Dangerous Idealists

Yesterday, at church, I was talking to a friend about a Facebook “discussion” he’d gotten involved in. It seems our pastor had posted about drone use in Pakistan and Afghanistan, calling them “flying death robots” and seriously questioned their use. Later, he pointed out that’s one of reasons Muslims are less than happy with us these days. Being an avid pot stirrer myself, one of the things I love about the guy is that he’s not afraid to say things that do the same and this was no exception. In the comments, where most people agreed, one person dissented and basically referred to the friend mentioned above as a “dangerous idealist”. When he mentioned this, my response was “Isn’t that what Christians are supposed to be?”

You might think that’s a strange statement, since danger and idealism are considered bad things in today’s world. As usual, I’ll start with a few definitions. First, let’s tackle danger or dangerous. Danger, according to Dictionary.com is “an instance or cause of peril; menace.” On its own, that’s not good, is it? Let that go for now, and we’ll look at idealism. Again, referring to Dictionary.com, idealism has a couple a definitions that apply in this situation. The first is “the cherishing or pursuit of high or noble principles, purposes, goals, etc.” The second is “the tendency to represent things in an ideal form, or as they might or should be rather than as they are, with emphasis on values.” While the first sounds a little more positive, the second is lot less negative than some might portray it; usually by leaving the “emphasis on values” part. Unless, of course, the values in question are theirs. But, let’s go back to danger. Remember, we said danger was a cause of peril or menace. To me, that makes it a word that’s good or bad depending on how it’s used. Combined with idealism, it can go either way, depending on the ideals it’s paired with. This is especially true of religion in general, Christianity in particular.

Think about that last line for a minute. Then, remember that “Christian” ideals have been used to legitimize rape, murder, plundering, slavery and all manner of other evils. This legitimization isn’t confined to the distant past (Crusades and other “holy” wars, the African slave trade), it’s still happening today. Fundamentalists have declared “war” on the LGBT community, other religions and even other Christians who don’t adhere to their strict interpretation of faith. That’s really strange for people who claim to follow a man who preached about love of enemies, turning the other cheek, service to others, greed and love of neighbor (and who is your neighbor). Looking at our definitions, every one of these things contradicted the culture of Jesus’ time and saying them, not to mention actually living them, made him dangerous to that culture. They also made him an idealist, because he held to the ideal that these “high or noble principles, purposes, goals, etc.” were possible for human beings to achieve; otherwise, he wouldn’t have said them. Aye, there’s the rub; if we’re going to be the disciples He’s called to be, we have to be just as dangerous and idealistic as He was. Because that what a disciple does.