Nancy Kennedy is a columnist for our local paper, the Citrus County Chronicle, and the author of several books.
In last Saturday’s religious section, Nancy relates a 2013 story of a preacher, Caleb Kaltenbach, who went into a Simi Valley, California, Costco and saw a Bible in the fiction section.
Thinking it was simply a shelving error, it struck him as ironic and somewhat humorous, so he took a picture and posted it to Twitter.
Incredibly the post went viral. Soon, Fox News picked up the story with the headline “Costco–The Bible is Fiction.”
“Outraged Christians across the nation immediately clamored for a boycott of Costco.”
Later Christianity Today magazine ran an article, “Another Day, Another Faux Christian Outrage: Costco’s Fiction Bible,” by Ed Stetzer who interviewed Kaltenbach, who wasn’t outraged.
“It was a labeling error, not a theological statement. It’s like when the sticker for corn is accidentally put on the beans,” Stetzer wrote. “If you get outraged over a labeling mistake, maybe it’s time to ask if you need to be more discerning, less gullible, and needs some new sources of information beyond constantly outraged websites and social media outlets.”
Stelzer then observed, “When Christians are constantly outraged by fake controversies, we look foolish and have no credibility to speak to real issues.”
“Who cares about facts when you can have outrage?” he wrote. “We are addicted to outrage — we like the fire.”
“How did we get here?” Nancy wrote, as she reflected on our current cultural polarization that divides us and fills so many with indignation, outrage, and sadly sometimes bitterness and hatred.
“Outrage forgets or ignores the grace of Jesus,” Stetzer wrote. “It seeks to drown out the possibility of mercy or grace, demanding retribution instead. It’s unapologetic, quick, and severe.”
Nancy opined that Stelzer’s “words from 2013 are even more relevant in 2021 when the entire world is a tinderbox.”
While Christians are commanded to “contend earnestly for the faith (Jude 3), and “fight the good fight of faith” (1 Tim. 6:12), we can “contend” without being contentious and cantankerous. And we better be sure the “weapons of our warfare” (2 Cor 10:3-5) are not carnal, fleshly, or political, but spiritual, righteous and divinely motivated.
Rather than being addicted to outrage, and prone to pounce on every injustice, real or imagined, with anger and contempt, how about following these Biblical admonitions?
“Be kind to one another” (Eph. 4:32).
“Speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15)
“Treat others the way you want to be treated (Matt 7:12).
“Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:39).
“A soft answer turns away wrath” (Prov. 15:1)
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice” (Eph. 4:31).
Exercising these exhortations would find their application on our facebook posts, our Twitter retweets, letters to newspaper editors, and our conversations with those with who we disagree.
Suppose we applied the beatitudes of humility, meekness, mercy, and peacemaking from Jesus’ “Mountain Message,” instead of outrage, vitriol, sarcasm, and acrimony?
More than ever our culture needs Christians to truly be “the light of the world,” and the “salt of the earth.”
Paul’s admonition to Christians living in the corrupt, pagan Roman Empire is so appropriate today.
“Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life” (Phil. 2:15-17).
By the way, Costco publically and profusely apologized for the error on the few mislabeled Bibles and corrected the mistake immediately. Maybe a good lesson for all of us.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman