Belligerent pt. 16: When Your Belligerent Buttons Get Pushed

It seems to me that some Christians always need something to be mad about, afraid of, something or someone to be against. It’s less work to have an enemy than it is to have a friend.

Way back in 1988 Tony Campolo came out with a popular book entitled: 20 Hot Potatoes Christians Are Afraid To Touch. Recently Tony has become a hot potato himself after coming out in favor of same-sex marriage (after having been against it) and therefore falling out of favor with many Evangelicals.

When Tony’s book originally came out I read it but I don’t think I appreciated it as much as when I recently read it again. 20 Hot Potatoes was ahead of its time. Campolo’s book listed topics that either Christians typically fought over or chose to ignore completely back in the 1980’s. Although his positions on these controversial subjects seem rather tame for today I am amazed that he was able to stay in good favor with his conservative friends back then. In other words, if these topics are contentious today think how much more so back in the 80’s.

Tony dared to present another perspective on hot topics of the day like:

How do we respond to people with AIDS?
What about women preachers?
Christian women choosing a career rather than staying home.
Homosexuals and the church.
Can Christians kill?
Are Evangelicals too pro-Israel?
and a favorite of mine, Is hunting a sin?

You’d be hunted down and run out of town for suggesting that where I live. Any way…

Reading 20 Hot Potatoes again reinforced to me that very little changes over time. Solomon apparently was right when he said that there is nothing new under the sun. There was controversy among Christians back when this book came out and there is controversy today. If Tony were to write a new 20 Hot Potatoes he would probably have some of the same topics in his list and some new ones.

I’d like to share with you my own ‘20’ list. These are not so much ‘hot potatoes’ as they are buttons, belligerent buttons. Buttons that when pushed, bring out anger, meanness, disrespect, contempt, and condemnation from some Christians and some pastors. I will not be elaborating on these points as Tony did in his book. Maybe that’s because I’m more of a coward than Tony was but I think it’s because I just want us to be able to see clearly the topics that have, can and do, bring out the worse in us.

Presidential election years
Politicians we disagree with
Homosexuality/same sex marriage
Rob Bell
Gun control
The relationship between the church and Israel
Harry Potter
The secularization of Christmas
Popular Christian leaders who have fallen
Oppression of women
The role of women in the church and in the family
Literal or figurative 7 days of creation
Racial injustice
People on state or Federal assistance

If I were to post something on Facebook, either for or against any of these topics, within minutes there would be angry, judgmental attacks. People who had been my ‘friends’ the day before would suddenly treat me differently. One can go from friend to foe in seconds on social media.

Can you see any belligerent button on my list that is a sensitive subject for you? When you come across someone who thinks differently than you do on this topic do you get angry? Why do you get angry? Have you ever taken your feelings to the Father and asked him, “Show me the real reason why I am angry.” This can be a risky thing to do. You might be surprised what he shows you. Maybe you think your anger is ‘righteous indignation’ as you remember the story of Jesus turning over the tables used by the money-changers and other merchants in the temple.

I believe that there is such a thing as ‘righteous anger’ but ours is seldom righteous. James told us that the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.

There is no virtue in being right if I am belligerent to those I think are wrong.