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This is a response I gave to a statement posted by someone as part of a Facebook discussion. As my response was lengthy, I thought it might interest you to read and reflect on.
This is what the person wrote:
“Hey Simon, I don’t know you and you don’t know me, so hopefully this won’t get awkward or personal. Contemporary ‘Christians’ like to make a point that Jesus was both about holiness and compassion, and that we should always remember that Jesus emphasised repentance as much (or more so) than compassion/embracing the sinner. However that is a modern filter we apply. Yes, we can apply the title of Judge or ‘Son of God’ to Jesus, but the title he preferred was ‘Son of Man’. He was overwhelming known as the ‘friend of sinners’ and one that spent most of his time in the company of them. He was not seen as judgmental to these people. His presence wasn’t conditional on them repenting, or changing anything. Sure many made different life choices after, but not as a condition of his friendship. But Jesus wasn’t afraid to name sin as sin – but the sins he targeted was not the ones the current (or past) religious institutions likes to target (except Pope Francis). The sins Jesus spoke most against were against those that thought they were religious in the ‘right’, the well resourced and comfortable. He was scathing about those. If only more people were Jesus-like to target those sins first and foremost before going for those that are already victimised. Loving God means loving others. Jesus and the Prophets saw these as intrinsically linked. Happy to be corrected by how Jesus lived.”
This was my response:
“Hey [name], thanks for your comment. I have a few responses if you’ll let me.
Firstly, I don’t want to take away from your valid point that Jesus spoke most against religiously self-righteous people rather than the victimised. I think we should do so as well.
I think you have said a few misleading things though.
I don’t think that “Contemporary ‘Christians’ like to make a point that Jesus was both about holiness and compassion, and that we should always remember that Jesus emphasised repentance as much (or more so) than compassion/embracing the sinner.” I don’t think they say that at all. Maybe that’s what you hear, but at least, in regard to myself, I don’t think that. The message of “repentance” and the message of “compassion/embracing the sinner” are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they are one in the same. There is nothing more loving than calling someone to repent from sin. To think otherwise, is maybe to misunderstand repentance. Repentance is turning away from rejecting God and turning to trust in God. Repentance and embrace from God are not two separate thing. Repentance is called because embrace is offered.
Now, I don’t think that Jesus emphasised repentance more than other things, but it seems you might be implying that unless you were in a position of religious power or were as you say, “well resourced and comfortable”, then Jesus wasn’t calling you to repent. This just isn’t accurate. Jesus calls all people to repent, both the powerful and the powerless. When Jesus started his ministry, he went around proclaiming the “good news”. And what was the good news? Well it was pretty simple, “The time has come. The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15) To remove repentance from Jesus message is to miss the good news.
Then you say: “Yes, we can apply the title of Judge or ‘Son of God’ to Jesus, but the title he preferred was ‘Son of Man’. “
The first thing to say to that is, it is not “we” who apply those first two titles to Jesus. Jesus applies those titles to himself. And again, like “repentance” and “compassion”, the titles of “Judge” and “Son of Man” are not in conflict. In fact, the one is the basis for the other. As Jesus himself says, “[The Father] has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.” (John 5:27).
I may be wrong, but I think you misunderstand the title “Son of Man”. It seems you think of it as a term that is referring to Jesus’ humanity. It is actually the complete opposite. Jesus uses the term because it is a fulfillment of the prophecy in Daniel 7:13-14. I’ll let you look it up, but it basically is saying that the “Son of Man” is a title for the Messiah who will be given all power and authority to rule God’s Kingdom. It’s an awesome image. Jesus shows that this is what he means by using that title in passages like Luke 22:67-69, Matthew 16:13-17 and all the places where he talks about the Son of Man having the authority to do this and that. This is why it is so shocking that he would say that “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45). If the “Son of Man” means just a person like you and me, this statement makes no sense. Jesus embraced the title “Son of Man” because he was the Messiah – not one that they expected, but no less than the Messiah either.
The last thing I want to respond to is where you say:
“He was overwhelming known as the ‘friend of sinners’ and one that spent most of his time in the company of them. He was not seen as judgmental to these people. His presence wasn’t conditional on them repenting, or changing anything. Sure many made different life choices after, but not as a condition of his friendship.”
There is such a mix of truth an error in these words, I’ll try to articulate my issue with them.
Firstly, Jesus never called himself a “friend of sinners” and he wasn’t overwhelmingly known as this. That is a term Jesus says the crowd accuses him of. In Luke 7:34, Jesus says: “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.'” This is the only occasion the term is ever mentioned in the bible. In fact, I couldn’t even find the words “friend” and “sinners” used in the same verse anywhere else! Hardly something Jesus was “overwhelmingly known as”. In fact, if you want to say this is an appropriate title for Jesus, you’d have to also say that “glutton” and “drunkard” are also appropriate titles.
Clearly, “friend of sinner” is an accusation. So what are people accusing Jesus of? Well, as you know Jesus does eat and drink with those considered “sinners” and the Pharisees are often upset with Jesus for this. But why does Jesus eat and drink with sinners? Is it because, as you suggest, he just wanted to spend time in their company and he didn’t judge their sin or expect them to repent or change? No. I think quite the opposite.
When asked point blank “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”, Jesus responds quite simply: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:30-31). The sinners who he ate with were not the marginalised victims of power imbalance and religious oppression. They were the spiritually sick and he was the doctor. And part of his medicine was that he was calling them to repentance.
Repentance wasn’t an afterthought for Jesus. It wasn’t as you say: “Sure many made different life choices after, but not as a condition of his friendship.” No, repentance was the heart of his call to sinners. He ate and drank with people to tell them to repent and enjoy God’s friendship.
I don’t want to come down to harsh on you, as I think you have a wonderful heart for people, but I think you have too small a view of sin. Of course, repentance is a condition of friendship with God. If someone was a Nazi soldier during WW2, it would be wonderfully Christian to offer them them amnesty and the opportunity to surrender without fear of punishment, but they would have to stop fighting for the Nazis to make that possible.
Consider the parable of the Prodigal Son. The father throws a big party and welcomes his son home because he “was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found” (Luke 15:24), but this was only possible because he had “come to his senses” (v17) and acknowledged that he had “sinned against heaven and against you.” (v21).
Jesus tells this parable as a judgment against the Pharisees who were muttering, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” (v2), but he explains that repentance is the reason why he does this. Twice in this chapter he says: “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” (v7 & 10).
Repentance is a condition of forgiveness and reconciliation with God. And it is a good and loving thing to call people to, because sin is a killer. It kills our relationship with God and in the end, it kills us. Repentance is the path back to the loving arms of the Father who wants to celebrate our return home.
My encouragement to you is, don’t be scared of calling people to repent. Jesus wasn’t. And don’t limit your call to just the rich and the powerful. To do that is to not love to poor and the powerless, who are just as much in need of the gospel of forgiveness and mercy.
Sorry, this was a bit long! But I thought it was a good and important topic to address properly.
The Man in the Moon
a poem by Simon Camilleri
Let us pause and consider the Man in the Moon,
For he glows with a light that isn’t his own.
Created to shine in the darkness of night
By reflecting the glory of another’s light.
For it’s by the sun’s light that the moon can be known
And it’s by the sun’s light that its beauty is shown.
It’s the sun that now holds all the orbits in place.
If the sun let it go it would be lost in space.
Yet the man in the moon wishes he could break free.
He thinks of his orbit as like slavery.
Every lunar eclipse, to the earth’s furthest side,
The moon tries to escape, and like Adam he hides
In the shadow of earth where he thinks none can see,
And there in the dark, he declares “Now, I’m free!”
“Now it’s my time to shine. My own light fill the skies!”
So he tries to shine light. Yes he tries and he tries…
But he can’t. He’s a moon. Not a sun. Not a star.
And you can’t be enlightened lest you know what you are.
Still as the moon’s orbit from the earth’s shadow slips,
The moon vows to try harder, the next lunar eclipse .
The moon is a fool. Just like you. Just like me.
There’s a reason why madness is called “lunacy”.
The moon thinks he’s so big and the sun looks so small.
If he only could see the sun’s not small at all.
Even to us on the earth, they both look the same size.
But it’s due to perspective, it’s a trick of the eyes.
You could fit 64 million moons in one sun!
Yet the man in the moon thinks that he’s “Number One”.
So later tonight in the moon’s bright reflection,
Do your own reflective introspection.
See the man in the moon. Cos if you can,
You’ll see that the moon is there in the man.
“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen:
not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”
– C.S. Lewis
Imagine an alternative Victoria in a parallel universe.
In this reality, a hard-line fundamentalist Christian political party has just won the state election by a landslide and takes power, having the numbers to ban, endorse and enforce what it deems to be true and right and healthy for the state.
They roll out an “abstinence only” sex ed program called “Sacred Schools” and say it must be used in every public school whether the teachers, students or parents want it or not.
They are advised by the federal government that the program should be amended so it is an “opt in” program to allow parents the right to choose whether their kids attend, but the state government says NO because some kids have bigoted atheist parents who can’t be trusted and every child deserves the right to hear their abstinence message.
They also won’t make any of the recommended edits to the program or remove its links to fundamentalist Christian websites.
Then, it comes out that the co-founder of the program has a scary political agenda, publicly stating they want to replace the Australian flag with a giant cross signifying that the rule of Jesus has been enforced by law across the land.
If all that was happening, I can image that the parallel universe Simon, if he was still a Christian, may be more blind to the dangers of such a system of government because they were playing to his demographic and proclaiming a message that he might find some sympathy for.
I mean, parallel Simon believes in Jesus and he agrees with abstinence. He doesn’t want it to be enforced as the only perspective kids get taught about, but he reasons, if only one idea is going to be taught he is glad it’s an idea that he agrees with.
Christians in this parallel universe would easily be blind to the way this government got bigger and bigger and slowly forced itself and its beliefs on everyone else.
Non-Christians would try to speak up but would be shouted down as anti-religious bigots by the government , and their blind Christian fellow citizens would just laugh at them as over-exaggerating the problem.
In this parallel universe:
Even the tiny opt-in “evolutionary biology class” called SRE (Scientific Reasoning & Evolution) that only ran weekly for half an hour for kids who wanted it, would be banned from all public schools. The Christian state government claimed that for those 30 minutes, it disadvantaged the creationist kids who chose not to attend.
If all this was going down, I wonder if parallel Simon would speak up?
Would he defend the rights of views being systematically silenced?
Or would he just be silent himself, blindly happy with the way his views were now seemingly on the right side of history?
I saw “Captain America: Civil War” last night and there’s lots of things I could say about the movie. I loved the action, the performances, the dialogue and especially the new characters that are now in the Marvel Universe. I highly recommend seeing the film as one of the most fun and interesting Marvel films to date. But apart from all that, Civil War has got me thinking lots about one of the big issues central to the film – the pros and cons of big and small government.
Now, I don’t think this is a spoiler as it is revealed in the trailers and all the advertising, but the tension in the film centres on legislation that is proposed to regulate superheroes and their powers. It is called “The Sokovia Accords” with the subtitle of it being a “Framework for the registration and deployment of enhanced individuals”. Basically, the idea is that superheroes are expected to either retire or sign the document and if they sign then they can’t do any superhero work without the permission of an international panel that will monitor them, regulate them, send them out when required and prevent them from going out when deemed necessary.
Now, I was very impressed with how the movie presents the argument that this is a good and necessary thing, showing the destruction and death that many of their past actions have caused. Sure they were trying to save the world, but they ignore laws, international borders and in the end innocent people died due to their actions, and sometimes (like in the case of Ultron) they were saving the world from a threat that they themselves created.
Captain America has some concerns though. He is worried about the restriction of their personal freedom to not only fight evil, but also to make choices for themselves about how to regulate their power. He is also skeptical that a government panel would always make the best choice in how to use and regulate superheroes. As he says, “it runs by people with agendas and agendas change… If we sign this, we surrender our right to choose. What if this Panel sends us somewhere we don’t think we should go? What if there’s somewhere we need to go and they don’t let us? We may not be perfect but the safest hands are still our own.”
Now, for a series of movies that are often simply a bit of popcorn entertainment, it was interesting to see one that tackled a debate about political philosophy that is very relevant for our world today. The debate is about the idea of small vs big government.
SMALL vs BIG GOVERNMENT
If you’ve never heard of this debate before, it’s basically asking how much control, influence, involvement or power should be given to the government and how much should be given to individual citizens or private organisations (like businesses, churches, families, private schools etc.).
A small government approach is one where the government has as little involvement as possible in the affairs of its citizens. Small governments may still provide basic, necessary services (military defense, police, fire, water, electricity, sewerage etc.) and they may also provide services like welfare for those that cannot obtain work or health services, but the weight of the power and responsibility rests on individual citizens and organisations.
Big government, as you can probably guess, is the opposite approach. The government has a substantial level of involvement and regulation, and the weight of power and responsibility does not rest on the citizens but the government that presides over them.
Now, each of these approaches or politics philosophies have their pros and cons. Small government focuses on people’s individual libertarian rights to live their own life, raise their own kids and express their own values. Generally, most individual people want small government because they don’t want to be told what to do, especially by a government that may not share your values. Generally, small governments create more prosperous countries as they aim to encourage and empower enterprise and individual creativity. The problem with small government is that people’s individual values can be pretty selfish. Small government allows for the rich to get richer with no concern for the poor if they don’t want to have any. Also, small government creates a society of mixed values and behaviours, which means that tolerance is very important and social harmony can be challenging.
Big government has its own set of challenges. On a positive note, big governments aim to prevent the poor from getting poorer and the rich from getting richer, and through government regulation and oversight aim to create a more equitable society that is free from the individual abuses that small government can bring about. The problem with big government is that it can be just as abusive as individuals. The big government approach assumes responsibilities that, under a smaller government, are distributed to individual citizens. This often involves raising taxes and taking power and freedom away from its citizens, which can kill enterprise and may encourage bigger businesses to take their industries off shore where they can prosper in a country with less restrictions. Also, in an attempt to create social harmony and restrict the values of individuals and businesses that it deems bad for society, a big government will inevitably seek to enforce its own set of values on society and it will have the power to do so. This may be ok if its values are good, but who doesn’t believe that their values are good? As Captain America says in the movie: “it runs by people with agendas and agendas change”.
Basically, both big and small government philosophies are wanting the same goal – they aim to help create a prosperous society where all citizens can flourish and where evil is restricted. They simply represent two opposite ends of the spectrum of how to achieve that goal. Small government primarily gives that responsibility to individuals and free enterprise and aims to make the government have as little power as possible, and big government gives the government the primary responsibility and consequently much more power and influence to achieve that goal.
BIG & SMALL GOVERNMENT IN MY EXPERIENCE
Personally, I believe, as most do, that a balance between the two is necessary. In regard to gun control for example, I am glad that I live in Australia which has taken a big government approach to the issue. Guns are extremely restricted and the only guns I know of anyone owning, are rifles used for shooting pests (like rabbits and roos) out in the country. This means that I also don’t personally know of anyone who has been shot, either deliberately or accidentally, and Australia – with a population of over 23 million – in 2014 experienced only 230 gun-related deaths. The US in contrast, has a population of 316.5 million, which is 14 times the population of Australia, but in 2014, the US had 146 times the amount of gun-related deaths (33,599 deaths).
So when it comes to guns, I am happy that the government restricts my and others personal freedom to own, carry and use guns. The big government approach in this situation has literally helped lives to flourish and has created a better society for all citizens (except arguably for those who wish to own guns of course).
Another area of big government that I have benefited from is Australia’s healthcare system. Although I may not agree with everything my healthcare tax dollars are put towards (abortion for example) I think we have a great system that allows pretty much everyone to receive the care they need. Important medicines (like the diabetes medication I take daily) is majorly subsidized and I can see diabetes educators, nutritionists and other health specialists free of charge because of this soft form of universal healthcare that we have. It’s not without its problems, with the public system overrun and susceptible to overuse, but I am glad we have this semi-big government approach to this vital service.
So, I see the good of big government, but like Captain America, I also see its dangers. Captain America’s concern in the movie “Civil War” is primarily about how a government body may have a different set of values to an individual citizen (or superhero) and how their increased power and influence may be used to serve their own agenda rather than the citizens themselves. Captain America suggests that the big government approach is a form of “surrendering our right to choose” and proposed some theoretical examples where this might be a problem: “What if this Panel sends us somewhere we don’t think we should go? What if there’s somewhere we need to go and they don’t let us? We may not be perfect but the safest hands are still our own.”
As a Christian, I am most concerned about the big government approach in its potential effect to and restriction of religious freedom. In a big government, if the government deems certain beliefs or values to stand in the way their particular view of what makes a “good” society, they may use their increased power and influence to restrict or even criminalize those beliefs. This may seem extreme, but it happens in many countries even today.
In 23 out of 49 Islamic countries, it is illegal to convert away from Islam and it is also illegal for non-Muslims to share their faith in such a way that they might encourage a Muslim to convert. In Malaysia, it is illegal to leave Islam in every state other than Negeri Sembilan. In this state you have to apply to the courts if you want to convert and the vast majority get denied. This is what it looks like when the big government approach takes over religious expression in a country.
This is not only a problem if a religious government gains control and establishes a big government. It is also an issue in socialist secular countries as well. In China for example, freedom of religion is majorly restricted to only five government-sanctioned religions. Of this five, there is only one protestant group allowed which the government has called the “Three-Self Patriotic Movement”. It’s teaching, appointment of leaders and ability to meet freely is tightly regulated and defined by the government. Naturally, they do this because, as every government does, they want their country to flourish and be prosperous for all its citizens, and they believe that complete freedom of religion would jeopardize that goal. Politicians of any country’s government may have this concern, but it is only those that have a big government approach, that are afforded the power to be able to enforce it.
Now you may still think that examples like Islamic countries and socialist China are extreme and bear no resemblance to democratic Western countries, but in the last decade the threat to religious freedom has been growing. Generally, Western countries have been influenced by Christianity, which at its heart teaches that faith in Christ is something that must come freely and can not be forced or enforced (although I acknowledge at times in history this has been foolishly attempted by some rulers). Countries influenced by Christianity have therefore encouraged a separation of Church and State and have enshrined a freedom of religious belief and expression into many of its laws.
THE BIG GOVERNMENT TREND IN THE WEST
What we are now seeing, as Western countries peel off the Christian veneer and as more secularist politicians gain power and influence, is that governments are finding their values and the values of many religious people are starting to become more and more in conflict.
In London earlier this month, some Orthodox Jewish schools were investigated by government education inspectors and have now been told by the courts that they must promote “fundamental British values”. Presiding judge Hugh Brayne said that the ruling was to ensure that students at the Jewish school would “be equipped to enter modern British society, which accepts as part of its diversity civil partnerships, gay marriage, families with same-sex parents and acceptance of transgender persons”.
In the States, just last Friday, in a classic big government approach, the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education issued a decree that told all public schools in the country that they had to provide access to toilet, locker room and shower facilities to students based on the gender they identify with rather than based on their actual sex. It wasn’t a law (as schools are under the legal jurisdiction of the state not the federal government) but they have said they would withhold federal funding for those schools that do not comply.
In Australia, these issues are also very relevant with a similar thing happening with the Victorian Labor government pushing its values about sexuality and gender by enforcing the controversial sexuality education program “Safe Schools” in all public schools, whether or not school staff, parents or even students wish to sign up to the program. Also, an article last week in The Daily Telegraph calling to remove the tax free status of churches unless they meet the criteria of a government review. “What is necessary now is for all religious organisations to submit annual financial reports and for the government and Australian Charities and Not-for-Profit Commission to review their tax-exempt status.” Now, as much as I think it is valid to stamp out any abuses of the tax free status by religious organisations, it is concerning if financial incentives were ever used to influence churches to align with the values of the government.
In regard to the push for reform of the legal definition of marriage in Australia, questions about big vs small government are integral to the debate. On one hand, a small government approach would suggest that individual citizens should have the freedom to marry however and whoever they choose, or to define marriage however they want. Unfortunately, the parties that openly support the change, such as Labor and the Greens, are generally also supportive of the big government approach. This makes many Christians very concerned that once the change becomes enshrined in law, they will not have the freedom of religion to teach what the bible says about marriage, sexuality and gender in Christian schools, Universities, public forums or possibly even churches. Such teaching will be deemed “hate speech” and “offensive” and a big government approach will see it potentially being legislated against in order to enforce conformity to the government’s values.
A similar concern is felt for Christians involved in businesses that provide services for weddings, such as bakers, wedding planners and photographers. In a small government approach, these Christians would have the freedom to conscientiously object to supporting an event that they believed was morally objectionable based on their religious convictions. I’m still thinking through my position on this, but it is clear that under a big government approach, there will be no debate – they will have to conform to the government’s new definition of marriage or they will be fined for discrimination. We have already seen this happening in some Western countries. Possibly the most well known was a little bakery in Oregon run by a Christian couple who informed a lesbian couple that they couldn’t in good conscience make a cake for their wedding, and a court ordered they pay $135,000 to the couple for the emotional damage caused.
LIKE A TREE BESIDE THE RIVER OF TRUTH
If Western countries don’t want to end up like the oppressive governments mentioned earlier, then they need to be wary of the way the big government approach is being used and accepted more and more. As I explained earlier, the big government approach can be at times helpful. It is definitely a powerful strategy which can use its influence for great good, but at the same time it can be used for evil and oppression as well.
That is why I think the movie, Captain America: Civil War is so interesting in today’s climate. It raises a debate that some people don’t realize needs to be debated. It points out the danger of giving the power over many into the hands of a few. It has made me think through where I stand – be it Team Cap or Team Iron Man. It’s actually a hard choice at the start as both sides make their case quite well, but in the end, Captain America’s concerns are shown to be valid.
Now, I may think through these issues and come to my own conclusion, but in the end, I see my own country slowly sliding towards a bigger and bigger government. With a federal election only a couple of months away, this debate could not be more relevant. I only have one vote though, and so my calling is to simply what I think is right. As the government gets bigger and uses its increased power to try to restrict views that it disagrees with, I will try to remember the words in the movie that inspire Captain America as he sat in that solemn church – words that, in the original comic, Captain America spoke himself:
“Doesn’t matter what the press says. Doesn’t matter what the politicians or the mobs say. Doesn’t matter if the whole country decides that something wrong is something right. This nation was founded on one principle above all else: The requirement that we stand up for what we believe, no matter the odds or the consequences. When the mob and the press and the whole world tell you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree beside the river of truth, and tell the whole world – ‘No, YOU move.’”
I don’t know what saying “No, YOU move” might look like in my own circumstances, but I guess over time, I’ll find out. I also don’t know exactly when a big government approach is better than a small government approach, and visa versa. It’s very complex and I hope I haven’t presented the issues in an unfairly simplistic way. I guess, the more I think about it, the more I feel I side with Team Cap and a small government philosophy. At least in a general sense. Small governments can seem cold and harsh to the poor and the weak, but at least they don’t restrict individual citizens and charitable organisations from caring for those in need. It seems to me that a big government that is corrupt can do much more harm than a small government that is cold. But hey, what do I know? I’m no political analyst. I’m just a guy who saw a cool superhero movie. I’m just someone who is thinking through his position on all these issues. I’m just a Christian. I’m just an individual citizen.
This is an illustration I drew the other day and as I don’t often do these sort of illustrations, I thought I might share it on here.
It was inspired by the fact that my church, Bundoora Presbyterian, has just started as topical sermon/bible study series called Gospel Shaped Outreach. It’s a program developed by The Gospel Coalition and its focus is not teaching a new evangelism technique, but rather its looking at evangelism or “outreach” and asking things like, “What is evangelism?”, “Why should we evangelise?”, “Why don’t we evangelise?”. I’m sure it’s got lots of practical stuff in it but we have just started and I’ve been enjoying thinking through some of these questions. I look forward to getting a good theology of evangelism which will inspire me to do it more boldly and in a way that is more God honouring.
After the first study I was reflecting on the parable of the four soils, which is a parable I have thought lots about in the past. If you don’t know it, I recommend it. You can find it recorded in all four gospels (in Matthew it is in Matthew 13:1-23). Basically, Jesus tells this parable of a sower who goes out and sows seed, finding that it falls on four types of soils, and only the fourth soil is really good and bears fruit. Jesus also explains this parable to his disciples telling him that the seed represents the “Word of God” or the gospel message and the four soils are four different types of people that the disciples will encounter as they go about sharing the gospel. This is not designed to make them stress about looking for the “good soil” in order to make sure the gospel bears fruit. Quite the opposite. It’s supposed to encourage them to relax and just throw the seed around liberally. It’s supposed to prepare them for the variety of responses they will see as they share the gospel with everyone they meet.
As I reflected on this, I thought of my church. A few hundred people, each (if they are a Christian) with a pile of seed in their pocket. I began getting excited by the prospect of what might happen if this bible study series (which we are all being encouraged to do) would prompt each of us to throw a bit more seed around the place. Who knows what soil it might land on? To some degree the parable encourages us that 3 out of 4 of the people we share the gospel with might not respond with faith. Now, I know Jesus didn’t mean for it to be taken so mathematically, but it is fair to say, odds are, if more seed is being thrown around, then more chance it will land on some good soil.
This vision also made me reflect on something… If we aren’t throwing this seed around at the moment, what are we doing with it? Well, that’s when this illustration popped into my imagination. It’s an image of a sower that doesn’t sow seed. He loves the seed. He enjoys the seed. He feeds on the seed. He just doesn’t sow it. And he grows fat and comfortable gorging on the seed whilst before him are the four soils ready the receive it. This illustration isn’t really about me bagging lazy Christians. It’s more of a sign of where our church might get to if we don’t get on board with Jesus’ mission. It’s a picture of being spiritually overweigh. And if it is a criticism, it is first and foremost a criticism of myself. I don’t want to forget that the seed of the gospel that someone gave to me is seed that I am supposed to pass on.
It’s similar to another illustration I once heard about the difference between a swamp and a river. A swamp collects water but doesn’t move it along, and so it gets stagnant and disgusting. A river however stays full of fresh, pure, thirst-quenching water precisely because it doesn’t hold on to it. It lets the water flow into it and out of it to other places. This is what we should be like. Any blessing that we receive from God is given to us so that we can bless others. That includes our money, our possessions, our health, our intelligence and most importantly, the gospel itself.
So, anyway, that was my thinking behind the illustration. You may have seen something different, which is fine. Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Also, if you like colouring in and you’d like to improve my illustration with some colour, I’d love to see that!
CLICK HERE to download a high quality version of the image. Feel free also to print or use the image for your own ministry purposes. Just tell me how you’ve used it as that will encourage me!
Recently the Pope made a statement that implied that Donald Trump was not a Christian. He pointed to Trump’s plan to build a wall between the US and Mexico and said “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not in the gospel. As far as what you said about whether I would advise to vote or not to vote, I am not going to get involved in that. I say only that this man is not Christian if he has said things like that.”
Trump responded with this statement: “For a religious leader to question a person’s faith is disgraceful. I am proud to be a Christian… No leader, especially a religious leader, should have the right to question another man’s religion or faith.”
Firstly, I want to say that Trump is completely wrong in regard to the right of a religious leader to question another man’s religion. In fact, the apostle Paul would say that that is one of the responsibilities of a religious leader. Consider Paul’s instruction to his trainee-minister, Titus: “[An elder] must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it. For there are many rebellious people, full of meaningless talk and deception, especially those of the circumcision group. They must be silenced, because they are disrupting whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach—and that for the sake of dishonest gain.” (Titus 1:9-11) Paul even models this in his public rebuke of Peter which he mentions in Galatians 2:11-14, when Peter was clearly “not acting in line with the truth of the gospel”.
Jesus himself also warns us to watch out both for false believers and for the fact that we might be a false believer ourselves. In Matthew 7:13-23 Jesus says:
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”
Now, we have to be careful not be too quick to judge someone as a false believer. Jesus even warns his followers to have this caution in Mark 9:38-41. But in order for us to clearly proclaim and protect the gospel message, we need to be able to call a spade a spade. When someone has no understanding of the Christian gospel or shows no fruit that should accompany someone who claims to be a Christian (see Galatians 5:16-23), then we should feel free to suggest that that person is not a Christian.
Now, there may be many, many reasons for someone to consider that Donald Trump is not a genuine Christian. You could point to his unrepentant boasting about his various extramarital affairs, or his sexist, racist and ableist comments, or his foul language, or his commitment to bring back the practise of water-boarding and worse, or his threats of violence against those that oppose him, or his general arrogance and ego. These examples show that the fruit of a life shaped by the Spirit of God – namely love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control – are severely lacking in Trump, and might be considered enough to conclude that he wasn’t actually a Christ-follower. As Jesus said, “By their fruit you will recognize them.” (Matthew 7:20).
Now, you have to be careful judging the reality of someone’s conversion based on the fruit you see. We are all flawed works-in-progress. Someone may be a genuine follower of Christ and still have a lot of bad fruit that God is working on over time. The example I mentioned before where Paul publicly rebuked Peter (Galatians 2:11-14) was an example of one Christian rebuking another Christian. Paul accused Peter of “not acting in line with the truth of the gospel”. The problem with Trump though is not that he isn’t acting in line with the gospel, it’s that he doesn’t even know the gospel in the first place.
TWO CRITERIA TO BE A CHRISTIAN
When Jesus called people to follow him right at the beginning of his ministry he said, “The time has come. The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the gospel!” In order to be a Christian (a Christ-person) Jesus commands two things: “Repent” and “believe the gospel”. This message is echoed later in Jesus ministry when he explains what the heart of his message is: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:31-32) and after Jesus was resurrected this call to “repent and believe” was carried on by his followers, as can be seen in Acts 20:21, “I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.”
Turning to God in repentance for our sin and believing in the good news about Jesus for our forgiveness is the simple requirement for the salvation that God offers. If you have not done this, then you are not a Christian and you can not claim that name. If you do not show evidence of having done this, then other people are right to (as Trump puts it) question your faith and religion.
The gospel message is the thing God uses to bring people into his kingdom. As Paul writes in Romans 1:16, “the gospel…is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes”. Because of this, it is important that we are clear about the gospel, it is important that we defend the gospel and it is important that we protect the gospel from being corrupted over time. One of the ways to do this is to not be afraid to call someone out for not having the right to call themselves a Christian – either due to their lack of “repenting and believing” or due to their lack of the fruit that should accompany it.
As I mentioned about, it is easy to see that Trump is lacking in the fruit, but I think the thing that makes it even clearer that he is not a Christian, is the fact that he has not “repented and believed”. This video clip makes that abundantly clear.
Trump is asked the most basic of questions that a Christian should be able to answer without hesitation: “Have you ever asked God for forgiveness?”
Trump first tries to avoid the question, talking non-stop for a full minute trying to win the crowd by name-dropping his minister. When he is forced to confront the question he stumbles over his answer saying: “I’m not sure I have. I just go on and try to do a better job from there. I don’t think so. I think if I do something wrong I just try and make it right. I don’t bring God into that picture. I don’t… I don’t think in terms of that. I think in terms of let’s go on and let’s make it right.”
Not long after this interview, Trump was questioned about his answer and his understanding of Christianity on CNN.
Interviewer Anderson Cooper asked Trump: “The idea of repentance. Is that something that’s important to you?”
Trump answered: “I think repenting is terrific.”
Cooper: “But do you feel a need to? As part of forgiveness.”
Trump: “If I make a mistake then yeah, then I think it’s great, but I try not to make mistakes. I mean, why do I have to, you know, repent? Why do I have to ask for forgiveness if you’re not making mistakes? I work hard. I’m an honorable person. I have thousands of people who work for me. I’ve employed tens of thousands of people over the years.”
Cooper: “You give millions to charity.”
Trump: “I give millions. I built the Vietnam Memorial in Lower Manhattan, with a small group of people!”
JESUS CAME FOR THE SICK
As has been often pointed out by Christian commentators, if you do not see the bad news of our sin and need for forgiveness, then you will never see the good news of Jesus’ offer to die for your sin and provide you that forgiveness. It’s like chemo. You’ll never go do it if you don’t realise you have cancer.
In Luke 5:30-32, the Pharisees ask Jesus, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus answers, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Jesus describes himself as a doctor, and if you don’t know you’re sick, you won’t go to him. Jesus has come for sinners, not those who think they are “righteous”.
Trump falls into the exact same problem the Pharisees did in Jesus’ day. When asked about whether he has asked God for forgiveness, Trump says “I don’t think so”. When asked about what he thinks about repentance, Trump says “Why do I have to repent?”. Trump does acknowledge that he may have made some mistakes, but that doesn’t drive him to his needs before God. In fact he says, “If I do something wrong I just try and make it right. I don’t bring God into that picture.”
In his mind, Trump is his own saviour. And if asked about whether he feels a need to repent, he will point out all his good works – working hard, being honorable, employing people, giving to charity and building stuff. I don’t know about you, but that reminds me of a parable Jesus once told that seems quite appropriate. It’s found in Luke 18:9-14. Have a read and see who the Pharisee in the parable sounds like.
To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable:
“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
WE ARE LIKE TRUMP
Now, this article may sound like I am just having fun dumping on Trump. That’s actually not my goal at all. In fact it would be hypocritical for me to quote the parable above and then just say, “God, I thank you that I am not like Donald Trump!” The fact is that although Trump needs forgiveness and needs to repent, we are no better than him. The point of the parable that Jesus told was that we should not base our understanding of our own goodness by comparing ourselves to others. We should be like the Tax Collector. The Tax Collector was actually a worse sinner than the Pharisee, but he did something that meant that he went home right with God – he acknowledged his sin and he asked for mercy. In Jesus’ words, he “humbled” himself before God. That is something we all need to do, and if you are standing next to Trump on the day of Judgment, you can’t point to him and say, “At least I was better than him.” No. We are like Trump. We all need forgiveness. We all need to repent. We all need Jesus. We are all in the same boat.
My aim in writing this article is not to get you to hate Trump. It’s not to get my American friends to not vote for him (though most of them are more anti-Trump than I am). My aim in writing this is twofold. Firstly, in order to defend the integrity of the true Christian gospel I feel it is important to say that Trump does not get it. It is important that I point to an example like Trump and say, despite the fact that he calls himself a Christian, he is not one. There is only one gospel. And as R.C. Sproul said at the Ligonier National Conference just yesterday, “Whatever else we do with the gospel, we must never, ever, ever mess with it.”
But secondly, we must make sure that we do not fall into the same trap. We must make sure that we understand the gospel clearly and that we have responded to it in the way that Jesus commands. Those that call themselves by the name “Christian” must be open to that sort of self-scrutiny and self-reflection. We can not presume that just because we call ourselves a “Christian” that we are one. And if someone questions our genuineness as a Christian, we need to not react like Trump did to the Pope. We need to give people the right to ask those questions and we need to ask those questions of ourselves. We need search our hearts and the Scripture to allow God to convict us and call us to repent and believe. We need to take Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:21-23 seriously:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”
Sadly, I believe there a millions of people who, like Trump, would tick the “Christian” box on the census form and yet do not know the gospel and have never responded to it. Millions of people who expect to meet God as a friend when they die, and yet will meet him as a stranger. It is a harrowing and sobering thought.
The best we can do is make sure that we know the gospel ourselves and make it known as best we can.
Last Thursday, on my way home from work, my car’s front right tire exploded while I was driving at 100km/h on the Western Ring Road Freeway.
What happened next was intense and traumatic and I’m lucky to be alive…
As you can imagine, without one of my front tires I could barely keep control of my car. I could hear the loud flap of the torn up rubber and the scrape of the metal rim as my little Mazda 2 veered violently to the right, almost going into the lane next to me. I was in the middle lane of the freeway and the traffic was very busy with lots of trucks and other commuters on every side.
As I was travelling at 100km/h I knew I had to slow down, but the car behind mustn’t have been paying attention, because as I steadily applied the break they kept zooming ahead and they knocked the back of me. It was a fairly violent nudge and it forced my car off to the right, where I scraped into the side of the van in the next lane. It all happened very fast after that.
The van veered off to try to avoid me and crashed into the short concrete wall separating the freeway, this cause a pile up of cars behind it as they all tried to screech to a holt. Meanwhile, the car behind me still hadn’t stopped and pushed my car into a spin. I was terrified and I can remember screaming and thinking that I was truly going to die and how horrible that would be. Several other cars then plowed into mine as I spun, pushing me further across the freeway and into the lane of an oncoming truck. The last thing I heard was the deafening hiss of the truck’s airbreaks as the driver desperately tried to avoid me.
Unfortunately, it was going too fast. The truck rammed into the nose of my small hatchback causing me to flip several times. My airbags went off and the the next few moments were a chaotic mess of broken glass and crunching metal and being tossed around like a rag doll, all the while knowing for sure that at the unjust age of 38, the great fearful blackness of death was about to swallow me at any second.
It is only by the grace of God’s miraculous hand that I escaped death and am hear to tell you the tale. My car was totaled, I have a few broken bones, but after a couple of nights in hospital it looks like I will pull through. I may not walk for a few months and they had to amputate my right arm, but this experience has left me more appreciative of life and more confident that God can see me through anything…
Now that would have been an exciting near-death experience story for me to be able to tell you, except for the fact that… none of that actually happened.
Well, the first sentence is true. My tire did explode while I was driving at 100km/h on the freeway last Thursday, but God had orchestrated things so it turned out a little differently.
Firstly, God ensured that when my tire blew, I was in the left most lane so it was fairly easy for me to quickly turn into the emergency lane and out of harms way. God also probably helped the car stabilize in that process as I didn’t find it too hard to control even though I was driving on the metal rim and travelling at a high speed. God made sure that there were no cars right behind me as well, so slowing down didn’t cause any problems.
After that, it was pretty boring really. I called Cat and she called her brother Phil, who’s handy with all things practical (unlike me, with my uncalloused graphic designer hands). God had made sure Phil was available and, in a longer term sense, had shaped Phil’s godly character into an “always willing to help when needed” sort of dude. Phil dropped whatever he was doing and found me on the freeway. He quickly replaced the tire with my spare, using his cool drill attachments to undo the nuts on the wheel, making me feel like I was in the company of a Formula 1 pit-crew.
After the tire was replaced, I jumped back in the car and guess what? The battery was flat! Crazy huh? We contemplated getting some roadside service, but it was going to cost us a bit so we thought we’d first try to give the car a push start to see it that could start the engine that way. By God’s kindness, it did, and both Phil & I were able to get to get on our way and attend the ministry meeting at our church that we had on that night. In about one hour exactly, I had gone from an exploding tire to on my merry way. I guess God wanted me at that meeting. Or maybe he wanted Cat there, as if I had really been in a major crash, I doubt she would have attended the meeting either.
When my tire exploded, I was naturally surprised and a little anxious as I got out of traffic, but I was never terrified like I described in my exciting made up story. I didn’t scream thinking that I was truly going to die and how horrible that would be. In fact, I am very much at peace about dying. To be honest, I look forward to the joy of seeing Christ face to face. Now, I don’t look forward to the actual process of dying and I’m sure if that horrible crash had actually happened I might have been screaming as I awaited the painful end. But I wouldn’t be thinking “that at the unjust age of 38, the great fearful blackness of death was about to swallow me at any second.” It wouldn’t be unjust for me to die at 38 or 68 or 18 or even 8 months (the age of my daughter). The bible says the God is the one who “gives everyone life and breath and everything else” (Acts 17:25). This life I live is a gift from God. I do not own it. I do not have rights over it. It is God’s and he will take it back when he pleases.
And when he does, even if I’m scared of the actual thing that will kill me – be it cancer, a heart attack or a freeway pile-up – I hope I can remember the apostle Paul’s wonderful words in Philippians 1:20-23…
“I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far.”
In fact, in that moment, just after the exploding tire as I waited for Phil to arrive, I posted on Facebook a few photos of my tire along with this status update: “One of my tires exploded while driving on the freeway. Ah, to live is Christ…”
God protected me last Thursday. The fact that my actual story is not as dramatic and exciting as the one I made up is actually a miracle. My boring true story is a sign of God’s kindness and sovereignty and ability to control events like tires and freeway lanes and everything else.
Now, I don’t believe in a prosperity gospel that thinks that God is only looking after me when good things happen (you can see my thoughts on God’s sovereignty in suffering here). I have had my share of pain and tragedy, and yet I can still say with confidence that God is kind and loving and in control. As the bible says, “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). All things means all things. God will look after those in Christ through all things like sickness, divorce, near-death experiences and even death itself.
I don’t expect God to provide me a life of comfort, free from pain or strife. In fact, I expect drama and tragedy and suffering. Though quite often (and probably a lot more than I know), for his own mysterious purposes, even when I might like to have an exciting story to tell… sometimes God makes my life boring.
This is a public Facebook conversation I had recently with someone. I haven’t ever posted a conversation before, but the questions they asked me were so profound, genuine and clear, I was encouraged by the opportunity it gave me to try to explain the gospel. Even though the conversation was public, for the sake of privacy, I will simply put my Facebook friend’s comments in bold. No comments have been edited. Also, for context, this conversation starts in the middle of a bigger conversation about theology and the nature of God.
1. God sees all. No suffering or evil or good goes unnoticed.
2. God is wiser than me. He knows all ends and what is the best way this world should be dealt with.3. God came to earth in Jesus, took on flesh and felt our experience of suffering. His compassion and empathy is not theoretical.
4. Jesus showed that God is ultimately a God of love for everyone, including those that do evil like you and I. He died in our place, making forgiveness and reconciliation possible, and for me, ending the question about whether or not God really loves us.
5. Jesus will return to judge all and no evil act will be ignored and no injustice will not be addressed and put right.
6. In God there is true joy. Life is not about having a happy marriage or a healthy body, or even, not ever enduring violence. Life is about knowing and enjoying our Creator, and that is a joy that is for all and it is a joy that surpasses all other griefs.
God is the source of life and light and so, turning away from him brings the consequences of death and darkness (whether we intend this or not). To say God is “light” (or the Christian term “holy”) is to say that God is 100% committed to all that is right and good and just. This also means that God is 100% opposed to sin and evil and darkness. Our sin severs the harmonious relationship we should have with our Creator and puts us under his just judgment and condemnation.
There is nothing we can do to win God’s favour back. We can’t buy him off with a bunch of flowers or our weak attempts at being good. Any good deeds that we do is simply good that we should have been doing in the first place, and so they don’t earn us anything.
If you think I’m not getting this from the bible, then here’s a couple of verses to back it up:
“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) and “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).
So, the bad news is that we are all sinners to various degrees and that puts us under the punishment of death, experiencing separation from God both now and forever. And the really bad news is there’s nothing in our own strength that we can do to save ourselves.
Fortunately, Jesus came to bring the good news. The good news is that God was not content to leave us without hope. He came and took on humanity in the person Jesus, lived the perfect life we could not live and then died the death that we deserved. Jesus described his death as a “ransom” (Mark 10:45). It was a payment to enable us to be freed from the judgement that we are under. The death Jesus died was no ordinary death. It was the death that we should have died as the punishment for our sin. God’s hatred for sin and all his condemnation and judgment was taken by Jesus on the cross. It’s like a judge who condemns you to death for your crimes and then steps down from his seat, and says that he will go to the electric chair instead of you.
The way Peter (Jesus’ closest friend and a key leader in early Christianity) puts it is: “He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 1:24).The call now to us is not to clean ourselves up for God. It’s not to try to be good to get to heaven. Naturally, we must turn away from our commitment to sin and turn back to treating God as God, but what makes our reconciliation with God possible, is what God has done in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. The call is to turn to and trust in Jesus.
That is how Jesus’ death makes it possible for us to be forgiven. It pays the debt that we owe. It removes the barrier between us and God. It satisfies our holy God’s requirement for justice and for those who trust in Jesus, it leaves no more judgment or condemnation left for us to face. The result is that we are restored to friendship with God and we live in right relationship with him, in light and life, both now and forever – not based on any good works we have done, but based solely on his good work for us in Jesus’ death.
Now that may have seemed like a very long-winded answer. Sorry about that! Believe me, there is lots more I could have said. This is a fascinating and personally exciting topic for me, as I don’t simply believe it to be theoretically true. I have personally experienced this reconciliation myself, and have enjoyed a restored relationship with God for over 20 years now! Although I know this “good news” about Jesus’ death can seem weird or even nonsensical to some, and I have questions about how it all works, but I believe it to be true because I know that it does work and have found it to be true.
If Islam is a religion of peace, then ISIS shouldn’t be described as “radical” or “extremist” muslims. They should be described as non-muslims. If Islam is a religion of peace, then people should in fact be saying that we need more radical and extreme muslims.
What gets held up as the ideal is those that are called “moderate muslims”. Think about that. The implication is that you have to moderate Islam to make it a positive thing.
When it comes to Christianity, no one should want to be a “moderate Christian”. Genuine Christianity is radical and extreme. A radical Christian is one that takes the words and message of Jesus seriously. An extremist Christian is one that takes the love, mercy and grace of Jesus to extreme lengths – loving their neighbour, being generous, offering forgiveness and praying for their enemies.
If you saw a group of people who called themselves “Christians” but went around raping little girls and beheading people of other religions, you wouldn’t say they are a “radical Christian”. You wouldn’t say they are an “extreme Christian”. You’d say they weren’t a Christian.
When it comes to being a Jesus follower, we don’t need to be wary of “radicalisation”. What’s the alternative? Nominalism? Apathy? Our society and indeed the Christian church is way too full of that already.
Christians need to be a lot more extreme, a lot more radical. And if muslims around the world want people to take their claims that “Islam is a religion of peace” seriously, then they need to get more radical and extreme as well.
Their efforts to denounce, defund, expose, re-educate and stamp out the increasingly active streams of Islam like ISIS, needs to be a lot more than simply “moderate”.