They’ll know we are Christians by our love
Published 10:32 am Wednesday, June 13, 2018
by Cara Butler
Kenya Smith’s column Friday (“Remembering hate crime, 20 years later”) disturbed me greatly. Ms. Smith is using the anniversary of a tragedy to denounce Christian leadership. As a Christian, I feel compelled to respond.
The atrocities that inspired the Shepard-Byrd Act cannot be tolerated. These men were tortured and killed because of sexuality (Matthew Shephard) and race (James Byrd Jr.) I am not a legal expert by any means, but as President [Barack] Obama said at its signing in 2009, the Act is there “to help protect our citizens from violence based on what they look like, who they love, how they pray or who they are.”
As with most legislation in this country, the Act was politicized, with both sides of the aisle pointing fingers at the other. It was included as a division of the National Defense spending bill, confusing the issue further. After reading Ms. Smith’s column, I spent a fair amount of time researching and reading the actual bill that was before Congress as well as several analysts’ viewpoints.
“They’ll know we are Christians by our love.”
Ms. Smith implies that Christians, or at least Christian leaders, are against hate crime laws. I hope she is not saying that these leaders are defending hate crimes. By definition, a Christian is a follower of Jesus Christ. Jesus brought a message of love to our world, not hate. A true follower of Christ cannot support a culture of hate.
“We will walk with each other, we will walk hand in hand.”
Jesus teaches us to love our neighbor, and He challenges us on the definition of that word ‘neighbor’. The Samaritan, despised by the people of Israel for being different, was the true neighbor in the story. Did you catch that — despised for being different?
In another teaching, Jesus says that we should love our enemies. That is the tricky part. It is easy to love those who are like us; it is much harder to love those who are against us, those who are different from us. Do we judge each other? Yes, because we are human, we don’t always get things right.
But our job as Christians is to love, not to judge. People are different. It is easy to think that “WE” are right; “THEY” are wrong. But we are all children of God, regardless of the color of our skin or our sexuality.
“We will work with each other, we will work side by side.”
The First Amendment states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
As Americans, we have the right to express our views, no matter what they are. Sometimes people have views that I cannot support. However, that doesn’t make it wrong for them to have their own opinions.
Public debate is part of the legislative process. Ideally, this makes for better law-making.
If “many in the Christian community” had concerns about the proposed bill infringing on Constitutional rights, it was their responsibility to voice that concern. As Ms. Smith points out, the bill signed into law specifically addresses the protection of First Amendment rights.
“We’ll guard each man’s dignity and save each man’s pride.”
Ms. Smith also indicates that people are leaving Christianity. A recent Harvard study shows that while traditional churches in the United States may be in decline, the number of Americans who identify themselves as Christian has remained steady.
Throughout Franklin and elsewhere, there are Christians meeting in a variety of places, not all in traditional church buildings.
There have been worship services at the YMCA, at the library, at Armory Field and at Barrett’s Landing. The way people gather to worship has changed, but that doesn’t mean people are turning away from God.
“And they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”
Personally, my family joined High Street United Methodist Church shortly after moving to Franklin in 2004. We have been lifted up by this family of faith, and all are welcome to join us in worship and fellowship. The love of Christ flows through us as we help those in need in our community and in the world.
I pray that it is true, that “they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”
“They’ll Know We Are Christians By Our Love” by Peter Scholtes 1966, F.E.L. Publications, assigned to The Lorenz Corp., 1991
CARA BUTLER lives in Franklin with her husband and two sons. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.