When I was younger you knew exactly when a celebrity's career had peaked and had begun to spiral slowly downward. That career reversal could be duly noted when a one-time big star was booked on The Love Boat.
So it is with some reluctance that I address the brouhaha surrounding the comments by talk show host Rosie O'Donnell. I am reluctant to discuss this because I think that Rosie is in the Love Boat phase of her career. To be fair, she has forged a career that garners her national attention. My career has made me a household name only in my household. Nonetheless, her comments conveyed a common misconception (make that "lie") about the "agenda" of Christians in this country. Here is what the always genteel Rosie had to say during a recent episode of The View:
"Radical Christianity is just as threatening as radical Islam in a country like America where we have separation of church and state."
Perhaps part of the problem is a lack of clarity in definition. Unfortunately the sacred name of "Christian" has been compromised. People who clearly do not follow the directives of Christ are still reported as Christians in many media stories. And frankly, many have taken the name on themselves who are not representing Christ in their lives or beliefs. So when Rosie throws out the term "radical Christianity," I really don't know what or who she is talking about. If she is talking about the millions of people in this country who call themselves "born-again" or Evangelical Christians then I believe she is sadly misinformed.
The predictable (and likely hoped-for outrage) is happening. Already there are calls from Christian organizations requesting her removal from the show. Some are demanding that Rosie apologize. Regular readers of these humble ramblings know that I take a different approach to situations like this. I don't call for boycotts or dismissals. I suspect ratings will take care of this particular situation. Instead I look to stick my foot in the cultural debate door that controversies like this inevitably open to discuss my faith. I was disappointed when The Book of Daniel was cancelled so quickly because I was having a field day sharing my beliefs with others because of that truly bad television show.
And now, because of this incident, I am willing to totally outline my "agenda" for Rosie O'Donnell. Am I a radical Christian? By my definition I would like to be, but I am still trying to get there. My definition of a radical Christian is one who lives everyday trying to become more like Jesus. That makes you pretty darn radical in this self-absorbed and materialistic culture.
I had written an earlier post after I had been outed by an internet blogger as being "apparently religious" in my viewpoints. I was stunned at his intellectual prowess in figuring out that a blog called "Confessions of a Bad Christian" was written from a religious perspective. How did I ever get discovered? I thought my cover was airtight! At that time I wrote about my agenda and those words are appropriate today.
When I became aware that word of my Evangelical Christianity was out, I went to the secret underground bunker where we all meet to plan how to advance our agenda...
"I have been Valerie Plumed!" I told the group.
"They know?", they asked.
"I'm afraid so. Should I come clean?"
They looked horrified. "You mean tell them your agenda?"
"Yes," I said boldly. "I am going to lay out my entire agenda so there will be no doubt."
So here it is. I certainly don't speak for all Evangelical Christians, but I think I just might represent a number of them. Rosie, I am coming clean. Here is what I believe and my entire agenda:
- I believe that there is one God, eternally existent in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I believe the Bible is the inspired and authoritative Word of God. I believe in the deity of Jesus Christ, in His virgin birth, His sinless life, and miracles. I believe in His atoning death, in His bodily resurrection, in His ascension to the right hand of the Father, and in His personal return in power and glory. I believe in the present ministry of the Holy Spirit by whose indwelling the Christian is enabled to live a godly life.
Let me tell you what this particular evangelical Christian does not believe...
- I do not believe you have to be a Republican to be a Christian, despite accusations to the contrary by some of my critics. Like it or not, heaven will be bipartisan and I am totally fine that there will not be sides of the golden aisles.
- I do not believe that God is "judging" America for any particular sin. But if He is judging this country I would suspect it is for the massive squandering of wealth and resources that we have been blessed with while giving back an average of less than three percent.
- I do not believe in ranking sins for their offensiveness. Some things are more offensive to us but all sin is equally intolerable to a Holy God.
- I do not believe that censorship, boycotts, or politics will redeem this culture... only a spiritual renewal can accomplish such redemption.
- I do not believe that it is my place to relish or desire eternal punishment for others. I am willing to leave that to a righteous and just God who sees the real heart and motives for each one of us and Who will judge justly.
And finally, here is my complete agenda.
- To try and see everyone through the eyes of Jesus because my eyes are prejudiced and prideful.
- To try and love them like Jesus because my love is selfish.
- To let others know that my relationship with Jesus has changed my life, given my life purpose, given me strength to endure tragedy, and real hope for the future.
- To authentically relate how this personal relationship with the living God saved my marriage and made me a better father to my sons.
- To be gentle in relating the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ to people in every situation and mired in any sin. My goal is to introduce them to Jesus and let them work out their salvation in fear and trembling.
- To exhibit grace and forgiveness to those who attack me for not sharing their views.
- To be an example of the living Christ to everyone I come in contact so that I can be salt and light to my little circle of influence.
- To be a advocate for those wounded by the church and other Christians. Our lack of unity must grieve the Lord who prayed for unity of the body during His final agonizing hours before His betrayal, mock trial, and crucifixion.
- To try to never be surprised or repulsed by the actions of those who do not have a relationship with Jesus. The Lord Himself was always gentle with sinners and always tough on religious hypocrites. We have reversed his example far too often. We are too tough on sinners and too gentle with the hypocrites.
- To try and give generously of my time and treasure to those who have not been as materially blessed in my neighborhood, my country, and around the world.
- To let people know that I love Jesus and I am not at all ashamed of that fact.
In short, I am praying to be a "troublesome" Christian. It is easy to dismiss the hypocrite. No problem to ignore the angry and judgmental religious types. But I was troubled when I saw some Christians who displayed something different in their lives. I could not dismiss so readily the joy, peace, strength, courage, and love they modeled. They were "troublesome" Christians to me. I could not ignore them because their lives were authentic and different (different good, not weird). I want to be that kind of Christian. That is my agenda. Sorry if I have disappointed you conspiracy types. But I have come completely clean with you. My entire agenda is to be a "troublesome" Christian because Jesus is transforming my life every day. My prayer for Rosie O'Donnell is that she meets one of these troublesome Christians and then that she encounter Jesus.
That's it. End of agenda. That's all I've got in the radical agenda bag. I am so relieved that you finally know the truth.
Dave Burchett is an Emmy Award winning television sports director, author, and Christian speaker. He is the author of When Bad Christians Happen to Good People and Bring ’em Back Alive – A Healing Plan for those Wounded by the Church.You can reply by linking through daveburchett.com