Guilty Because of the Criminal Name
When I checked my email this morning, I was sent this article from a good friend (thanks Steve!) about a Navy chaplain who was convicted of a misdemeanor for praying "in Jesus' name" while in uniform. Lt. Gordon James Klingenschmitt disobeyed his commanding officer’s order not to pray in uniform, which could result in Klingenschmitt losing two-thirds of his pay per month for one year and a reprimand. Now I realize that there is an issue of insubordination and guilt based on disobeying orders, but the real issue here cannot be overlooked or side-stepped. It comes right down to the heart of Christianity and its unapologetical confession that salvation is in and through the person of Jesus Christ alone, to whom we pray and commit our lives.
What Janet Folger calls “The Criminalization of Christianity” is not new to Christianity as Christians have shown themselves as God’s gifts to the world who “went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated” as men of whom the world was not worthy (Hebrews 11:37). Indeed, to profess that Jesus is Lord and King has caused many a Christian to find themselves amidst fiery flames or ravenous lions. Today, Christians find themselves all around the world being beaten, imprisoned, and killed for praying and proclaiming salvation “in Jesus’ name.”
One only needs to look at the prayer of Franklin Graham who prayed “in Jesus’ name” at the inauguration of President George W. Bush to see the vitriol and intolerance of the Western world to the universal and exclusive claims of Jesus Christ. As long as you pray to “god” (whomever that be), it is acceptable, for everyone will ascribe to that person any sort of deity. The more ambiguous and nondescript the better for our pluralistic and anti-Christian society. Yet for the Christian, we do not pray to some generalized deity. He is the Triune God of Scripture, of whom we pray to the Father in the name of Son by the Holy Spirit. Christianity is all about a personal God who is both our Savior and our Lord and has called us into personal relationship through the death and resurrection of His Son, whose name happens to be Jesus.
Let this serve as a reminder to those of us who are living in the “Disneyland of America” that life is not a playground but a battleground. We must live in a wartime mentality and be willing to suffer hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. After all, he was the only who enlisted us to His service, who called us away from our “earthly pursuits” into a lifelong pursuit of pleasing our one and final commanding officer--namely, Jesus Christ the King (2 Timothy 2:3-4).
Furthermore, this is but one contemporary example of why I cannot accept inclusivism as an evangelical option (and also cannot adopt Billy Graham’s statements). A year ago, I wrote a post with a few quotes from Tertullian in his Apology in which he argues against his opponents who attempted to criminalize the name of Christians. In conclusion, let me share one of the quotes from Tertullian:
“ . . . It is made perfectly clear that there is no crime of any kind in the case, but merely a name which a certain system, ever working against the truth, pursues with its enmity, doing this chiefly with the object of securing that men may have no desire to know for certain what they are entirely ignorant of. Hence, too, it is that they believe about us things of which they have no proof, and they are disinclined to have them looked into, lest the charges, they would rather take on trust, are all proved to have no foundation, that the name so hostile to that rival power—its crimes presumed, not proved—may be condemned simply on its own confession. . . . In our case alone you are either ashamed or unwilling to mention the very names of our crimes. If to be called a “Christian” does not imply any crime, the name is surely very hateful, when that of itself is made a crime.” (chapter II, 19-20).
Let goods and kindred go This mortal life also The body they may kill God’s truth abideth still His kingdom is forever.
- Martin Luther