Christian Unity? Look in the Trenches

The third in the Stream's special series on #ChristianUnity

By John Zmirak Published on October 26, 2017

Editor’s note: This is the third piece in our series on Christian Unity.

You know what doesn’t bring Christians together? Ecumenical meetings. Interfaith conferences. Joint statements on social justice. Initiatives like those do something else. They assemble ex-Christians, or fading Christians, or people who are pleasantly Christian-ish. They invite everyone to meet at the lowest common denominator of acceptably liberal opinion, and endorse a cause that’s in fashion among highly educated, wealthy white folks. Who here’s opposed to hunger? To hate? To cancer? Let’s boldly take a stand.

Such meetings convene the torpid, to agree on the insipid, for the benefit of the tepid. Maybe that’s why in their heyday neither the Vatican nor the conservative Evangelicals took part in them, while Social Gospel modernists dove into such ecumenism face-first. They haven’t come up for air since.

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Standing Together Against the Enemies of Christ

What does bring Christians together? Persecution. Blows and spitting. You won’t see Christians in Egypt or Syria arguing over the Council of Chalcedon. They’re united in affirming Jesus’ divinity in the face of Islamic terror. They work together and help each other — the same groups that were raiding each other’s monasteries back in the fifth century. When I met the Anglican Vicar of Baghdad, who keeps together a Christian congregation against all odds, there was no call to talk about Thomas More vs. Thomas Cranmer. We stuck to the basics. Maybe that’s God’s way of calling us together again.

Ecumenical meetings convene the torpid, to agree on the insipid, for the benefit of the tepid.

Likewise when I read of Christian bakers and florists being sued or prosecuted for affirming natural marriage. I don’t wonder whether their theory of apostolic tradition is sound. I rally and support them, against the enemies of Christ.

Affirming God’s Gift of Human Life

You know what else brings us back to the fundamentals of faith? Confrontation with primal evil. The only times (apart from encounters with actual Nazis) that I’ve really sensed the presence of the demonic was outside abortion clinics. It was praying at those clinics with Operation Rescue in the 1980s that I first really got to know Protestants.

Growing up in an ethnic enclave of New York City, I thought pretty much everyone in the world was Irish, Italian or Greek. There weren’t many evangelicals at Yale, as you can imagine. When I first knowingly encountered a Protestant, I wanted to ask him, “So how do you like our country?” Yeah, I was sheltered.

But then I met fervent Christians from other traditions on the streets of New York City, outside its abortion centers. They might close their eyes and raise their hands when they prayed while I was clutching beads. But we were praying together, and I was glad to be with them.

Finding Christian Unity Outside an Abortion Clinic

We weren’t navel-gazing, which is what I suspect consumes most of the time at overt “ecumenical” love-fests. No, we were looking together at the same thing: at the goodness of human life, the sacredness of sex, and the perfect storm of despair, lust and death that is every single abortion. We looked at the nicely groomed pro-choice college students who had bused in from Connecticut. They wore pink vests and chanted in unison: “Keep your rosaries off our ovaries.” You really haven’t lived till you’ve watched a six-foot blonde guy in preppy clothes chanting that on a Saturday morning.

He was the guy who knocked me to the ground. You see, a battered car pulled up, there on Park Avenue and 28th Street. Three blue-collar Hispanics were in it. The driver was a fierce and determined looking 30-year-old guy. In the back seat was an older woman, who’d come along for “moral support.” In the passenger seat hunched a terrified woman in her 20s, hysterically sobbing. Her long red fingernails clutched the dashboard, until her boyfriend peeled them off, one by one. The woman got out of the back and came around to the passenger door. She pulled, he pushed, and the pregnant woman was soon out of the car, suspended by her shoulders. On the way into the clinic, her feet never touched the ground.

When I stepped up and hailed the police, the blonde preppy guy earned his points as a “nookie feminist” by hurling me to the ground. It took maybe ten seconds for these pro-choicers to ensure that coerced abortion. The cops didn’t even shrug. I’m sure they saw things like this happen all the time.

The Valley of the Shadow of Death

I sprawled on the asphalt, stunned. It wasn’t a priest or nun who picked me up off the ground. It was one of the people whom I’d heard speaking in tongues. Maybe I’d rolled my eyes at that. (I can be kind of a jerk.) But when I looked up in the shadow of that Manhattan valley of death, what I saw was a fellow Christian. And that’s what I see at The Stream, and why I feel blessed to work here.

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  • Dean Bruckner

    Amen! I’m honored to have your back! And that blond guy probably had a demon too.

  • SAMTHECAT

    Thank you, John for sharing. I grew up Baptist with a strong prejudice toward Catholics. My life was transformed when I encountered Christ while in college. Several years later, as part of God’s working to conform me into His image and when looking for a pediatrician for our growing family, the Lord provided a precious Catholic doctor who prayed with us over our children and who became very key when our premie twins were born and fighting for life. His son is now our children’s pediatrician for our grandchildren.

  • Patmos

    Whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.

  • Excellent, John. This really is a profound statement that the church needs to consider at this time. It’s been said before, but your personal testimony is powerful, as is its contrast to the increasingly liberal church conclaves. Even the Southern Baptists under the dubious stewardship of Russell Moore have fallen prey, recently condemning, not racism, but “white racism”, as if that’s the only kind extant. Hardly.

    I’m on the other side of the ecclesial divide, I don’t call myself Protestant, which is a negative, but Christian, which is positive and to the root, and I’m no longer RC. I also come from NY, not far from the City, and rubbed many an elbow with RCs demonstrating outside abortion clinics. The continual superfluous debating among Christians of all stripes sickens me. I think that when the church becomes the church, we will arrive at the unity of faith, and the doctrinal distinctives will take care of themselves.

    • Micha_Elyi

      “…I’m no longer RC.”–Paul B.

      You’re no longer a Real Christian?

      “The continual superfluous debating among Christians of all stripes sickens me.”

      End the sickness. When you’re ready to stop protesting against Jesus and His Church, you’ll be welcomed home by His one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church. Accept no substitutes.

      • It’s garbage like this that keeps people from Christ.

      • AvantiBev

        Micha, I feel like directing your last paragraph at a certain pope.

  • Chip Crawford

    Some attribute the following verses for application solely within their four walls or maybe their denomination or group. Actually, God presides over a very big world full of Christian groups. He is the father of spirits, not groups, but relates to them all with calling and purpose. The idea is to seek the Lord from our most valued place of our personal relationship with God and allow him to lead us. In such circumstance, we would be in our places with bright shiny faces. Then allow him to continue to lead you to follow a certain teacher given to the body of Christ on a subject. If we confirm it is the Lord who is leading us, we needn’t be concerned or have the reaction like Peter that they are unclean … The answer to 1,001 questions is: Be led. There is a particular part of the Body of Christ who majors in emphasis on that vital area. How many would be open enough to be led to partake of that vital teaching, while still in their other group? More fluidity like this would greatly strengthen individuals and the whole. Imho, God does not make happen what he wants to happen, but certainly deals within the realm of the free will he himself gave man. If he knows you won’t listen to his instruction to listen to others and are not open, he won’t bring it up because you would be responsible for it. Openness is a good idea, trusting … It allows for more of God in our lives and for him to be able to do all that he desires in and through us. Maybe?

    1 Cor. 12:12 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.
    13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.
    14 For the body is not one member, but many.
    15 If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?
    16 And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?
    17 If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?
    18 But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.
    19 And if they were all one member, where were the body?
    20 But now are they many members, yet but one body.
    21 And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.
    22 Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary:
    23 And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness.
    24 For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked:
    25 That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.
    26 And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.
    27 Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.

  • Howard Rosenbaum

    Unity among the diverse factions of the church would be one sign of the Lords imminent return. Though short of an alien invasion of “Independence Day” proportions , bringing humanity together in a shared resolve ( excepting of course the likes of Isis who would probably welcome the invasion as an answer to their prayers ) it would appear to be just as unlikely as that alien takeover. The Master prayed that we would all be one just as He & the Father were one. Did this petition fall on deaf ears, do ya think ..? From a natural view one might think so. Was the Lord God incarnate’s prayers ever not consistent w/the will of God ..? So when did Jesus ever do anything w/carnal motives ?
    Mr Zmirak seems to get it. This unity our Lord interceded for on our behalf is not a matter of doctrinal agreement. Hey, the church , to be the church, by virtue of being the church is already in agreement on the irrefutable tenants of the faith. Anything less is is a declaration of unbelief or worse unbridled religiosity. Certainly God knows the times & seasons the church has been reduced to a remnant of its former self in various parts of the world. Antagonistic religious spirits motivating persecutors of His church has assured that to be the case . It’s not debatable doctrinal positions that will preclude a practically unprecedented unity among believers. It’s our shared objectives. Our common causes. A willingness to love as God has loved us. God seemingly enjoys diversity. Just look around you ! His creation can boogle the mind of even the casual observer. Yeah, God approves of our distintives , even though none of us has the whole picture on those things we may continue to disagree ( agreeably ) over. So while an alien invasion is about as realistic as MSM objective journalism, that answer to our Lords prayers need not be so ….

  • tz1

    Amen. Matt 25 the two sons, one said he would do his father’s will but didn’t, the other said no but did.
    Action on the front lines shows.
    There are no churchians in foxholes.

    • Micha_Elyi

      “Churchians”? Jesus left us His Church, not a book. Avoid biblioatry.

  • Micha_Elyi

    I’m disappointed that the police failed to act as at least two felonies occurred right before their eyes, kidnapping and false imprisonment. Assault was mixed in there too.

  • As far as I’m concerned the Protestant Reformation was five hundred years ago. We’ve created differences for better or worse but at this point who cares. If the threat of overbearing secularism and creeping Islam doesn’t unite us, nothing else will.

  • Lee Phillips

    “ The only times (apart from encounters with actual Nazis) that I’ve really sensed the presence of the demonic was outside abortion clinics.”—John Zmirak, in an article called CHRISTIAN UNITY? Look in the trenches.

    I have physically felt the presence of the demonic three times in my life:

    Once while officiating at the Illinois Special Olympics;

    Once while officiating the Mormon church state basketball tournament;

    Once while attending a church growth conference at Willow Creek Church in Barrington, IL

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