Last week on the daytime talk show, "The View," co-host Rosie O'Donnell pronounced, "Radical Christianity is just as threatening as radical Islam ... ."
The Christian right in America is seen as too certain of their righteousness, and folks like Rosie find that offensive. Her assertion was predictable. However, the response of the audience is what troubled me.
Following Rosie's shot from the lip, the audience broke into applause. No doubt there were some Christians in the audience. I wondered if they were simply blinded by the stage lights or if they, in fact, agreed with the assessment that radical Christians in America are akin to men that stone women to death for adultery, or are one good sermon from blowing something up.
I also wondered if, like me, those Christians in the audience took a few moments following the program to think about what it really means to be a radical Christian.
In my mind, radical Christianity is the outpouring of love, compassion and service motivated by a belief in the fundamental and absolute truth of scripture. Sure, Christians can be annoying with all the warning folks to get right with God. But you can tell a Christian to leave you alone and not have your throat slit. There are not gangs of Christian youth riding around town physically assaulting couples for holding hands in public, strapping dynamite onto themselves and detonating their human bombs on buses loaded with women and children, or bringing journalists to Christ through threat of being beheaded.
A wonderful feature of the radical Christian tradition is we are allowed to talk to God, argue with him, debate and even wrestle with him. It means we get to make up our own minds. We choose virtue; it is not imposed upon us. We are not compelled to charity and we choose to proclaim our love of Christ because we have come to God on our own terms. We are transformed from the inside out, not the outside in.
In fairness to Rosie, I do not believe she was attempting to equate those that fly airplanes into buildings with those that, well, don't. For Rosie and others who have jumped on the "all fundamentalists are equal" bandwagon, radical Christians are those in the religious community that are inflexible on issues of homosexual marriage and abortion.
Of course, the fact that they are equally as inflexible on the very same issues is not proof of their fundamentalism. On the contrary, it reinforces their claim to the moral high ground. They offer it as evidence of progressiveness and they can, therefore, not only claim their intellectual superiority to the religious community, but their moral superiority as well.
It's a nifty trick and might explain the lack of response from Christians in the audience. They were perhaps cowed into silence at the thought of being viewed as not only stupid, but as morally illegitimate as well. Of course, there is nothing wrong with radicalism if one's views are grounded in a belief in one objective truth that is the same for all people. This as opposed to the rather selective and ever-expanding view of morality offered by those like O'Donnell.
As Christians we are not called to be moderate in our faith, but radical. We are not called to worship God with half our hearts, but all our hearts. Christ calls us all to be radical Christians — to be, as Martin Luther King described himself, extremists for love.
Joseph C. Phillips is an actor/writer based in Los Angeles.