Where are the Christians With Real Courage?


For Humanist Network News  
Sept. 15, 2010

I’ve been reading several articles this week about Pastor Terry Jones and how his church planned to burn Qurans on 9/11, though he didn’t ultimately go through with it. Christians didn’t want to be associated with this guy.

Clergy members, academics and elected officials in Gainesville have planned nearly a dozen events to counter the plan, starting on Wednesday with an interfaith prayer service. On Saturday, hundreds of local residents and visitors are expected to rally against Mr. Jones, an evangelical pastor, with signs containing messages like “Peace among religions leads to peace among nations.”

“He represents only 30 people in this town,” said Larry Reimer, a local pastor, noting the size of Mr. Jones’s church, the Dove World Outreach Center. “It needs to get out somehow to the rest of the world that this isn’t the face of Christianity.”

The National Association of Evangelicals agreed:

“To all followers of Islam: Please do not judge all Christians by the behavior of one extremist,” NAE President Leith Anderson said. “One person with 30 silent followers does not speak for 300 million Americans who will never burn a Qu’ran.”

I’m sure many Christians share Anderson’s sentiment.

But let’s not forget: It’s easy to jump on this bandwagon.

It’s easy to condemn Terry Jones for saying he would burn Qurans.

It’s easy to disavow Fred Phelps because of his “God Hates Fags” signs.

It’s easy to say Jerry Falwell was wrong to blame 9/11 on everybody from pagans to homosexuals to the ACLU.

It’s easy to distance yourself from Scott Roeder, the man who murdered abortion provider Dr. George Tiller.

But none of that takes guts. You don’t have to think twice about saying any of those things. They’re so obvious that we all pretty much knew where our Christian friends stood before they said anything.

I’d like to see more Christians who say things that raise our eyebrows. I want them to shock people within their faith. Where are those Christians? The one with the real courage, who are willing to say things that may be unpopular in Christian circles? Why don’t we hear much from them?

I asked friends on Twitter and Facebook to share their thoughts on what qualities a “courageous Christian” would have, and they offered up quite a list…

It takes real courage to stand up in your church and say you proudly support same-sex marriage.

It takes real courage to tell a group of anti-abortion protesters that you are a Christian who supports a woman’s right to choose whether or not to have an abortion.

It takes real courage to tell your campus Bible study that you had pre-marital sex, that it was fun, and that it didn’t ruin your life.

It takes real courage to teach others that there’s nothing wrong with masturbation.

It takes real courage to fight against abstinence-only sex education.

It takes real courage to throw off that “purity ring.”

It takes real courage to publicly express doubts about your faith and admit that Christianity doesn’t have all the answers it claims to have.

It takes real courage to tell your pastor that he’s completely wrong about Creationism or Intelligent Design and that evolution is supported by all the available evidence. It also takes courage to educate other church members on the matter in defiance of your church’s teachings.

It takes real courage to tell street preachers and testifying co-workers that people are tuning them out, not converting to Christianity.

It takes real courage to remind any proselytizing superiors in the workplace that they’re out of line and you’ll report them if they continue doing it, even though you share their beliefs.

It takes real courage to be the first in line to defend atheists, Muslims, homosexuals and any other frequently defamed minority groups when someone in your church spreads lies about them.

It takes real courage to let your children decide for themselves what religion (if any) they want to belong to.

It takes real courage to admit the Bible is full of glaring inconsistencies.

It takes real courage to put your faith under the microscope of logic, reason and demonstrable evidence, and to admit that if/when the evidence directly contradicts your faith, faith should lose.

It takes real courage to apply the same standard of reason and evidence to your religion as you apply to every other religion.

It takes real courage to admit that what you once thought was a miracle was really just a coincidence.

It takes real courage to realize that Christians are no more moral than people of other faiths or no faith.

It takes real courage to say that an atheist won the debate you just watched.

It takes real courage to recognize that churches are really businesses.

It takes real courage to walk away from a church you’ve gone to your whole life because you no longer agree with what the pastor teaches.

We need more Christians with real courage to speak out. I know they’re out there, but we atheists don’t hear from them nearly enough.


Hemant Mehta is the Chair of the Secular Student Alliance (SSA) Board of Directors. He has worked with the Center for Inquiry and also is an SSA representative to the Secular Coalition for America. Hemant received national attention, including being featured on the front page of the Wall Street Journal, for his work as the “eBay Atheist.” Hemant’s blog can be read at FriendlyAtheist.com, and his book, I Sold My Soul on eBay, (WaterBrook Press) is now available on Amazon.com. He currently works as a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago.