Monday, March 21, 2005

Damn Her Christian Convictions

From the tolerant left, we have joy over the heroism of Ashley Smith. Well, sort of. If only it weren't for the fact that she is a Christian, and her Christian influences are getting credit and, God forbid, press for her role an apprehending rapist (alleged), murdering (confessed) thug Brian Nichols. Jill Porter opines and gnashes:

The story of Ashley Smith, the Atlanta hostage who soothed a rampaging killer into surrendering without further violence, is a riveting tale of grace and humanity. Would that it had remained just that.

Instead, it's become a testimonial for an evangelical Christian book and an endorsement of the theology embraced in the book - and that leaves me feeling alienated from what should be an inspiring tale of human transcendence.
Why alienated? Because good words should never be said about Christianity. Why couldn't Ashley Smith have just convinced Nichols that Darwin foretold his death many decades ago? Maybe it is because life is worthless and meaningless that he should give up and kill himself?

No, Ashley instead convinced him that life was worth something. She convinced him that his life had value, and thus the lives of the people he killed had value as well. Now how was she supposed to do this with Ms. Porter's longing for a secular humanist hero in this situation? Who knows.
Suddenly, the near miracle that occurred in Smith's apartment because of her calm and compassion is infused with the rhetoric of Christian evangelism.

And suddenly, those of us who are wary of the increasing influence born-again Christians have on our political and cultural life feel a regrettable discomfort with this wonderful story.
While I disagree with some of the positions taken by some of the born again Christian crowd, what is that discomfort over? What "born again Christian" position would result in a more coarse and violent society? Less fun? Maybe. Sin is often fun in the short term. Besides, her rhetoric has a ring of, Humynkind forbid, intolerance.

Perhaps Smith's saint-like serenity was based in her evangelical Christianity.
Perhaps her courage was derived from the message in the book. I'm in awe of her spiritual and emotional resources, whatever their source.

And that she used them to spare Atlanta from any more carnage is remarkable. But I know many profoundly religious people who could never have responded the way Smith did when Brian Nichols put a gun in her side and tied her up.

I also know a few completely irreligious people who might have disarmed Nichols through bravery, poise and calm.

Here, Porter falls back on the anecdotal versus the general. Don't try to take a good message from this incident -- non-believers can be cool under pressure, too; believers can crack as well.

No doubt. What often cannot be denied is that people may have the gift for grace under pressure at all times of their life. Others never will. And others find it only when they find comfort. Certain religions, and Christianity in particular, provide a well trained and educated believer with the best chance to find that grace and strength. Unless you believe you have another life, you will only be faking your calm when faced with danger.
And the truth is that Nichols was receptive to his hostage's spiritual message, saying he thought Smith was "an angel sent from God," she later told reporters. "And that I was his sister and he was my brother in Christ."

Let's face it, another murderer might have scoffed at her appeals, laughed at her religiosity. Shall we glorify Nichols for his receptiveness?
No, we should not glorify Nichols for his receptiveness. But we should be thankful he was receptive.

We should also pray for his sake that his receptiveness was sincere. He has a chance to turn his life around, even in the confines of prison and possibly death row. I hope he finds Christ. He likely has a deadline though -- he needs to do it by the time the US government or the State of Georgia fry him.
And if, as some disciples of the book have said, God used Smith to reach Nichols, exactly where was God earlier in the day when he slaughtered four innocent people?

This is actually an easy question. Since God gave us free will, he allowed men to do evil to other men. The suffering of others is often used for some other good purpose, but even if I don't know what that purpose is, I am not in a position to question God on this.

If God's purpose was to put Smith in a high profile position to assist in the capture of Nichols, then the story had to gain high profile attention. Stopping an attempted escape just wasn't going to cut it, Ms. Porter. Only a killer who escaped could put Ms. Smith in this high profile public position to share her story.

I do not know God's plan on this one. That some died, however, is not evidence God wasn't at work. It might be what was necessary for the greater good. It isn't just Nichols that has a chance to be saved by this story. It is the large number of people who learn of Christ, either from Ms. Smith directly, or by watching or reading a news account, or by buying and reading The Purpose Driven Life.

I think that Ashley Smith's story speaks volumes about the power of faith -- Christian Faith in particular. No matter, though. Some, like Ms. Porter, are never listening, and when they hear, they can only complain about the noise.


At 5:37 PM, Anonymous Masked MenaceĀ© said...

Suddenly, the near miracle that occurred in Smith's apartment because of her calm and compassion is infused with the rhetoric of Christian evangelism.'cause we all know Christianity had nothing to do with it. It's incompatable with calm and compassion. We're too busy preaching about lynching gay people.


There are none so blind as those who will not see and none so deaf as those who will not hear.

At 6:31 PM, Blogger Jehane said...

Well you're going to have to rely on my email to hear what I really think about this counselor.

For now, I'll just say, "well done".

At 11:50 AM, Anonymous Joatmoaf said...

Good post KJ and I actually read it a couple of weeks ago.
I would just like to point out that I actually like Government Cheese (when they were giving it to everyone, can`t get it now :( )

AND it`s nice to see that other bloggers believe in posting judiciously like myself.


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