What with pedophile priests, a truly frightening trailer for a film called JESUS CAMP, comparisons of modern political absurdities with Nazi Germany, and various other religious/political rants firing up atheist/freethought bloggers everywhere I was reminded of something the bible has exactly right:
As it is written: "God's name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you."
Because of who?
Turn with me, if you will, to Romans chapter 2 verse 17 (this is the NIV version.) "Now you, if you call yourself a Jew (insert your choice in place of Jew; Christian, apologist, preacher, pastor, televangelist, churchgoer, etc.); if you rely on the law and brag about your relationship to God; if you know his will and approve what is superior because you are instructed by the law; if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of infants, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth --- you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? (Does any of this sound familiar?) You who preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who brag about the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? As it is written: "God's name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.""
On more than one occasion I used this to get people to toe the line and I've forgotten how many times I heard it preached to bring on some heavy duty guilt. What believer would want to be the cause of god's name being blasphemed? Bad behavior? You're being watched. Look at how horrible the consequences might be.
And don't tell me that it isn't legit to substitute for Jews. This is common practice in Sunday school and sermons all the time. Have to make it relevant. That's in the bible, too, 1 Corinthians 9 verse 9: "For it is written in the Law of Moses: "Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain." Is it about oxen that god is concerned? Surely he says this for us, doesn't he? Yes, this was written for us ..." (Keep reading for some fund raising guilt.) All these things are supposed to be written to us so we can learn.
One of the most obvious and pathetic cases of this was the fall of Jimmy Swaggert several years ago. Just weeks before his meeting with prostitutes, I heard him preach (while crying his heart out, naturally) against the evil sinfulness of good Christian women wearing shorts above the knee in public. What a horrible sin. But who caused god's name to be blasphemed?
The standard escape clause for all this is the little phrase: "We're only human." If you decide you're going to speak for god, you put yourself into a position of extreme pressure. Any inappropriate behavior on your part has dire consequences. All the name calling and slander that comes up while defending your beliefs does not reflect favorably on your god.
I would be more than a little pissed off if my name was blasphemed because of you.