Loudmouth leaders

Posted: Mar 31, 2005 12:00 AM

You know who they are, and they know who they are: Christian or conservative camera hogs beloved by media liberals pleased to broadcast the threatening image of right-wing would-be dictators.

 The good news is that they care enough to show up at demonstrations. The bad news is that their belligerence alienates millions.

 Fifteen years ago, while I was temporarily chairing meetings of pro-life leaders, I pleaded with the angry males to say no to interviews, and instead let beautiful pro-life women become the face for the movement. I didn't get much cooperation from those who wanted to build their mailing lists.

 We've had the same problem recently in Schiavo news coverage. One cheer for those who are in the arena rather than sitting in the stands. As Dwight L. Moody said over a century ago, after listening to a barrage of criticism from a man who didn't like the famed evangelist's methods, "The way I'm doing it is better than the way you're not doing it."

 And yet, those who speak loudly and call anyone who disagrees with them a wimp often do a disservice to the cause they are promoting. That's because they are disregarding what Paul the Apostle told the Corinthians: "Be strong. Let all that you do be done in love."

 "Strength" in the Bible is a nuanced concept. "Be strong and courageous," Moses tells all of Israel. "Be strong and courageous," God thrice tells Joshua. Later, King David gives Solomon that same exhortation. Overall, the phrase appears eight times in the Old Testament: Clearly, this is important stuff. But to understand what it means to be strong and courageous, Christians should look to the person of Christ.

 Jesus sometimes spoke against those who were supposed to be good shepherds, the judges and clerics of his time, and could do so with authority because He knew their hearts in a way that we cannot. But Jesus stayed clear of bombast and emphasized showing love even to enemies. He said, "Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you." He went to the cross instead of appearing on "Crossfire."

 The Apostle Paul reflected Christ's attitude by writing to the Corinthians, "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal." Paul advised followers such as Titus "to speak evil of no one, avoid quarreling, be gentle and show perfect courtesy toward all people."

 Michael Schiavo and Judge George Greer have acted badly in this situation, but it's more important to pray for them than to denounce them. It's also more biblical (and more effective) to reason with liberal journalists than to harangue them. Corinthian Christians could have protested 24-7 the abuse and decadence around them, but Paul pleaded with them to show love, which he defined as "not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful."

 Christians and conservatives do best with liberal journalists when we show them one or two of the thousands of examples of those who exemplify strength through love by sacrificially helping the poor or needy. For example, every city has parents who have adopted numerous children no one else wants -- they are the best examples of being strong and courageous not just for an hour, but year after year. Activists should direct the cameras away from themselves and toward examples of compassionate conservatism.

 For Joshua in early Old Testament times, strength and courage had an obvious military meaning -- march into hostile territory and don't look back -- as well as a spiritual one. The mandate changed, though, when the center of attention became not one Holy Land, but the spreading of truth through many lands. Today, we should concentrate on building, not destroying.

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