Dogs and Swine: A Response, or Maybe Not
by Derrick G. Jeter
The last month or two has seen a spate of anti-Christian diatribes, and it’s caused not some little heartburn among the faithful. The usual response from the Christian movers and shakers, and their organizations is to call foul and demand an apology. Then there is always the argument that the offenders would never say the same things about Muhammad or Allah. The number of anti-Christ messages even has the media asking whether it’s open season on Christians.
For example, Christopher Hitchens’s last book, god is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, is a screed against all religion, but Christianity is particularly in his sights. It’s really a book of ironies, beginning with his name. Of course he had no choice in selecting the name, but his vehement atheism is an unfortunate twist for one who carries the name of Christ. Be that as it may, the important irony about Hitchens’s book is his pretended mantle as an enlightened man of the old order. He admires men like Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine; men who believed in mankind’s reason and the advancement of science. In as far as I’ve read or heard him, Hitchens has been an imminently reasonable man. But in this work he seems to have lost his reason. After reading the book, one is left with the distinct impression that Hitchens didn’t come to his conclusions about God or religion from a rational study of the subject. Rather, his beef with God emanates from an irrational pre-conclusion that “religion poisons everything.” Or more precisely, his beef is not so much with God as it is with those to claim to follow God. As far as Hitchens’s problem with hypocrites is concerned there is much for Christians to hear. To argue that God is evil or apathetic, however, because His followers are sometimes evil and apathetic is to use the fallacy of the strawman—easy to knock down Christians who are fallible and frail. God, on the other hand, is a matter altogether different! Reading Hitchens’s book I’m reminded of G. K. Chesterton’s retort to George Bernard Shaw, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.”
Another example, this one more trivial, has to do with recent comments by the d-list comedian Kathy Griffin, who won an Emmy for best reality show in 2007. When she accepted her award she said, “A lot of people come up here and thank Jesus for this award. I want you to know that no one had less to do with this award than Jesus. Suck it, Jesus. This award is my god now.” A few days later, while listening to a local call-in show the host was taking Griffin to task for her blasphemy, and Christians for not speaking out against her. During his rant he said, “I’m tired of this turn the other cheek business.” I was thinking: Wait a moment. Let me get this straight. You are coming to the defense of Jesus—got His back, so to speak—but you don’t want to bother with Jesus’s unreasonable commands like turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:39) or love your enemies (Matthew 5:44). Who’s really offended here, Jesus or you?
One last example, and this one really is silly. San Francisco’s Folsom Street Fair produced a poster, to advertise the arts and food festival, satirizing Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper. But instead of robed figures sitting behind a table of bread and wine, there are a group of homosexual and transvestite men dressed in leather, seated at a table covered with sex toys.
Now, the question for Christians is whether we should respond to such offensive messages about Christ, and if so, how?
May I suggest: Everyone, take a deep breath.
We shouldn’t be surprised that there are those who oppose Christ. In fact, I’m surprise more don’t. We’ve been warned that “in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, hatters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2 Timothy 3:1–4). And haven’t we also been told that “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (2 Corinthians 4:4)?
In other words, you’ve been warned, now relax. God told us this would happen, and why. He is still in control. Who is Christopher Hitchens or Kathy Griffin or the organizers of the Folsom Street Fair to God? He is more than capable to disciple, correct, or punish when he sees fit.
Having said all this, I still haven’t answered the question, should Christians respond and how? The answer is simple, but not popular—No, not if we are trying to convince them of their offense. Jesus made it clear in Matthew 7:6 that we are not to continue to place that which is holy and valuable, like a pearl, before dogs and swine. To continue to talk about Christ, or how they’ve spit on His name, with those who have utterly rejected the gospel is the same as throwing treasure in a pigsty. They won’t and can’t appreciate it; they’ll trample it under foot. And then they’ll turn on you and scorn Christ all the more.
Proverbs 23:9 are wise words to heed when we come across the “dogs and swine” of our world: “Do not speak in the hearing of a fool. / For he will despise the wisdom of your words.”
So, take a breath and relax. You try to live at peace and leave room for God to put the dogs in the pound and make bacon out of the swine (Romans 12:18–19).
Chesterton quote: What’s Wrong with the World, http://www.chesterton.org/discover/quotations.html, accessed 30 September 2007.
Griffin quote: http://www.reuters.com/article/entertainmentNews/idUSN1144512920070911, accessed 15 September 2007.