Atheist family receive threatening letters from ‘beleivers’ – but could the letters be fakes?
I was shocked over the weekend when I learned of some threatening letters placed in the mailbox of some attending an atheist ‘church’ in Louisiana in the USA. I read about it on the Richard Dawkins website and also on the friendly atheist blog.
This incident reminded me of a post I wrote a couple of years ago about atheist billboards which needed to be taken down following violent threats by so-called ‘Christians’. I’ll make similar points now as I respond.
Even though I disagree with the assertions of the atheist ‘church’, there is no place in the Christian faith to threaten violence.
Jesus said “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt 5:43). Jesus never advocated violent threats to those who disagreed with the Christian message. The fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23), the way a Christian believer should live, includes ‘peace, kindness, goodness, and gentleness’, none of which I see in a threat of violence. And the Apostle Paul, who encountered much opposition to his message, never responded with violence. After outlining all the opposition and setbacks he’d experienced in his life, he concluded that he delighted in weakness, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions and in difficulties for Christ’s sake, ‘for when I am weak, then I am strong’ (2 Cor 12:10).
The threat of violence in response to opposition is the response associated with Christendom and the ’religious’ who are more concerned with power and influence than the Christian faith. So I cannot endorse what those ‘beleivers’ who can’t even spell the name, have threatened to those ‘neighbours’ they live with whom they disagree. The point of Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan, was that we should love those with whom we disagree. Hence these letters and deeply hypocritical and deeply disappoint me.
The pastor of the atheist “church” made this statement in response:
You may not agree with our lack of belief in the supernatural but I’m hopeful that you do believe in our right to assemble peacefully and to proclaim a message of community, tolerance and love without fear of physical harm.
So I’m asking each of you to take the following four actions:
1. Publicly condemn this kind of behavior.
2. Extend a hand of friendship and encouragement to the Jeffels family.
3. Help us identify the author(s) of these letters so that they can be helped.
4. Share this message with everyone that you know.
I do not agree with the beliefs of the atheist church, but I do agree with their right to assemble and proclaim their message (and I’d be very happy to engage their message in a non-violent and intelligent way). So I am happy to endorse the proposed actions:
1. I publicly condemn this kind of behaviour from “Christian” people. It is completely contrary to the teachings of Jesus.
2. I extend a hand of friendship to the Jeffels family (and to all atheists). I wish to love all of my neighbours.
3. I am happy to help identify the author of these letters (see below).
4. Am sharing this with everyone I know – hence publishing this on this blog.
Identifying the authors – are they really Christians?
Now, after rebuking these so called “Christian” beleivers, more controversially, I now want to question the authenticity of the letters. I’m content to be wrong about this (and this blog post will still be worthwhile), but I do wonder if the authors of these two letters were really Christians at all?
Could the authors instead be atheists intent on impersonating Christians and reinforcing a stereotype of Christians as uneducated, bigoted and violent in order to make a point and gain publicity?
The reason my suspicions are roused is that these letters were both typed using a word processor, yet two very obvious spelling mistakes remain in both letters: ‘beleivers’ in the first and ‘misterious’ in the second. Given the auto-correct software in all modern software, the author of this particular note would almost certainly have wanted there to be spelling mistakes on it. These spelling mistakes would have stood out as much as a porcupine in a nudist colony because great red lines would have appeared underneath both words which would have made the spelling mistakes obvious. The rest of both letters (apart from misplaced ‘you’re) have no spelling mistakes on them at all. Only words in the last lines of each letter. In fact when I typed misterious on Microsoft Word, it automatically corrected the word to mysterious.
There appear to be two realistic options for why someone would have wanted there to be spelling mistakes on these letters.
1. They really were Christians who really were so stupid that they misunderstood and ignored auto correct. They were so stupid that they in fact changed the auto-corrected version of misterious.
2. They were atheists intent on characterising and stereotyping Christians as stupid, violent and hypocritical. Perhaps to raise the issues of the marginalisation of atheists in the USA, raise the profile of the atheist church and get lots of shares from high profile atheists like Richard Dawkins and Hemant Mehta.
As I said, I’m content to be wrong about this, but if the letters indeed were forgeries, well, that would also be disappointing.