NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Wednesday, October 16th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Nick Eicher.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Here’s WORLD commentator Janie B. Cheaney on the biggest threat to power in this world.
JANIE B. CHEANEY, COMMENTATOR: We throw this word around a lot: Hate. Hate speech, hate culture, hate crime. We’ve largely dropped the noun form, hatred, and the adjective form, hateful. Now the verb serves as both noun and adjective. Why? Possibly because the verb is passionate, and personal, and appropriately ugly. It has a strong character and produces strong actions. Those actions may or may not be violent, but without the quickening verb they wouldn’t exist at all.
Why does the world hate Jesus, of all people?
Secular admirers of Jesus like to say it was because he challenged the religious establishment. That’s certainly true: he charged in and turned over tables, upsetting their pious rituals and longstanding traditions. They had it all figured out, their duty toward God and neighbor, their lighted path to the good life. Hypocrites! he called them, and today’s secular world approves. Some even think they’re siding with Jesus when they condemn Christian hypocrisy.
But it wasn’t the Jews who put him to death, or did the greatest harm to his church; it was the libertine, pagan, “tolerant” Roman Empire. Rome was a stellar example of pluralism. The Emperor and Senate couldn’t care less who or what their far-flung subjects worshipped, as long as rebellion wasn’t built in to their theology. So how did those Christians, who were peaceful, industrious, respectful—who were, in fact, constrained by their faith to be all those things—why did they become the target of official persecution and the subject of outrageous lies?
If the world hates you, know that it hated me…
Today, in other parts of the world, there are religious zealots whose hatred burns white-hot and who make a special target of Christians. But in this country, the vast majority of haters claim to be tolerant. Live and let live, they say. We don’t care who your imaginary friend is, or what flying spaghetti monster you worship. But on Twitter and Instagram the gloves come off and the vilest language spills out. What really ticks them off?
Probably the same thing that infuriated the Emperor Diocletian or Marcus Aurelius. Christians had a king who was not of this world. In one sense, because he had risen from the dead and ruled in a place called heaven. But in another sense, because he was squarely opposed to the way of this world, where humility is weakness and sacrifice is subjugation and power is the ultimate prize.
Nothing has really changed. With some notable exceptions, churchgoers are probably the most peaceful, patriotic, charitable demographic in any nation. And yet one of the most vilified.
Don’t be deceived. It’s their leader the world really hates, and always has: peaceful, humble, and the greatest threat to cultural complacency the world has ever known.
For WORLD Radio, I’m Janie B. Cheaney.