When I was a young cop, my training officer taught me a lot. I watched how he moved through a hostile crowd of drunks in a bar. He was able to read a crowd. One thing he did was to determine who was the most dangerous person in the room. This is the person who, if not approached with discernment and challenged with wisdom, could do the greatest harm. When that person was finally engaged and disempowered, all of their followers who fed off that person’s bravado seemed to lose steam.
There most dangerous people in our culture are not always found in a dingy, smoke-filled bar. Some of them are within the Church. The danger they present is not bullying, but a lack of gritty realism. This problem developed in the last few decades when well-meaning people mixed Christianity with a misunderstanding of biblical reality. As a result, they created a context that was never present in the real world of the first century. Today, these people call Jesus a socialist when, in fact, he and his father ran a carpenter business and had to turn a profit to stay in business. They were more like compassionate capitalists than socialists.
Content from the Sermon on the Mount has been plucked out of context to justify pacifism in the face of danger. In that sermon, Jesus said if our hand offends us, cut it off. If our eye views something it should not see, we are to pluck it out, and if someone slaps us, to turn the other cheek. All of these commands were issued in the same discourse. I have noticed there are a lot of two-handed, two-eyed people telling others that defending life and limb is not the Christian way. Perhaps Jesus was simply asking if we would be willing to be radically obedient instead of actually cutting off a body part, plucking out an offending eye or sitting idly by as violence has its way unrestrained. The most dangerous person in the room is not the barroom thug. They can be believers who have created a form of Christianity disconnected from reality.
People are becoming increasingly nervous. That unsettled feeling has arisen because of a lack of leadership, not just in the institutions of culture, but in the ranks of believers. This happens when we allow our faith to be diluted with an irrational interpretation of reality. Our world is now at a tipping point, more than most of us realize. Courage is not silence and passivity. It looks a lot like what my training officer did when he was outnumbered and surrounded by a hostile crowd in a late-night bar. Courage and truth can disarm the plans of a thuggish spirit before it creates a hellish environment that makes living a good life seem impossible.