The Body, the Bigwigs, and the Baptists

Item: With typical bluster, Jesse “The Governor” Ventura announces in a magazine interview that, from his vantagepoint, religion is “ a sham and a crutch for weak-minded people”, chastising faithful believers for “sticking their noses in other people’s business.”

Item: Agnostic Guenter Lewy of the University of Massachusetts sets out to write a book on why America doesn’t need religion. The book will be “a defense of secular humanism and ethical relativism.” But a funny thing happens on the way to the preordained conclusion: the evidence makes an honest man out of Guenter Lewy. Reversing himself 180 degrees, Lewy authors a recently published book which he has entitled Why America Needs Religion. While unwilling (so far) to forsake his agnosticism, Lewy finds that Christians exhibit measurably lower rates of marital conflict, divorce, prejudice, out-of-wedlock births, juvenile delinquency, adult crime, and other “indicators of moral failure and social ills”, concluding Christianity is vital to creating a healthy, humane society. What he finds is little more than an objective analysis of the truth is bound to find: when people live by the principles of Jesus, (not necessarily always, though, by quasi-Christian “religion”) society benefits tremendously.

Item: According to statistics published by the city of Chicago, the following is true of reported crime in the city this year though the month of October:
• There have been 542 murders in Chicago.
• There have been 1841 reported instances of criminal sexual assault.
• There have been nearly 17,000 robberies.
• There have been 28,106 cases of aggravated assault.
• There have been over 25,000 burglaries.
• Under the category of “theft”, there are nearly 100,000 reports.
• Over 25,000 motor vehicles have been reported as stolen.
• There have been over 1000 cases of arson reported.

Item: Convinced of the life-changing truth of Christ and of the clear command of Christ to take the gospel to all people, Southern Baptists announce plans to undertake an ambitious initiative: the unleashing of 100,000 evangelists in the city of Chicago during the year 2000 trained to share their faith with people from all walks of life.

Item: In response to the Southern Baptist plans, an entity calling itself the “Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago” issues a letter warning that “a campaign of the nature and scope you envision could contribute to a climate conducive to hate crimes”. The letter, incidentally, is announced to the press prior to being mailed to the Southern Baptists. This “Council” includes leaders from assorted varieties of religious organizations, including Jews, Catholics, Orthodox, and mainline Protestant churches. One such mainline Protestant leader, Bishop C. Joseph Sprague of the United Methodist Church’s Northern Illinois Conference, remarks that the Southern Baptists’ approach “smacks of a kind of non-Jesus-like arrogance”.

Item: Jesus, in His own words: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father but through me.”

Some conclusions, if you’ll permit me:
• It would seem that the good Guv’na would be well-advised to try to augment his commendable candor with a little learnin’. In fact, the same might be said for all who find in Christianity a convenient target for their derision.
• It would seem that much good tends to come to society when Christians “stick their noses into other people’s business”, if the research of Professor Lewy is to be believed.
• It would seem that Chicago is doing a fairly good job of having “a climate conducive to hate crimes” without any help from the Baptists.
• It would seem that the proclamation of the gospel of love, peace, and life in Christ would be greeted with open arms, at least by those who ostensibly would call themselves “Christians”.
• It would seem that we should ask Bishop Sprague if he thinks that Jesus exhibited “a kind of non-Jesus-like arrogance” when He claimed to be the exclusive way to reconciliation with God.
• It would seem that even a few Southern Baptists who love Jesus and care for people would do Chicago a lot more good than a truckload of denominational wonks and “Religious Leaders”.

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