No, the way Switchfoot reacted to crazy protestors did not “blow me away”. It made me rather concerned for the state of our common religion and what we perceive as “Christian” action and belief.
So think of it this way: should relationship-building with other people come from force and command, or should it simply emerge unprovoked? Imagine the people in that concert. They think the normal thing about the protesters – rah rah, they’re bad and stuff – and then band members need to tell them to go talk to those people. Strike one: only speaking to enemies with impetus via an external authority. Were they doing it before? No. Did they suddenly have a crisis of conviction? I doubt it. However, people in power tend to make people without power nervous.
And I say that truthfully: the protestors are in charge here, much as we would like to think otherwise. They believe (wrongly or rightly) wholeheartedly in their beliefs, and they are willing to call out other Christians on their decadence to the culture at large. Then the proponents of “Christian rock” intend to “love on” them as a form of response. After all, that’s what Jesus would do, right? Yet, I find this an utterly frightening concept.
I find this less an expression of Christian love, and more an example of a subtle form of vengeance. Here’s those people we disagree – “love” them. But what does that love mean? Hypocrisy and pride come in many forms. We can feel superior to our enemies via “loving them”, and using our hegemonic version of love upon them. That’s not understanding at all; that’s just another imposition of your worldview upon another human being.
In psychology, they would call this a narcissistic defense. An exterior agent says that we’re wrong. We feel wrong, since someone has place themselves in opposition to our beliefs. There’s two subsequent responses to that opposition. First, we can accept it, see it for what it is, and accept the world as it is. That’s a tough response to do at first glance. Whether a boss chastises employees for not working hard enough as an appeal to motivate them or someone says something against you on Facebook, to do nothing in return either physically or mentally remains a difficult constraint. When Jesus says to turn the other cheek, he meant it.
But, we often take this as a sign that we don’t do any physical action against violence. We don’t see this in the psychological sense at all. What motivation drives you towards that love? Would you rather look, explain, or badger another person to see the contradictions, hypocrisy, or error of their beliefs? Most of us would say otherwise, of course, but smug satisfaction and feeling right often take precedence over love. They made us feel shame (not guilt, of course) over our enjoyment of rock music (in this case), and we know the truth (isn’t that what you must assume to approach random strangers and talk to them), so time to show them who’s boss. Revenge! Nietzsche calls it ressentiment, the morality of the “slave class” against those to which they cannot remove:
The slave revolt in morality begins when the ressentiment itself becomes creative and gives birth to values: the ressentiment of those beings who are prevented from a genuine reaction, that is, something active, and who compensate for that with a merely imaginary vengeance. While all noble morality grows out of a triumphant affirmation of one’s own self, slave morality from the start says “No” to what is “outside,” “other,” to “a not itself.” And this “No” is its creative act. This transformation of the glance which confers value—this necessary projection towards what is outer instead of back onto itself—that is inherent in ressentiment. In order to arise, slave morality always requires first an opposing world, a world outside itself.
The point of Christianity isn’t to set us all apart, but set us all together. Let’s talk about it, not make rhetorical jabs or proclamations of damnation or false relationships. Do you think these protesters had their mind changed at all? No, I don’t think so. That isn’t relationship; this continues the never ending cycle of American debate. Whoever shouts the loudest often wins, whether by words or action. Exposing the hypocrites with “real” Christian love satisfies much more than actually learning, helping, and developing a relationship. We know from Romans 12 that this can’t be the state of affairs:
Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Vengeance cannot be ours in any sense. We cannot wish bad things on other people. The Psalms do contain such prayers of a violent nature, wishing for the pitfalls and deaths of enemies to reach their comeuppance, sure, but how does that help you in the long run? Can you turn an enemy into a friend, or does a subtle undercurrent of revenge creep into the proceedings? I imagine these represent the natural thoughts we have towards those who oppose us. And this is perfectly natural. Doesn’t make it right, though.
Obviously, the little community had not understood what was precisely the most important thing of all: the example offered by this way of dying, the freedom from and superiority to every feeling of ressentiment—a plain indication of how little he was understood at all! All that Jesus could hope to accomplish by his death, in itself, was to offer the strongest possible proof, or example, of his teachings in the most public manner….
Jesus didn’t go say “haha, these people disagree with me, better prove them wrong”. Jesus doesn’t bother with that. They all believe the same thing, Jesus and the Pharisees, but Jesus knows that they, themselves, know better. He says the truth and talks to everyone over the course of his life that He possibly could. That’s where the lasting impact happens: talking, not feeling superior or pointing out flaws. Understand and know; then you can convince, and perhaps find yourself convinced.
So would Jesus go out and visit the protesters? Highly unlikely. He already would know them. And so should we.