The Daily Telegraph, which is not one of the more empty-headed of newspapers, reported on the “terrorist” taxi bombing Liverpool under the rather surprising heading: “Suicide bomber was a Christian convert”.
If he was, someone did not do a very good job of explaining to the bomber – now sadly deceased, so we can’t ask him – what being a Christian means. Even the most antagonistic of critics can hardly depict Jesus Christ as someone likely to blow people up, gun them down or punch them in the mouth.
This is not what Christianity is about. Nevertheless, the Telegraph added: “It is unknown whether he (the bomber) was following the Christian faith at the time of the attack.”
Happily, I can tell them: he wasn’t. He may have been calling himself a Christian, but he was not doing what Christians do. The fact is that you can call yourself anything, using any pronouns you wish, but it doesn’t make you what you say you are. I could call myself a double-decker bus, but that doesn’t make me one.
The following day the Telegraph, still confused, added: “At Liverpool Cathedral…a person can become a Christian in as little as five weeks.” This is not as shocking as it’s apparently intended to seem. Indeed, one can become a Christian in a few minutes, given the right information and a wholehearted response. Or, as a Christian might put it, the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
Stephen Verney, a former bishop, puts it rather well. “Faith (ie becoming a Christian) is being grasped by a truth which confronts you and which is self-evident and overwhelming, and then trusting yourself to the reality of what you now see.”
Christianity is not a club or a tribe that you decide to join – one of a number of options. It is a response. That is why forced conversion – a stick being used in various parts of the world to batter Christians – is nonsense. You cannot make someone believe; you can make them follow certain rules, but that is not what Christianity is about: it is about love and forgiveness. Anything else is a perversion.
Obviously Christians make mistakes. That is where forgiveness comes in. But to make a mistake of such gargantuan proportions hardly suggests that this particular gentleman was trying to follow a Christian lifestyle. More that he was mistaking himself for a double-decker bus.