by David Sisler
In order to be a believer in Jesus Christ, is it necessary to suspend intelligence? What part does good old-fashioned common sense play in assessing spiritual claims?
Take for example the story of Gerald Derstine of Gospel Crusade, Inc., in Bradenton, Florida.
For seven years Derstine inspired his followers with sensational accounts of miracles, mass conversions and subsequent martyrdoms among Arab Muslims in Israel and the West Bank. Supporters contributed almost $3 million last year alone, including $500,000 for the "First Church of the Martyrs," a structure which would give shelter to the widows and children of some 35 new believers violently killed for leaving Islam.
Derstine's regional ministry leader now acknowledges that there were no martyrs and no sincere Muslim converts associated with the ministry. The reports were all fabricated.
In one pamphlet published by Gospel Crusade, Mohammed Rawidan, the ministry's first "convert" claimed that the body of a martyred infant turned into dust in his hands, and then into a large, white bird, which flew to heaven. A copy of the infant's death certificate showed she had died from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and was buried normally.
In the light of these and other revelations, Gospel Crusade suspended two top officials and withdrew from circulation literature, videotapes and the religious best-seller, "Fire Over Israel."
Evangelical leaders in Israel repeatedly warned Derstine that the reports were false, but Derstine said he published the reports "without any inkling it was (all) a lie."
According to Phil Derstine, son of the founder and Gospel Crusade president, an "accountability procedure" is being put into place. But Gerald Derstine still claims that spiritual discernment, not intellectual discernment is the qualification for judging his ministry.
A second example--the recent claims of the American Life League that several popular Disney feature films have risque scenes.
The American Life League declares that the films show cartoon characters becoming sexually aroused and that the word "sex" swirls around in the dust during another film.
I saw "The Lion King" before I heard the allegations and I did not see "sex." I watched it after I heard the allegations and I still did not see it. Then I used my remote control and its super-slow motion feature and advanced the film, frame by frame. I think I saw it. Maybe.
There was supposed to be some bad stuff in "Aladdin," so I watched it again. And this time I decided to look for "smut."
Here's what I "found:" a suspicious relationship between a young woman and an animal, a genie who spoke with a lisp and kissed the male lead (on more than one occasion), and a woman in chains (for those whose preference runs to bondage). Also, in one scene Princess Jasmine touched the limp feather on Aladdin's turban and it stood erect.
The preceding list is offered, with tongue firmly in cheek, in the spirit of satirist Tom Lehrer who said, "Filth, I'm glad to say, is in the mind of the beholder. When correctly viewed, everything is lewd."
If you are a Christian, is it required that you be totally gullible and prey to any religious claims which appear on the horizon?
Because of rumors spread incessantly throughout the Church world, Proctor and Gamble redesigned their corporate logo and have instructed their legal department to sue anyone who says they are agents of the Antichrist.
A church in the Mississippi Delta had as its sole message, "Barney (the purple dinosaur kids love and some adults love to hate) is the Antichrist!"
Somewhere along the way we've lost, forgotten or ignored the admonition of the Apostle Paul who said, "Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things."
That means there are things which are true, and we need to discover them. There are things which are honorable, and we need to uphold them. There are things which are right, and we need to advance them. There are things which are pure, and we should model them. There are things which are lovely, and we should proclaim them. There are excellent things, there are praise-worthy things, and when our minds do not dwell on them, or rather, on Him, we do great disservice to our Lord and bring great dishonor to His name.
Published in the Augusta Chronicle 9/16/95
Copyright 1995 by David Sisler
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