Monday, December 17, 2007

Is ‘bashing’ sub-Christian? Not necessarily...

From "FIRST-PERSON: Is ‘bashing’ sub-Christian? Not necessarily" by Mark Coppenger, posted 12/26/07 at Baptist Press

EVANSTON, Ill. (BP)--Recently, my Apologetics in Contemporary Ministry class was turning through the premier issue of Salvo, published by the folks at Touchstone. Salvo is a hard-hitting publication, one designed to discomfit sub-Christian and anti-Christian ideologies arrayed against “the faith once for all delivered to the saints.”

The magazine featured some carefully crafted mock advertisements. One invited people to the “Church of Darwin.” Another parodied PETA with a pitch for PETI (“People for the Ethical Treatment of Insects”). Most of these ads performed the classic “reduction to absurdity,” drawing out the embarrassing implications of an opponents’ stance –- “If he had his way, look what sort of craziness he’d get us into!”

In the course of our discussion, a student said he would be reluctant to pass the magazine on to a non-believer since some of the material could be seen as “bashing,” so I asked whether “bashing” (as in “gay-bashing” and “Bush-bashing”) was a bad thing, per se. What was bashing anyway?

I took up the marker and began to write possible definitions on the board, trying a bit of the Socratic method. We started with something like, “To bash is to insult,” but that wasn’t automatically bad. Jesus did it without apology. (See for example, Luke 11:45, where it is clear He got a twofer, hitting both the Pharisees and the lawyers.) So we tried a refinement: “To bash is to attack someone personally, and not just his ideas.” But, again WWJD got in the way, for the Lord said His opponents, and not just their teachings, were like whitewashed tombs and serpents (Matthew 23:27, 33).

Okay, then maybe “to bash is to take a cheap shot?” But what’s a cheap shot? Is it a zinger without accompanying rationale? Is it disrespectful sarcasm? If so, must we apologize for Elijah’s sarcastic and caustic challenge to the prophets of Baal on Carmel, “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened” (1 Kings 18:27). But it’s hard to call something “cheap” when it is saturated with truth, in Elijah’s case the truth of the emptiness and toxicity of idolatry.

But didn’t Paul say that, in our dealings with outsiders, our “speech [should] always be gracious, seasoned with salt” (Colossians 4:6)? Good point, but he prescribed salt, not sugar, and salt can sting a bit, as John the Baptist, the Apostles, and Jesus showed. Truth can hurt, but it can graciously make one free.

I then asked them why nobody ever criticized “racism-bashing” and “pedophilia-bashing...”

Read the rest of this thought-provoking commentary.