"Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies." (from I Corinthians 8:1 New King James Version)
I heard it once again as I listened to a radio talk show late on Friday night, September 11, 2015. A zealous Christian phoned in and spoke over the airwaves. I assume she thought she was being used as an instrument for God and that she'd been a great witness for Christ; and perhaps even that she'd put the host and his listeners in their place. Nothing could have been further from the truth.
The radio program was Nightside hosted by veteran broadcaster Dan Rea on Boston's WBZ AM 1030 radio. (WBZ's nighttime signal gets into thirty-eight states and six Canadian provinces. Plus, it can be accessed pretty much anywhere on earth over the internet.) Dan chose an excellent topic for the final two hours of his September 11 program: He asked listeners to call in and share where they were on September 11, 2001 and what their memories are of that day. The good news is that Dan did receive several very good calls on Friday evening, but the bad news is that the first three or four calls sounded as if they came in from mentally ill listeners in another dimension! And, that very first call of the evening was the one by the Christian zealot.
The caller did not have a September 11, 2001 story. She began by ranting and raving that, "It's all in the Bible!" She continued on by saying that most of the hijackers on September 11, '01 were Iranians. Dan quickly interjected that they in fact were not Iranians, and that most of them were Saudi Arabian citizens. That correction seemed to "go in one ear and out the other" to use the tired old expression. The woman prattled on and on about the Bible having all the answers to everything and the importance of standing by Israel. Dan Rea tried to have a conversation with her, but his efforts were hopeless. Dan referred to the Bible as "a book", and as amazing as this may sound, that phrase affected his caller like spraying gasoline onto a fire! She immediately protested that the Bible is not a book! (Boy, the last time I checked, it sure looked like a book to me! In fact, my understanding is that "Bible" literally means "book" !) The caller yelled, "The Bible is the Word of God!". Well, for any seriously committed Christian, including me, The Bible is the Word of God, but it's also definitely a book! Dan asked the caller what particular denomination she belonged to, and she insisted she is "a Christian". At one point, she did use the term, "born-again Christian". (Listen, I call myself a born-again Christian, but by the time the call was over I was so embarrassed and uncomfortable!)
I've been an evangelical Christian (also known as "born-again Christian") for forty-five years. I hate to admit it, but in my younger days, I did some things which were almost as foolish and inappropriate as that woman's call to WBZ. I wrote some letters to newspaper's editorial pages which now embarrass me. (One was against Halloween. I still am not a big advocate of Halloween, but I'd just never write a letter like that to a newspaper today. I did not hesitate to make simplistic arguments nor did I hesitate to put myself into some very embarrassing positions in the name of "defending the faith" or "being a spokesman for God".) There are even some pieces from the first three or four years of my blog (circa 2006-2009) that I probably wouldn't write today.
I'd honestly like to teach a class on the dos and don'ts of public discourse for enthusiastic evangelical Christians. I guess the problem is that the people who really need to attend such a class probably wouldn't! It's possible that the lead-off caller on Friday night could have done a pretty good job if she'd have truly had a conversation with Dan Rea and treated him with respect, if she'd have contributed a good personal story about September 11, 2001, and if she'd have just admitted that the Bible really is a book!
I wonder how many listeners thought, "There goes another mindless, annoying, Christian zealot! I want nothing to do with their God!" And, that's the problem. Such zealots honestly mean well, but they do a lot of damage.
The bottom line is: Give it a lot of thought and prayer before you call a radio program, submit a letter to the newspaper, or post something on a blog or social media site. No matter how well-meaning you are, you may find yourself doing much more harm than good!