Jesus Kicks Butt, Takes Names

Jeff Sharlet of TheRevealer.org has some reactions to
yesterday's post about the LA Times piece on Voice of the Martyrs.

His main concerns: a potential rise in aggressive , muscular Christianity and that VOM represents a kind of theological self-centeredness that cares only about religious liberty for oppressed Christians but doesn't concern itself with the liberties of people from other faiths.

I sure hope that muscular Christianity is not on the rise, unless it's of the Dr. King-Mother Teresa--William Wilberforce type. That's the kind of power I was trying to get at in my post yesterday. The willingness to do what's right despite our fears.

There's another another missing nuance in the VOM story--what does suffering mean?

In Christian history--Suffering and persecution have been seen as signs of faithfulness, and of participation in the suffering of Christ. It's redemptive--not something to be avoided at all cost . It gives meaning to what can otherwise been seen as simply horrific acts. And telling the story of martyrs' deaths as VOM does, means their lives are remembered--that's no small thing.

There's some irony that this piece on VOM came out the same week as "Glorious Appearing," what was to be the last Left Behind book. (Recently, plans were announced for a sequel and a prequel.)

I wonder if Left Behind offers "fantasy suffering" for Christians, similar to the vicarious
"suffering along with the persecuted" criticized in this essay by the Revealer's Elizabeth Castelli.

In the Left Behind series, new Christian converts duke it out with the AntiChrist, along with the secularists, pluralists, and Catholics left behind when the true church disappears at the rapture. So there's the emotional fantasy experience of suffering plus the emotional justice of seeing Jesus kick butt at the Second Coming, as this NY Times piece points out.

With all the gruesome detail of a Hollywood horror movie, Jesus eviscerates the flesh of millions of unbelievers merely by speaking.

"Men and women soldiers and horses seemed to explode where they stood," Dr. LaHaye and Mr. Jenkins write. "It was as if the very words of the Lord had superheated their blood, causing it to burst through their veins and skin.'' The authors add, "Even as they struggled, their own flesh dissolved, their eyes melted and their tongues disintegrated."

Besides the gruesome details - Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye (Left Behind authors) have hijacked the book of Revelation -- a book written to Christians persecuted by the Roman Emperor (either Domitian or Nero) and facing gruesome deaths like being burnt alive or feed to the lions. It's a book that means something in Sudan or China or Pakistan, where practicing Christianity can get you killed.

By reading Left Behind, readers get to identify with persecuted Christians from the comfort of a Lazy Boy, and then smile as Jesus wipes out the heathen hordes.

What this has to do with the Lamb who was slain, who laid down his life for his friends, I'm not sure.


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