Last week, Kimberly Hyatt of Patheos asked why Christians are mean in “Look at the Christians: See How Mean They Are” . “Perhaps it is past time for us to stop focusing on what others are doing or trying to do and start taking responsibility for our own actions and their consequences.” This is always true and no Christian can really disagree with such a statement. We know or should know that we are responsible for our actions and their consequences because it was the kind of thing Jesus spoke about in parables and elsewhere. It is a essential theme of Christianity that what any person does says has consequences; repentance, forgiveness by God and man, death and judgement, Christ’s death for our sins, these are all about the consequences of what we say and do and how we or God handle them.
For Hyatt, the question came up as a response to the way Christians dealt with the recent Chick-fil-A/gay marriage kerfuffle. Christians who oppose gay marriage are mean. She polled and other religions were not seen as so mean. The accusation of meanness has had other applications. Christians who oppose abortion are mean in that they are not considering the plight of the woman with an unwanted pregnancy, considering only the death of the unborn in our moral equation that sums all up into abortion as sin. Our response to the woman is mean. Perhaps it is conservative Christians who are the most mean. Stressing work over welfare is mean. Calling for smaller government and fewer entitlement programs is mean. Observing a distinction between legal and illegal immigration is mean. The death penalty is mean. Compassionate conservatism was an attempt to divert the accusation of meanness. Consider how well that went.
But what does Hyatt mean by mean? She doesn’t get into it as in offering any clear definition, except to suggest that we ought to accept the perceptions of others. When we say hard things and especially when we say that the Bible contains truth, others perceive that as mean. We had better be careful how we say that God is the way and the truth and the life. That’s mean. If we accept that kind of restriction on what we say and do, then what non-Christians think matters more than what God said. Apparently being mean means that we are wrong to question the world about what it is doing. Doing so implies judgement; what has Christianity got to do with that?
Of course we always need to be careful about how we speak, but if the option is never to speak, then can we ever be salt and light, as we are supposed to be? Christianity is not sweet because it knows there are consequences to human actions and ideas and many of those are not sweet. For Christians, correction is part of love. Forgetting that really helps no one, but it is the better part of the sweetness demanded of Christians by those who don’t want to hear Christian correction. Which can be rudely spoken at times, that’s for sure. Too much salt is tasteless. Too much light is blinding. In addition, there certainly are those claiming the title Christian who do not speak the truth or are without love. Yet, truth is not always kind even when kindly spoken; everyone knows that. We still have to do our best with truth as we see it, as all those other faith or those without faith might do. Hyatt is telling us, “They will know you are Christians because you are so lovable.” I do not see that in scripture, either, but the opposite.