I’m pretty certain Interpreter, Watchful, and several other of my friends aren’t particular fans of this song; I’m not that keen on it myself, but I appreciate it in the same way I appreciate what used to be Virginia’s state song (it was changed in 1997 on grounds of racism, although it took them 120 years to figure that one out). It’s more about the culture in which the piece was written, not about how we view it in the oh-so-enlightened 21st century.
“Onward, Christian Soldiers” makes me laugh in a sad way, though, because part of the second verse is “We are not divided…one in charity.” Lies. I call shenanigans on that one. We are indeed divided, and I’m pretty sure it’s been that way for a while—I’ve taught the Crusades, I’ve studied the petty idiocies. And they aren’t gone.
They show up in my life sometimes, actually.
I got into it this past week with a guy who went to college with me and is now in seminary. Suffice it to say he’s quite a bit more conservative than I am, and we don’t see eye-to-eye on most things. But I respect his conviction that he’s called to something and have tried to stay out of the way of any real discussion with him since I’ve been getting my own marching orders from God.
But sometimes it doesn’t happen that way. We discussed my friendships with atheists and other such heathens, with him basically informing me that I am betraying the love God asks of us by not informing them enough of their impending doom for lack of salvation. If they like me, I’m not doing this right.
Wait, what? I just got completely caught off guard by that one. Not only is calling me out on it in an open forum not quite the way to do it, but when did we as Christians get to the place that we have to really be the Bible-thumpers we all love to mock? Telling someone how unworthy they are and that everything about their core is wrong isn’t really going to get you anywhere—having been on the other side of this argument, I can say this with some authority. I have been the super-righteous bitch of a (false, at that time) Christian, I have been the thoroughly chastised sinner, and now I’m somewhere in the spectrum of understanding that non-Christians may be wrong. That doesn’t give me the right to see them as less human, less worthy of love, less needing of love. Love and acceptance are not always the same thing, and no, I don’t “accept” atheism. I disagree with it, as I disagree with all of my friends who are not Christian, but I let them know that and then we move on. Every one of my friends knows that if they want to talk about faith and religion with me, I am absolutely thrilled to do so, but I’m not going to chase them. It is not mine to convert, but God’s—I am not responsible for their souls. Let me say that again, because it’s something I need to remind myself of from time to time: I am not responsible for other people’s souls.
This is not to say that I don’t care about them, or that I don’t want to deal with the topic, but it is to say (to quote Interpreter) that God is God, and I am not.
I woke up with a hymn stuck in my head the day after this mess got going and I looked it up on YouTube to see if I could tease it out. I found some pretty awesome videos for it, actually, but one especially stood out.
Can you tell who is Christian in the video? No? At the 4th Lateran Council in 1215, the Church declared in canons 68-69 that non-Christians (in particular Muslims and Jews) should wear distinguishing dress. Shall we go back to that, so that we save ourselves the conversational time of getting round to whether or not you’re right with Jesus?
Yes, I admit it, I don’t talk about salvation that much. Probably, in all seriousness, not as much as I should. But I have friends who have years of hatred for the church who are willing to even broach the subject with me, and that ‘s something, I think. God loved (loves!) me despite my own idiocy, my own mistakes, my own deeply entrenched ideas about exactly what box He fit in and where it should be sent. How can I not do the same for His people, who are just as much His creation and just as wept for when He sees them turn away? You can’t always tell who is Christian without asking, but you can pretty easily tell who is human. And you can never know what’s going on for them; there’s a different video that’s a bit choppily done, but spot-on nonetheless, about addressing the needs of living as an entryway to addressing the needs of souls.
It is not mine to turn my back on others simply because they haven’t found Jesus; in fact, that’s the worst possible thing I could be doing to show them how incredibly amazing He really is. While I realize that this person wasn’t asking me to hate non-believers but only be wary of condoning them, I can’t see how debasing someone’s beliefs to prove your own is loving. And if that means I’m not cut out for ministry, then I should probably be rethinking this whole thing, anyway.
In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God resides in us and his love is perfected in us. (1 John 4:10-12, LEB)