I know I said I was (mostly) going to avoid discussing religion and politics. But something happened to a friend of mine recently that’s had me internally fuming, and I’m afraid you guys are going to have to tolerate one of my rants; I apologize at the outset. For those who can stomach it all the way to the end, I’m hoping there’s going to be something redeeming about it. Maybe even a lesson to learn.
Anyone who knows me hopefully knows that I am a Christian. I try not to be one of those judgmental, Bible-thumping, gay-hating, abortion clinic bombing people you always see on the news, because I honestly believe that Jesus had no intention of having his followers behave that way. In fact, it really upsets me when I get lumped together with those people, but maybe I should save that for another post. Ook. That means at least one more religion post. 😛 But for the purposes of today’s post, I’m going to make a separation between myself and the media portrayal of what a “Christian” is.
Let’s start with a little background, then. I’m not going to debate whether Jesus existed or not, because that’s not really doubted. Plenty of non-Christian historians have attested to the fact that he did in fact exist. But I think all of the infighting, and in fact the thing that hurts anyone trying to live a Christ-like life, is that there is so much debate about who he was. So since you’re reading my blog, you get stuck hearing my opinion.
One of the most prominent things about Jesus is that he was a minimalist. He hated the regimented, legalistic, ritualistic farce that the Jewish religion had become. The leaders (Sadducees and Pharisees, if you want to know) had added rule upon rule of what a “good Jew” had to do in order to earn God’s favor. (Sound like any other religions we know?) This was not ever what God intended. Some of the rules God had set down, such as the ones we know as the 10 Commandments, were meant for everyone. Some were meant to protect the Jews from getting sucked into worshiping the gods of the people around them, which in a lot of cases included some pretty freaky stuff like child sacrifice and cutting/burning/mutilating oneself as a form of worship. And some were meant only for the Levites, who were the group that was supposed to lead in worship, and were to keep themselves to a higher standard.
But over the years the Jewish leaders had added literally hundreds upon hundreds of “laws” to the simple ones that God had first given them. So Jesus tried to boil it all down, super-simple. Two things: Love God, and love your neighbor. That’s it. Not that it’s EASY, mind you, but it IS simple. Truly every other rule, every one of the 10 commandments, is covered by these two things. If you love your neighbor, you’re not going to steal his stuff, or lie about him, or try to take his wife, or hate him because he has more than you. And if you love God, you’re going to want to show your love for your neighbor even more.
But humans are stupid and stubborn, and we tend to screw things up and make them far more complicated than they ever need to be. And because we have this overwhelming desire to feel better about ourselves, we want to make other people’s flaws and mistakes worse than our own. *I* might be embezzling millions of dollars from my company, but at least I’m not gay. *I* might be taking money on the sly to vote the way an elite group wants me to, but at least I’m not a baby-murdering abortionist. I know it sounds like I’m writing a parody here, but there really are people who feel this way, some quite loudly.
So all this to say, I have a friend who has had a very horrible couple of years. She has had so many things go wrong in her life, and so very few friends to cling to and help hold her up through this tough period. But she really wanted to resolve some things and clear the air with a couple of the leaders in a church that we had both previously attended, and was not only refused a simple meeting, but in fact threatened that the assistance that had been offered by their men’s group to help her move would be withdrawn. Bullying at its best, from leaders of the church, no less. It’s abysmal enough how they treat non-Christians, but they even treat their own like this. No wonder the rest of the world looks at Christians and wants nothing to do with what they have to say.
The rest of the world sees “Christians” on the news shouting at the top of their lungs about all the things they’re doing wrong, and trying to force their beliefs on others by passing laws ordering them to behave the way they want, but really the reasonably moderate Christians are the ones who need to clean house. We don’t need to scream at the world, or try to legislate morality. In fact, I’d dare say that we shouldn’t have to speak at all. Our affiliation with Christ should be obvious to others around us without ever having to say a word. We should put others above ourselves, offer help whenever it is within our power, and love those who don’t agree with us. Even those who hate us because they associate us with those extremists who regrettably keep getting handed a microphone.
So I apologize to all of you for the prominent, visible and vocal representatives of Christianity you see on TV. I assure you, the extremists are in the minority, even though it doesn’t seem like it. And they are NOT AT ALL what Christ intended his church to be. Unfortunately, you will find these hypocrites closer to home as well, maybe even right in your own family. But I would ask you to do two things: please don’t assume that all Christians are like that, and please remember that all Christians are still human and still prone to making some really stupid, selfish, sometimes hurtful choices. Being Christians certainly doesn’t make us perfect. We are flawed creatures just like everyone else on the planet, and when we forget that is when we do the most damage to the name “Christian”.
And if you ever see me behaving like that, please call me out on it. I have many non-Christian friends and family who I love dearly, and I would never want any of you to think that your beliefs should jeopardize our relationship. I don’t want you to avoid being around me because you’re afraid of what I might secretly think about you, or that we would get into a beastly argument. Most of you already know this, but if you have doubts, don’t. If you’re interested in civil debate, I’m all for it, but I’m just as happy spending time with you and enjoying your company without religion ever entering the picture. Because to me, relationships are of utmost importance. And I really think that’s what Jesus intended all along.