My heart hurt after I read the words written by Al Fonzi recently, in an opinion piece called “Neither bigots nor haters” (May 25). I feel sad that while I sense that he hoped to share a simple message of redemption with non-Christians, I think he made that ministry more challenging for all of us. I think he may have turned many non-Christians away from considering the salvation of Jesus by being a man wrapped up in political discourse who calls himself a Christian.
As a Christian, I had a whole different view on who Al Fonzi was as a regular writer in your paper. I thought he was another heartless man who wanted to argue for more of his share of wealth and who hated the poor, the disenfranchised, and the helpless. In my mind, he was a man who “has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain,” as Paul writes in 1 Timothy.
To read his opinion this last week, I think the good news of Jesus Christ just got much harder to share with many of those who read Al’s opinion of Christianity. Paul also wrote in 1 Timothy, for a “man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness.” Paul goes on in 2 Timothy to say, “Warn them before God against quarreling about words: it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen.”
My impression of Al is that he is modeling a man who is quite caught up in quarreling about words and, now that he lets us know that he is a follower of Christ, he has ruined the possibility for some who might have considered Jesus or learning more about him. Paul makes it even clearer in 2 Timothy when he says, “Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel: instead he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.” Paul goes on to say to “pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace.”
For me, most of Al’s writings have not been peaceful or loving. While they may be his personal pursuit of righteousness, I don’t find Al’s typical opinion writings to be scriptural or biblically based.
For him to now talk about being a committed evangelical Christian and to mix that up with controversial and quarreling words seems to me to put a whole negative spin on what it means to be a Christian. I think Al’s words go against much of what Jesus speaks to us about and what Paul talks about how a Christian man should live his life.
Jesus came into this world during a very intense political time in Jewish history. Israel was occupied by a foreign nation and forced to live under their laws and rule. People were angry at the Romans, and talk of rebellion was common. Yet Jesus modeled for us the way to live a godly life by notably not getting involved in politics and not talking about laws and rebellion. He modeled for us how to live a Christian life by being concerned about the state of man’s heart and mind, not who was in power or what laws were being passed.
I feel sad when I think it possible that Al has distorted the motives of Christians and their beliefs, because I want others to know the joy and understanding that I have following the teachings of Jesus. I pray and invite that those who have read Al’s words to keep your hearts and minds open to a Christianity that transcends political dialogue and to perhaps read some of the New Testament yourself to be able to discern whether someone is following the words and teachings of the Bible. You may find that there is a much deeper understanding than is commonly talked about by those who choose political discourse and call themselves Christians, one that brings a message of peace, love, and caring for yourself and others.