We are so, SO sweet. We talk so sweet and use nice words and we put a little extra in the plate on Sunday after a hurricane or
earthquake damages lives in some part of the world.
Yet we draw such ire, just by being US. People hate us! That lesbian knew nothing about me except that I am a Christian, and she was instantly, viciously angry. That athiest girl rolled her eyes before I even got a word out. And, of course, there’s all those terrorists who are constantly trying and sometimes succeeding in killing us.
Have we done some good? We have, indeed.
Have we done damage? We have, indeed, and very possibly more than the good we’ve done, at least in recent years.
You really might not know. If your real and virtual friends all think generally like you, and you watch and read only “appropriate” materials, you really might not realize that the liberals, wackos and “unchurched” out there actually do have good reason to be angry.
I believe that we, Christian Americans, do not have some God-given right to dictate how everyone else lives. I believe that gay couples should have the same legal rights and protections as other couples, and that children in public schools shouldn’t be forced to pray to a God their family doesn’t claim. I believe that teenagers and recipients of foreign aid are entitled to the honest facts and availability of contraception, and that lying in the name of abstinence is not justified.
If you are reading this, you may have already concluded that I am not a Christian. You’ve probably already snapped closed this page in order to avoid being corrupted by my dark distortions of God’s word, but in case you haven’t, let me just say this to you:
Get over yourself. Jesus died for you, sure, but he died for me, too. He died for the emaciated, hollow-eyed gay Ugandan dying of AIDS, the heroin-addicted prostitute trading favors for hits, and the incredibly passive-aggressive relative that made you want to stab yourself in the chest with the carving knife yesterday. He died for the soccer coach that won’t put your kid in unless they have a ten point lead and the doctor with the terrible bedside manner. He died for the smokers, the jokers and the midnight tokers, the haves and have nots. He died for Jon Stewart and Glenn Beck.
So you’re in good company, pal. More than one person in forums (I know better but I do sometimes engage) has told me that I’m not a Christian because of my beliefs. They say, “We know the mind of God on this.”
You know the mind of God on this!? You — likely less than 100 years old, unable to get a clear picture of anything because you can never shake free of the filters and perceptions of your culture, your upbringing and your limited life experiences — YOU claim to know the mind of God?
Because you’ve read the Bible, I suppose? Because the Bible, as we all know, has never given rise to controversy? All people, or at least all Bible scholars, are in agreement on at least the basic precepts contained there? You’re that serenely confident that you and the very few who believe exactly as you do have tapped into the Absolute Truth that has eluded human beings for thousands of years?
So (drawing deep breath), consider getting over yourself.
And as for the rest of you, who are tossing around the idea that I might be saved in spite of my corruption of The Truth . . . stop offering to pray for me. Actually, let’s just take a look at a few things we can do to stop being jerks in the name of God:
- STOP saying “I’m praying for you.” Should you pray for people? Yep. Should you tell them you’re praying for them? Sometimes. But if you are embroiled in a conflict with another human, whether it’s interpersonal or a doctrinal debate or whatever, don’t end it with the sanctimonious, God-is-totally-on-my-side-you-poor-thing “I’ll pray for you.” Have you ever been wrong? Yes? Then you might later discover that you’re wrong this time too, so why don’t you acknowledge that possibility or even just honestly work toward an authentic resolution? Also, this way you may avoid receiving the inevitable bitch-slap that you totally deserve.
- STOP seeing yourself as the Savior. You know how you like to say you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ? Okay, well I know this might feel like He’s cheating on you, but He actually has a personal relationship with lots of other people too. Including your gay neighbor, the skeptical agnostic in your psych class, or your uncle who is (gulp) a liberal Democrat. Point being, if you are the only Christian in a room full of athiests or Muslims or whatever, you aren’t single-handedly responsible for making sure they know and accept the truth. Jesus already has a plan for every single person you know, and you may or may not be apart of it. Even if you are a part of it, you aren’t necessary. It’s very nice if you want to help God, but it’s also very nice if you get that He’s actually been doing this for a while now, and He’ll probably be able to continue even after the eye-blink of your lifetime.
- STOP buying into the image of Christianity. We aren’t all required to look well-groomed, spout the Republican party line, speak in that light, pleasant tone or chant “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” Remember John the Baptist? His look wasn’t exactly Sunday School material. Would you escort him out of your sanctuary? Don’t hurry to say no, because it’s happening all over the place — churches are intentionally discouraging nearby homeless or impoverished people from populating their polished pews. We will send you money but Stay. Over. There.
- STOP blaming victims for being victims. Poor people don’t work hard enough. Gay people brought AIDS on themselves. Hurricane victims weren’t Christian, so God swept away their children before they reached an age of accountability. Haitians were devastated because they participated in dark arts. I challenge you to find one example in the Bible of Jesus showing that kind of hateful satisfaction. He showed compassion and love, and we have no right to do otherwise in His name.
- LEARN the meaning of the word “Peace.” If you did actually read the Bible, you may recall that Jesus was actually a pretty peaceful guy. Very few fistfights. Hardly ever slapped sense into the Philistines. Healed the ear of the soldier who came to haul Him away. So why are so many Christians dug-in, gun-slinging, I’ll-make-a-man-out-of-you-yet-son war mongerers? That’s not a rhetorical question — I seriously want to know. Even if it was true that the only way to be safe in this country was to have a gun stashed in every bedside table drawer (and it isn’t — do some research), does that mean that as Christians we should be armed? That we should be outraged (as so many of us were) by finding at least a temporary peaceful resolution with Syria? Are we Peacemakers or not?
- DON’T be a misogynist. Just . . . this would be another blog. A really long one. But it seems pretty clear in the Bible that Jesus liked women, that he saw them as equal to the men in His flock. So if you want to follow Him, maybe set down your penile insecurities or mommy issues or whatever and respect women?
- LOVE, you idiot. Love doesn’t look like placards and screamed threats of hell. Love doesn’t look like big contributions to political parties or small contributions to needy strangers. It pretty much doesn’t look like sweeping statements of any kind. Care less about whether those people are raising your taxes by depending on food stamps and care more about whether your elderly neighbor who talks too much and smells like soiled diapers has a way to get to the store in the bad weather. Care less about whether that politician supports gay marriage and care more about whether your sick neighbor with the flu has hot chicken noodle soup while his husband is traveling out of town. Care less about your simplistic explanation of why Rome fell (which is wrong, so at least look it up, will you?) and care more about whether you are kind to the people you meet, even when on the surface they don’t seem to deserve it. Show them grace. They don’t deserve it. Neither do I, but friend, neither do you. That’s what Grace is.
So if you want to “save souls” (you can’t), connect with the “unchurched” (although you may not
really want to), or even, say, WWJD, I suggest you start with not being a jerk.