Bill Maher is not a fan of religion or Christians.
In fact, Maher thoroughly enjoys launching barbs at the church and those who occupy it. We are lemmings. We’re hypocrites. We are misguided, brain damaged fools.
How ironic that this devoted atheist has delivered one of the most poignant lessons on following Jesus.
Now, some will question why I give any credence to a comedian who often uses vulgarity to express his contempt for religion. Bill Maher is funny. Even when my faith is the butt of his jokes, I still find him humerous. He’s intelligent. He’s insightful. And sometimes, he’s dead on when it comes to Christians and the teachings of Jesus.
Sometimes, as Bill so eagerly points out, Christians don’t listen to Jesus.
“Christians have been lawyering the Bible to try to figure out how ‘love thy neighbor’ can mean ‘hate thy neighbor,’” says Bill.
I watch Bill Maher videos on Youtube. A lot. He challenges my faith, forces me to think, pray, and study. He encourages me to formulate answers to the tough questions he aims toward believers. Ultimately, my faith grows stronger. That’s not Bill’s intent. It is the result.
On his show Real Time with Bill Maher, the comedian talked in 2011 about our nation’s reaction to the assassination of Osama Bin Laden. Maher referred to the elimination of the al-Qaeda leader as “capping thine enemy.”
“Non-violence was kinda Jesus’ thing,” Maher points out. “To not follow that would be like joining Greenpeace and hating whales.”
Osama Bin Laden was behind a vicious and deadly attack on our country. He was, without question, an enemy of America.
Jesus told us to love our enemies, to turn the other cheek.
I would never suggest, and I don’t think Maher would either, that our nation’s leaders should have allowed Bin Laden to skate. No way. What Maher says to me is that, as a Christian, I should not revel in the death of an enemy. Not when my savior is telling me to do just the opposite.
Turn the other cheek.
Loving your enemy isn’t easy, particularly when it comes to the evil of a Bin Laden. Jesus never suggested it would be easy. He also didn’t provide an asterisk that gives us an out for certain enemies. Nope. Love your neighbor. Love your enemy.
Maher goes on.
Love your neighbor.
“It’s in that book you hold up when you scream at gay people,” Maher reminds us.
It happens. In our city. There are well known examples of Christians, church members, gathering to mock and condemn participants in Atlanta’s gay pride parade.
“You’re not Christ followers,” Maher says of such Christians. “You’re just fans.”
Bill Maher knows how to go for the Achilles heel. But he’s right. For me, and apparently for Bill Maher, any debate about the Bible and homosexuality should always end with the commandment Jesus placed right behind loving God.
“Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”
“All of the law and Prophets hang on these commandments.”
Those are the words of Jesus.
Maher calls it hypocrisy when we claim to follow Jesus, only to judge and condemn. I’m guilty of it. I don’t always love my neighbor. I’m sometimes judgemental, often resentful. I’m not sure that’s being hypocritical. I’m just flawed. I don’t try to use the Bible to justify my brokenness. Instead, I reach for God’s forgiveness, and the commandments of Jesus.
Love your neighbor.
I don’t know if Bill Maher loves his neighbor. The spears he aims at Christians don’t feel much like love. I don’t know if he loves his enemies. Bill Maher is not a Christian. He seems to have a healthy respect for the teachings of Jesus, but he doesn’t claim to be a follower.
“I’m a non-Christian,” he says. “Just like most Christians.”
Okay, I don’t buy into his claim that MOST Christians abandon the loving commandment of our savior. The majority of Christians I know do understand the need to extend compassion and understanding even when it may be difficult or confusing. Forgiving someone who has wronged you is never simple. It is right.
Bill Maher can be quite harsh. He insults and mocks, derides and offends. He can be quite smarmy and irritating. Christians are not his only targets, although lampooning religion seems to bring him his greatest joy. I guess, as Christians, we could consider him an enemy.
We know what Jesus said about that.
Bill Maher knows. And he’s an atheist.