Using Religion to Insult Others

I have been a wrestler since I was 14. From Jr. High through post-college competition, I have always loved the sport. I’ve coached kids, college age, and have continued as a volunteer at our local high school. As I age, the pounding gets a little harder to take, but I continue because – yes – I really love the sport. Every year I watch as much of the NCAA tournament as I can (the true March Madness) and set aside Saturday night to watch the finals. After each final, the winner is interviewed, and they are almost always gracious towards the other finalists, thanking their families and friends, and other supporters for all they had done to help them achieve their dreams. Some thank God. That is where this is going.

I’ve also been a Christian since I was around the same age (professing, not just saying the words to make people happy), and I too am thankful to all the people who have helped me along the way. I am also thankful to God. I am used to watching athletes point their finger to the sky or kneel after scoring a touchdown and have no problem when they thank God for helping them along the way. I watch artists do the same things, on occasion, when they receive awards. Here is the point – one of the wrestlers, in his long thank you to Jesus, said (this isn’t an exact quote) “It’s all about my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ – you can’t find it in other places, you can’t find it in Mohammed…” Yes, it went by that quickly. He probably wasn’t even aware of what he had done; some people use that language daily. What he did on national television was lift up his faith and put down another. The worst part is that he probably thinks he is being a good follower of Jesus when he says something like that. He isn’t. Insulting other’s faith traditions isn’t discipleship.

Again, I want to be clear; I have no problem when people talk about their faith in public settings – it can get boring, but that’s your problem, not mine. My problem is when people use Jesus to insult other people and religions. My problem is the arrogance of believing and saying publicly that other religions are wrong and those who follow them are going to hell. This “My way or the highway to hell” attitude has been used as a tool of violence and destruction and degradation for centuries, and there is no place for it in public discourse. And I would boldly say that there are lots of non-Christians in my life who out-Jesus a lot of Christians. And they know the Christian Scriptures better too! Being a follower of Jesus (or anything, for that matter) doesn’t give us permission to be rude and insulting. That is not a Jesusy thing to do.

You want to talk trash about other religions in your religious setting, go right ahead. It’s wrong, but I can’t stop you. You want to think your flavor of God is the best, and maybe only, flavor that exists, then that’s on you. In public, though, we need to be respectful of others. If we aren’t, people might think it’s us who needs Jesus, not them. If people are truly supposed to know that we are Christians by our love, we should probably be loving to others. If we aren’t, we need more practice.

Prayer – Holy God, whose name we aren’t even supposed to say or know or even write, teach us how to be better at practicing our faith, so that others might benefit from our discipleship. Amen.