it seems she allows that talking TO Jesus is just fine. I think she mostly was taking the opportunity to jab Pence, borrowing from the old joke: “When you talk to God, it’s prayer. When God talks to you, it’s schizophrenia.”

      My intent was to address the numbing of our own awareness of the outrageous nature (to a non-Christian) of what we claim to believe, as well as our failure to obey the direct command of the one we call Lord, with regard to our response to insult.

      I would not disagree that there are times for prophetic engagement, particularly with religious leaders. I may be wrong, but it seems that, in most cases of personal insult or dismissal, Jesus teaches us to do the unexpected (to bless those who curse us) rather than the expected (to warn, defend or take offense), to return good for evil, thereby heaping hot coals on their heads — and causing those heads to tilt a little in surprised curiosity.

  3. Dan

    Agreed Keith. Christianity, and it’s foundational truths, requires acceptance of what would typically be considered scientifically unverifiable events. Current scientific method allows an easy out when one is confronted with a written, historical account of Jesus. It is easier to believe that an innocent man may have died by crucifixion, but much harder to step across the line into believing the eyewitness accounts of his coming alive again and living among his friends for a short time before being swept up into heaven. Where is the science behind that? Not to mention the countless other hard to believe acts that Jesus performed in healing, raising others from the dead, and seeing into the hearts of men. It just plainly makes no sense at all and is easily dismissed unless one makes the choice to have faith in Jesus as the Son of God. (1 Cor 1:18)

    As far as Ms. Behar goes though, my response did want to veer toward separation from her and protest of her platform. However, I can appreciate your call to be joyful in persecution and I may add that it has reminded me to pray for those who persecute us. And in that same teaching in Mathew 5, Jesus even goes further and asks us to be sons of our Heavenly Father and love our enemies. So, praying for Joy in a loving way I offer this prayer. “Father, please bless Joy’s life with love and peace. If there is any unresolved conflict in her life, I ask that you would bring peaceful resolution. Please give her a life of deep joy and goodness that gives her peace and a long life. Also, I pray that You would bless her entire family in the same way.”

  4. Tracy

    Great post Keith! I was especially struck by the paragraph on the unique quality of our faith- not an ethical system or religion, but a conviction about a historical fact, and all the implications arising from that crazy, wonderful fact!

  5. Emily Brown

    Hmmmm. . . I’m not sure what to think about all of this. I hear you but I guess because that lady makes such nasty statements on the regular, I feel like I’m more turned off to this blog than if it was someone else maybe? Lincoln didn’t perform miracles while he was alive or dead. Lincoln didn’t ever put forth a work like the Bible. Hollywood is so quick to criticize Christianity so often that not many stories of what non-Christians say about Christians even phases me much, honestly. It was her choice also to make a general apology. It doesn’t mean much what level of office anyone holds in what they believe in to me. Christianity is unethical?

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