David Klinghoffer is an interesting, if flawed and apparently conflicted author. His personal spiritual journey from non-observant Christianity to Orthodox Judaism is touching, and well-told in his book, The Lord Will Gather Me In. David and I might have met on the path; me going the other direction away from Judaism and towards my belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. For this reason alone, I pay attention to what he’s got to say.
The venue is a book review by Klinghoffer. A book, by that Dartmouth Conservative Bad Boy, Dinesh D’Souza, What’s So Great About Christianity. It’s an apologetic for Christianity, and, from my perspective, is a welcome addition to the public dialogue.
In his review, David basically accuses Christians of using Jesus Christ as an excuse for evil. He scoffs at the notion that those who commit evil acts are not “real Christians.” And notes the outrages, including murder and mayhem and genocide, committed by alleged Christians over the centuries. Especially, of course, atrocities committed against the Jews.
This passage is especially noteworthy from Mr. Klinghoffer:
In another chapter, D’Souza writes of how, in the abusive, tyrannical Christian states of Europe, “the wrong kind of Christianity had come to dominate Western society.” But this is like saying that anyone who ever claimed to be a Christian but committed acts of savagery wasn’t a real Christian, whereas all the wonderful people who call themselves Christian really are just that. By such logic, all Christians are wonderful people and always have been. What a religion!
Can the truth be so convenient? Maybe, like me, you saw the recently discovered trove of photos of daily life among the staff at Auschwitz. One showed the adjutant to the commandant in 1944, lighting the candles on the death camp’s Christmas tree. Not a real Christian, of course.
This kind of thing is offensive. Firstly, the inference that an Auschwitz commandant lighting a Christmas tree is, somehow, a Christian by the mere act of birth and lighting of a pagan symbol (the tree). Secondly, the notion that if most Christians are sinners, that, somehow, negates the Gospel message of salvation through Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Yes, Christians throughout history have done heinous things. The worst offenses? Those committed in the name of Jesus Christ. Were those who murdered innocent Jews and others during the Crusades and the Inquisition Christians? Not if they did not repent, turn away from their sins, and request forgiveness of their victims and from God.
Christians are sinners. Christians do sin. But they are not Christians if, at the end, they have not repented. Who is a “real Christian?” One who has received the Gospel of Jesus Christ, believes it in his heart, repents and from that moment on lives his life in accordance with what Jesus would have us do: love God; love our neighbor as ourselves.
Note that “real” does not mean “perfect.” None of us is perfect. We keep on sinning, in ways great and small. The good news is that Jesus Christ will regenerate us, will make us whole at the end.
As a final note, it is obvious that not all who call themselves Christians are. From my admittedly Calvinist viewpoint, most, in fact, are doomed, from birth, to eternal separation from God. And this applies to most of us. Such are not real Christians, let alone perfect in Christ.