“The Synagogue Shooter was Not a Christian”

This was the message of Michael Brown’s editorial in The Christian Post (CP): “To the American Jewish community: The synagogue shooter was not a Christian.” Mr. Brown, who the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has designated a hate-monger, is an alt-right, Jews for Jesus, columnist for CP. It is striking that Brown and CP focused on the shooter’s Christianity, since the mainstream press almost nothing about it.

USA Today ran a piece on the shooter (“San Diego synagogue shooting: What we know about suspect John Earnest”) which mentions in passing that he was a member of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. But the Presbyterian Church is hardly a radical institution, and the article said little about the shooter’s religious beliefs. It quoted the pastor of the local Orthodox Presbyterian Church – presumably the shooter’s pastor – who said, “It's a deplorable act of wickedness. I'm still in shock.”

Yet Michael Brown wrote at length of John Earnest’s religion. His opening words: “I don’t care what this demented young man claims. I don’t care how much scripture he can quote or how much Christianese he uses. The man is not a Christian.” Brown strains to prevent us from associating the shooter and his religious beliefs with those of Brown or CP. But no one in the mainstream was doing this. Why did Brown feel that his ox was gored?

RNS ran an editorial which suggests some answers: “Why white nationalism tempts white Christians.” After reviewing several recent acts of violence from such nationalistic white Christians, the article tells us about the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC):

The OPC formed in 1936 in response to a theological dispute between “fundamentalists” and “modernists.” It purports to be the “orthodox” alternative to mainline Presbyterianism.

The approximately 300,000 members in their 300 congregations often gravitate toward the denomination because they believe the OPC represents careful exposition of Scripture, fidelity to theological documents such as the Westminster Confession of Faith, and preaching that covers the “whole counsel of God” by walking through entire books of the Bible verse-by-verse.”

In short, the OPC is a small, fundamentalist sect that split off from the mainstream group long ago. RNS made no attempt to characterize the members of this church, but in America, small white fundamentalist sects are almost always right-wing and often white nationalists. RNS opines: “For any Christian denomination to find out that a murderer was in its midst would come as a shock, but for those affiliated with the OPC, a denomination that makes such strong claims to biblical exposition, the news of Earnest’s membership in one of their churches should force some deep introspection that leads to concrete action.”

Brown and CP apparently got this message, and their “concrete action” was to deny that the shooter’s alt-right religious beliefs had anything in common with theirs. Needless to say, Brown protests too much.

Brown tries to prove that the shooter was not even a Christian: “How can I be so sure? Jesus taught us to judge a tree by its fruits.” Furthermore, “it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother” (1 John 3:10).” Brown assures us that all Christians are righteous. Anyone who is unrighteous and doesn’t love his fellow man is not a Christian, but rather the spawn of Satan.

Brown has long been declared a hate-monger by the SPLC. Perhaps he has mentioned the Golden Rule on occasion – though I can’t recall any such occasion – but he habitually issues screeds against gays, lesbians, those defending the right to first-trimester abortions, as well as all those who defend the rights of such people. With Brown, it’s always us versus them, and they are always considered the unrighteous spawn of Satan.

Recall that Jesus said “Judge not lest you be judged.” Brown is always judging and condemning. Jesus also said a rich man has as much chance of entering heaven as a camel does passing through the eye of a needle. Jesus said you can’t serve two masters – you must choose between God and Mammon. I have never seen Brown or CP denounce the rich. Their choice is clear. Their hero – the most prominent of their recent fruit -  is Donald Trump, the bloated poster-boy for Mammon.

 

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