I’ve never met Brent Beasley, senior pastor at Second Baptist Church in Memphis, Tenn., but I have become a huge fan. In a recent column at Ethicsdaily.com, Beasley asks the question, “Why are Christians so prone to fear?”
He goes on to point out that Christians, of all people of faith, should have the least reason to fear. “Why are Christians such as easy mark for political manipulation?” he asks. “Why are Christians so gullible?” He continues, “Is the power and the truth of God really so vulnerable?”
At the end Beasley quotes 2 Timothy: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”
What got the pastor going on all this was a flyer he received from an organization calling itself “Memphis City Churches.” Beasley, who serves as president of the Memphis Ministerial Association, was surprised he had never heard of this organization.
The flyer, apparently sent to all church leaders in the Memphis area began with this ominous message: “A WARNING TO ALL PASTORS AND CHURCHES!”
The flyer continued with these words: “Pastor’s and churches will be silenced. On May 3, 2007, the House of Representatives voted to SILENCE CHURCHES. The decision could cause pastors and lay Christians alike to be arrested for preaching the truth or for sharing their faith.”
I must confess, that totally got by me. I was not aware that the U.S. House of Representatives had declared war on the Christian church. You think someone would have noticed and notified the rest of us that Christian preaching was now illegal. I’ve been in violation for about three months now.
Ah, but wait, there’s more.
It turns out that the House did not really silence churches; representatives simply passed a new hate-crimes bill. Beasley wrote, “If it passes in the Senate, the bill would provide federal assistance to local governments in investigating all hate crimes, including those against people based on their race, religion, color, disability, gender, gender identity or sexual orientation.”
That is where opponents to the hate-crime legislation drive the knife of fear into the hearts of preachers. They argue that if hate-crime legislation also precludes hate speech, then preachers who preach against homosexuality are in danger of being silenced.
Beasley bemoans how easily Christians are manipulated into believing such nonsense. He quotes from the bill itself: “Nothing in this Act, or the amendments made by this Act, shall be construed to prohibit any expressive conduct.” In other words, no one from the government is going to shut down a church because the pastor preached a sermon from Leviticus.
Of course, maybe there are those out there who do want to use the pulpit as a platform for hate speech. I would hope not. After all, one of the foundational Scripture passages for the entire Christian movement is Jesus’ declaration that we are to “love our neighbors as we love ourselves.” It’s hard to reconcile hate speech directed toward another person, and the command to love them at the same time.
It’s also hard to reconcile, as pastor Beasley points out, how people possessed of such a great faith can be so easily spooked. In the same commandment where Jesus told us to love our neighbor, he first told us to love God with all we have. Included in the list is the directive to love God with our minds.
Maybe if we thought more, we would fear less.
James L. Evans, a syndicated columnist, also serves as pastor of Auburn First Baptist Church in Auburn, Ala.