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Christians, Planned Parenthood, and ISIS, or Seeing the Imago Dei in our “Enemies”

I’ve never met a person who wanted to see more abortions, though I’m sure one exists. And I have met many Christians who strongly oppose abortion without ever contemplating violence against another – I imagine this describes the vast majority – but we sadly know the violent type exist as well. For what it’s worth, I also know Christians who support the right to abortion because of, not in spite of, their faith. People are complicated, no less so when religion is involved.

It was good to see Focus on the Family president Jim Daly quickly condemn Friday’s shooting in their home town as “tragic and deplorable.” Daly has taken some flack for trying to ‘soften’ the image of Focus on the Family during his tenure. Others would likely say he hasn’t done nearly enough. Certainly they could have exhibited more restraint in ‘responding‘ to those highly edited videos earlier this year.

I very much doubt that there will be a reasonable anything to explain the Planned Parenthood assailants’ motives. Perhaps it was political, religious, or a mixture of the two. Undoubtedly, it was the ugly result of some delusions that few in the church will accept as a faithful Christian witness. I share their reluctance to own such behavior.

Just the same, I am also reluctant to blame all Muslims for the heinous acts of ISIS in Paris and elsewhere. And I hope that some of our global sisters and brothers don’t imagine all Americans are like Donald Trump. The simple logic of “Do unto others…,” and  the failure of many conservative Christians to understand it, would certainly give them some right.

If something good might come from these ugly and sad things, perhaps they can remind us that it matters how we talk one to the other (or about the other), especially when we disagree. When I start to categorize those who differ (in belief, ethnicity, nationality, sexuality, etc.) as the enemy, and describe their actions as evil without clear, deliberate reason to do so, I give myself a license to stop seeking and recognizing the imago dei in others. The results aren’t typically violent but they are never good.

Evil always seems to rear its ugly head most readily when we give ourselves cheap rationale and permission to negate the value of an individual or group of persons. In our culture, so influenced by an individualistic capitalism, another’s value is too often reduced to: “what have you done for me lately?”

Though written for another context, the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. speak so well to this problem of ours:

“The whole concept of the imago Dei, as it is expressed in Latin, the ‘image of God,’ is the idea that all [people] have something within them that God injected.  Not that they have substantial unity with God, but that every [person] has a capacity to have fellowship with God.  And this gives [them] a uniqueness, it gives [them] worth, it gives [them] dignity.  And we must never forget this as a nation: there are not gradations in the image of God.”

May we all rise to Jesus’ calling to “love our enemies.” And let us always seek to see in others what God sees in us without “gradations.”

Author Info

Patrick Scriven

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I'm a husband who married well, a father of three amazing girls, and a seminary educated lay person working professionally in the church.