A friend sent me a 68 second video clip from CNN that I invite you to view. I found it stunning for several reasons that I will later explain. I would love to provoke a "serious" dialog about this video clip and see if some of you can help us all find better ways to reach our culture with the gospel of Christ. Without further comment from me watch the clip.


Now, my questions. Are these three Christians in the Senate chamber acting courageously? Are they right in what they actually pray? Should they have been there taking these actions in this place? What do their actions say about who we all are as Christians today. How should we appropriately respond to the presence of numerous non-Christian religions that now share the public religious platform with us in modern America? What should a genuinely missional Christian do in the face of modern pluralism and the various false teachings that confront the one true faith as it is revealed in Jesus Christ alone?

I find these actions, by the extremely zealous Christians, totally out of line. They were courageous but very foolish, completely unwise. Christian love is "kind" and it is "does not dishonor others" according to 1 Corinthians 13:4-5. Another translation of 1 Corinthians 13 says love is never "rude." These actions, regardless of the truths uttered about abomination, were simply rude and unkind. Every one with an ounce of common sense can see this on the video, indeed you feel it. I felt embarrassed, not because of Christ and his glory but because of bad behavior by those who likely share the same basic faith claims that I do. I teach bold Christian evangelism as a profession and I know the history of the early Christians in evangelism (cf. Michael Green, Evangelism in the Early Church) and I assure you this behavior is not consistent with how Rome was transformed by the gospel.

Secondly, we no longer live in a culture where we have the power to make others conform to Christian thought and practice, even if we ever did have it in the first place or should have it ever in the future. To confront error in this manner does our mission, that of proclaiming the Lordship of Jesus over all people and cultures, great harm. We  must promote his Lordship, even over the U. S. Senate, but the issue here is the manner in which it should be done. The Christian Right has fostered "confrontation" as the primary means of expression. This video is a reflection of that style and approach. It will only please those who are angry and want to fight back against the losses that we have sustained in the culture. It is not a strategy of victory but of final defeat. We win people not simply by right words, which we should already know, but by right actions. The actions taken here are inconsistent with the mission of Jesus. They only make our job harder in terms of faithful witness.

Third, I do not believe Ephesians 6:10-20, and the biblical teaching on spiritual warfare, supports this type of behavior at all. Our warfare, the apostle tells us, "is not with flesh and blood." Our warfare is not even with false religions but with the spirits behind false teaching. We can honor and love false teachers and tolerate their practices in a civil way (not of course within the Christian Church where the principles are quite different) without surrendering the battle image that we are clearly called to by Paul. Our problem is not with battle but with wrong tactics in the battle.

Finally, I expect more of this kind of confrontation to take place in the future, not less. Christians tried to regain power in America by the ballot box and we changed nothing in the wider culture. (I grant that we improved the Supreme Court makeup but that is about it on the moral front, at least nationally.) Since 1980 Christians have actively pursued political power as if this was their primary role in the society. (Christians should run for office, be involved in government and raise moral and social issues!) We have had direct access to the White House and what has it done to make the church more like Christ? What has it done to restore the heart of God’s people to the Lord? What has it done to truly change the minds and hearts of young people who are leaving the church in droves, now more than ever in American history.

I would love to hear your thoughts. Pro or con, this discussion desperately needs to take place. This video creates a context for it better than almost anything I’ve seen in years.

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  1. Davey Henreckson July 13, 2007 at 11:13 am

    I can’t remember the last time I saw something so illustrative of the situation we find ourselves in now. I think there must be a way to actively, even militantly, confront this kind of idolatry (which glides by under the protection of a pluralistic Americanism). But at the same time, the tactic adopted by the protesters in the video, while courageous, comes across as shrill. I have no problem with taking a firm stand against outright idolatry (even if one risks being labeled “Constantinian”), but I think there must be a way to do that doesn’t make Christians look like a bitter ex who wants get revenge on her boyfriend’s new love interest.

  2. Agnology - a study in human ignorance July 13, 2007 at 11:31 am

    Three Christians arrested at the Senate protesting Hindu prayer

    John Armstrong just blogged about the three Christians who were arrested for interrupting the first Hindu prayer in the Senate. See the video. He raises several interesting questions: Are these three Christians in the Senate chamber acting courageously…

  3. Agnology - a study in human ignorance July 13, 2007 at 11:35 am

    Three Christians arrested at the Senate protesting Hindu prayer

    John Armstrong just blogged about the three Christians who were arrested for interrupting the first Hindu prayer in the Senate.See the video. He raises several interesting questions: Are these three Christians in the Senate chamber acting courageously?…

  4. Agnology - a study in human ignorance July 13, 2007 at 12:20 pm

    Three Christians arrested at the Senate protesting Hindu prayer

    John Armstrong just blogged about the three Christians who were arrested for interrupting the first Hindu prayer in the Senate.See the video. He raises several interesting questions: Are these three Christians in the Senate chamber acting courageously?…

  5. Steve Scott July 13, 2007 at 4:01 pm

    I heard one protester use the words “wicked” and “abomination.” But the short prayer of an Indian man is no where near as wicked or abominable as what happens in the US Senate every day. If anything, the daily prayers that have invoked the name of the true God for centuries now have been a violation of the third commandment. His name has certainly been taken in vain in that place. Maybe this is just God removing His name from wickedness. What’s so bad about that?

  6. Kevin July 13, 2007 at 5:53 pm

    When I first saw the video I was proud of the Christians who stood up and prayed to Jesus, countering the prayers of the hindu priest. I was also wondering, didn’t those who were planning the senate meeting know what was going to happen? They were pushing their own agenda onto others. If they want to allow it then the Christian members should not have to participate in it. They should be given an appropriate public forum to exress their displeasure. Maybe to avoid this situation they can eliminate the prayer altogehter and the Christians can have prayer meetings, prior to the larger meeting where people can attend according to their own free will. What is going here is slippery slope. What us next? A wickka prayer servant? Christians must be given a meaningful way to protest publically and not just have these prayer servants thrust upon them. All this reminds me of the struggle with “other gods” in 2 Kings. God was pleased when kings tried to eliminate Baal worshp and the high places. There is a time when Christians will have to declare publically that Jesus is the way the truth and the life and nobody comes to the Father except through Jesus and that decaration will not be easy to make. We need to have bold faith in these times or the populace will not know the way to eternal life. Or maybe people are beginning to think the way to eternal life is not so important anymore. “Getting along” together seems to be given more priority than spending eternity with Jesus. Do we care if others come with us?

  7. Alex July 13, 2007 at 8:28 pm

    The Christians in the video are silly. I agree that there is nothing wise or winsome about their “ministry” (is that what they would call it?). All they did was make a scene and make it harder for the rest of us who are actually trying to thoughtfully engage the world with the gospel rather than just screaming it at people.
    I do agree, though, with the comment that probably the best option is to remove prayer altogether…something that (praise the Lord in his sovereignty in spite of his people) happened in the public schools several decades ago that is now saving us from having this exact same scene multiplied thousands of times over in schools all across the country.

  8. Kevin July 14, 2007 at 11:05 am

    What is the difference between Hinduism and some of the religions of the OT times that God was so displeased about? Hinduism was one those OT religions.

  9. Rich July 14, 2007 at 4:42 pm

    Inconsiderate. Unkind. Inappropriate. Unloving. These words describe the aggressors. Its a sad fact that they probably feel that Hindus should HAVE to sit and listen to prayers to Jesus, but Christians should never have to listen to Hindu prayers. Its a classic case of, “Shut up and listen, and we’ll tell you the truth,” rather than “Let’s listen to others because perhaps we could learn something.” I am one of those who grows increasingly disinterested in a Christianity only interested in rock-throwing and fear-mongering… whether its found in the traditionalists or the emergents, its all the same: graceless, christless, loveless, merciless, unattractive -and dare I say, ungodly – religion posing as perfect piety. It may make its adherents “feel” superior and enlightened, but it does little to witness of God.

  10. Kevin July 14, 2007 at 8:40 pm

    I have had a chance to think about this for a while and I asked myself two questions; what would I have done if I was in the senate chamber and why am I so adhement about this? In other words, “Why do I care and why should anyone care” First, if I was there I would be shocked that this prayer was happening and that I was being forced to be pluralistic. I would not have yelled out a Christian prayer, but I would not have bowed my head to a Hindu prayer. I would not participate in it, quietly. I may even asked to be excused from future pluralistic prayers.If I really felt strongly I would have organized and managed a Christian prayer service in an adjacent room. (2) Why do I feel so strongly about this? Pluralism muddies the water. It makes things unclear for our young people. When I was young I grew up in the Catholic church. (70’s) I am thankful for this because when I wanted to get serious about knowing God I knew that the starting point was Jesus and the Bible. It was understood that this is where you begin your search. And at 22 yesrs of age I met Jesus very personally. There was a time in our society that it was understood that to come to God you should come to God through Jesus and the Bible and that you should go to church. This was a given, even among unbelievers. In the 1950’s and 1960’s public media even directed people in need to local chruches and Pastors. But nowadays, pluralism says that all religions are legitimate and deserve equal respect. What is the result? When our young people want to come to God then they don’t know where to begin their search. They don’t start with Jesus. They may spend years exploring Islam, Hinduism, Buddism, athiesm, New Age religion, Wicca. They may choose Jesus last. The problem with this is we only have one life to live. Our lives are very short. We can’t spend our lives exploring dead end roads only to find ourselves at the end of our lives and not knowing Jesus. Actually Satan wants us to remain impotent and ineffective in our serce to Christ for as long as he can and pluralism serves this purpose well. Other things may even entrap our young people like a monkey putting it’s hand in a glass jar to grab a banana and not being able to let go or get out of the jar until a hunter comes and captures it. I have kids and I pray to God that their quest begins with Jesus and the Bible and that they don’t spend decades of thier short lives searching for things that keep them from Jesus. It is not going to be easy for them in this pluralistic atmosphere that is growing among us. We need to take a stand so that our young people may know where to turn to, Jesus, and not just a smorgasborg of world religions. I also appreciate this topic because it touches some core issues about evangelism.

  11. BrianK July 15, 2007 at 11:04 am

    Tolerance or confrontation?
    Neither one describes how Christians must always act. There are times for tolerance and there are times for confrontation. As I observe Jesus, he started with tolerance. Yet when the time came, Jesus used confrontation. Jesus tolerated the pride and blasphemy of the religious leaders– for a time. Our Lord is long-suffering, but that long-suffering does run out.
    I saw the video above. I do not agree with the actions the people took to disrupt the meeting. But I do love their passion. Praise God for people who are passionate for Jesus!
    …”Inconsiderate. Unkind. Inappropriate. Unloving. These words describe the aggressors.”… I say we should be careful of labeling people’s actions. How would you describe Jesus’ clearing of the temple? It was quite aggressive. It was quite unkind to those birds and quite disruptive. Our God is a God who does not shrink from confrontation when necessary.
    Has the end-times delusion already set in?

  12. Kevin July 15, 2007 at 11:47 am

    I was also thinking…are not the organizers of such a prayer in the senate Inconsiderate, unkind, inappropriate and unloving when they deliberately push their own relativistic and pluralistic agenda publically and muddy the spiritual waters for my children and the young people of this nation whom we pray for and serve, threatening their burgeoning Christian faith?

  13. BrianK July 15, 2007 at 12:36 pm

    Good point, Kevin!
    John, you seem to have a knack for picking hot-button topics on your blog. I agree this debate needs to take place; and I think it’s high time we had it.
    John makes a good point in his original post: “Finally, I expect more of this kind of confrontation to take place in the future, not less.”…
    I was wondering: why do “aggressive Christians” exist?
    I propose that such aggression exists due to the opposite end of the spectrum that many Christian leaders display. I propose that the aggressive stance of some Christians is a response to the (perceived or real) lack of absoluteness by a growing number of Christians.
    The “all-tolerant” stance American Christianity has taken makes me think it’s not hard to believe the end-times, one-world church could occur soon. I see and hear so much acceptance of all religions.
    I don’t think Jesus intended us to live on either end of the tolerance spectrum. As Christians, we are called to be lovers of truth.

  14. Kevin July 15, 2007 at 1:23 pm

    And here is another point. I think, but I can not prove it, that a lot of anger towards these aggresive Christians is not coming from Hndus or Muslims etc, but from Christians themselves who feel compelled to protect them, even at the cost of compromisig the truth. What do you think?

  15. BrianK July 15, 2007 at 2:27 pm

    Kevin, I do see an ironic, angry reaction by Christians at times toward other Christians who take an absolute and aggressive stance.
    I have learned through Bible study that Jesus calls us to a “truthful yet peaceful” approach, instead of an angry, intolerant, etc. approach, to witnessing both on a personal level and on a national level.
    For example, in my college days I met a lot of different kinds of people while delivering pizzas. I had the opportunity to witness to both a committed Muslim and a committed atheist once. The Muslim student was not persuaded at that moment to believe, but he told me he had a new respect for Christianity because I took an absolute stand on the gospel truth. The atheist also did not believe at that moment. But he told me he respected me as a Christian because I was “not up in his face” and he did not feel condemned around me.
    While this is an example of personal witnessing, I believe the same approach holds true at a national level. I strongly oppose having a Hindu or any other non-Christian pray in our Congressional meetings (this is my absolute stance on truth). At the same time, I think the Christians in the video need to learn a better way to express their views (this is my understanding of the peace of God).
    In our limited human minds, we want to side with one extreme or the other. How does a Christian apply a truthful yet peaceful approach to winning souls for Jesus? I suggest that shrewdness is called for.
    In my personal life and in my national viewpoints, I try to apply Jesus’ teachings about shrewdness when it comes to interacting with an unbelieving world (“…be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves…” Mt 10:16 NIV; and “…use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves…” Lk 16:9 NIV).

  16. Steve Scott July 15, 2007 at 6:29 pm

    I think a very important point is being missed here in the comments. It’s not whether Christians should be confrontational or tolerant or peaceful or loving or standing for truth. It’s about authority. Did these people have the authority to disrupt order in the Senate during prayer? The answer is no. This can’t be compared to Jesus turning tables in the temple. He had authority becasue He is God and He owned the temple. If this had occurred on the sidewalk outside the Senate, it would be a different matter.
    Now, the bible says that John the Baptist confronted Herod quite frequently, and specifically regarding marrying his brother’s wife, but I doubt he violated property rights in doing so. The “truth” of what each party said doesn’t trump the “truth” of order. I have no right to preach the gospel over a 1000 watt PA system in a residential neighborhood at 2am, even though I may speak the “truth.”

  17. BrianK July 17, 2007 at 7:25 am

    Your point about authority is well taken. The senators did not have human authority to do what they did.
    Yet a part of my wants to jump for joy at their actions.
    I also agree that the US congress meeting cannot be compared to Jesus’ clearing the temple in Jerusalem. Your comment way up above is quite sobering: “His name has certainly been taken in vain in that place. Maybe this is just God removing His name from wickedness.”
    My point in bringing up the clearing of the temple was to see Jesus’ spirit. Was Jesus going against human authority at that time?
    In normal times I think we must act within the constraints of human authority. I question I have is this: When, if at all, do we go against human authority?
    The national landscape at this time is confusing to me. We have people accepting a Hindu prayer in congress and a man being sworn into office on the Koran. At the same time we have the 10 commandments being remove and nativity scences marked as illegal. In fact, my children are prohibited from singing “we wish you a merry Christmas” in their school and must sing “we wish you a happy holiday”.
    In my mind it is unacceptable t have a Hindu prayer in our nation’s capital. Being inclusive of people of other religions is good. Adopting other religions practices is idolatry.

  18. George C July 17, 2007 at 8:33 am

    It is interesting that in almost all conversations regarding this subject a HUGE point is over looked: America is not God’s special people.
    Quite often Jesus show anger towards people for their false teachings and practices, but they were set apart as God’s people and were doing things in God’s name.
    We live in a country that holds to many diverse beliefs. We must cling to and speak the truth, but there is nothing to say that our government should be fuctioning as if it were Christian. The way that it behaves much of the time only makes public Christian prayer a joke.
    The type of behavior displayed in the video would be much more appropriate during a Sunday service than a government meeting.

  19. BrianK July 17, 2007 at 6:48 pm

    You bring up an excellent issue, and one that cuts to the heart of many topics: Is America, or any nation, God’s special people?
    Based on Exodus 19:5,6 and 1 Peter 2:9, as well as most of the entire Bible, I believe wholeheartedly that God desires each nation to be His people.
    When a nation turns away from God, God’s wrath will come upon that nation.
    God wants America to be His people. God wants each nation to be His people. I see this as a clear Biblical teaching from Genesis to Revelation.
    There is a Biblical mandate for a missional Christian church to not only engage in personal evangelism, but also in national evangelism. God wants both people and nations to come to Him.
    Now, having said all that, I still agree that the senator’s actions are a violation of human authority. And I am still thinking that in spite of their “rebellion”, their zeal for Jesus is needed in America.

  20. pyodor August 19, 2007 at 10:16 pm

    I think your claim about “Exodus 19:5,6 and 1 Peter 2:9 as well as most of the entire Bible” is INCORRECT! You are trying to present your personal OPINION as an objective truth by quoting some verses from the Bible! Your claim about “Exodus 19:5,6 and 1 Peter 2:9 as well as most of the entire Bible” cannot even be an interpretation since you don’t seem to specify the criteria of being “his people” based on the Bible which by the way seems to be the key point of many comments on this blog spot such as the one by George.
    You seem to be making a logical mistake in your Bible study by blindly employing the principle, “Since A is in the Bible, we should do B.” There is a difference between psychological certainty and logical certainty. You need certain degree of theological certainty in your Bible study. Otherwise there is no difference between palm reading and your Bible study.
    You say that we need the spirit of the three Christians who interrupted the Hindu priest’s prayer in this generation to serve God better. I don’t see how you can come to this conclusion based on “Exodus 19:5,6 and 1 Peter 2:9 as well as most of the entire Bible”. But I do know that it is an objective truth that we Christians have a mission to preach the gospel to the Hindu priest.

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