Gandhi once said, “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” And now we have Anne Rice declaring on her facebook page this afternoon, “I quit being a Christian. I’m out. In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of …Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen.”
And the thing is, I get it. It was the Crusades that turned me off as a child. And then I found out about the Spanish Inquisition (which no, I didn’t expect, but no one expects the Spanish Inquisition) and I was horrified. Then I started rethinking this whole ‘convert your friends or they’re going to roast in hell’ doctrine that was shoved down my throat as a child. Then I got really outside the box: I started rethinking hell itself. Then the world was my oyster, and by that point I was in Seminary. I didn’t even go to a liberal one. I went to a rather middle-of-the road one: Virginia Theological Seminary. It’s not known for its shocking outside-the-box thinking. I mean, in some courses you might have to read Jack Spong, but all the popular kids bitch about having to do so. I started rethinking sex, and gender, and sexuality. I started focusing on Jesus’ Summary of the Law (Lovelovelovelovelove). I went from being a Republican to a Democrat to an Independent to ‘blank’ which in New York State at least is the one true ‘none of the above’ option. It still stymies the volunteer poll workers. I do it because I vote not based on party, because no single political ideology agrees with mine, and that’s okay. I’ve started to question everything, which can be dangerous because babies sometimes get thrown out with bathwater. I get it. I’ve done it before. I’ve watched other people done it.
Note I’m still a priest.
But, I’m also like Amos – dude, don’t look at me when you think of religion’s insanity; I’m just a simple dresser of sycamores and God is only using me because no one else is listening. But I already blogged about that.
So, okay. I’m a Christian. ::waves:: And I have no wish to be an asshole. So, how does one do that? How does one be a) a Christian, b) non-assholish, c) have integrity at the end of the day? Behold: Sarey’s Brief Guide on How To Be a Christian & Not an Asshole.
1) Love God. Jesus did say this was the foundation of all that was worthwhile in religion. Love God with everything you’ve got. And if you’re confused about how to do that in a concrete and practical manner, fear not, because Jesus also said that it’s practically the same thing to say: Love Your Neighbor As Your Self. This implies that you love yourself. You know, in that healthy way, not in that enabling co-dependent way. So, love yourself. And love your neighbor that much, too. Who’s your neighbor? Oh, baby, who isn’t your neighbor? It’s everybody. Everybody, everybody, everybody – including and especially the people who annoy you, pester you, hurt you, gossip about you… love them.
…yeah, that’s it. It’s a one point guide. Pretty simple. Easy? No, not necessarily easy. It’s just simple. It’s not a difficult concept to get your brain around, it’s just difficult to actually do it. If you’re confused and would like more detail about this love thing, I’d happily refer you to Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 13. Now, it’s true that those words were written for a certain people in a certain time to answer a certain very specific issue (specifically, there was a shit-load of infighting at Corinth, which we could understand as the Vegas of the ancient world, and people were separating out into factions, trying to gain power, and it was devolving into an ugly chaos that was bringing out the worst in everyone), but in Chapter 13, Paul does wax on quite eloquently and with surprising clarity that sings down the ages almost without a single need for cultural interpretation about love. Not romantic love, mind you, though it is a favorite reading at weddings. Paul is talking about the love-self, love-neighbor, love-god kind of love. And he describes it in graphic detail. He’s not inviting people to be in unhealthy co-dependent relationships, he’s not inviting people to be doormats, but he is welcoming people into a radically different way of being.
So, okay. If I had to add other points, if LOVE isn’t clear enough an instruction or if it seems way too theoretical and not nearly practical enough, it might go like this:
2) Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is. And If Your Mouth Isn’t Where Your Integrity Is, Do That First. What do I mean by this? If you are a Christian and you strongly disagree with the teachings you’re being taught, go elsewhere. I guarantee you that there are Christian communities near you that share your values. They may be small. You may live in an area where people (publicly, at any rate) all seem to espouse the same point of view that you seem to disagree with. But I guarantee you that there are pockets of people who are yearning for something different, and they are yearning for the same thing you yearn for. This is the way the world works. You may feel alone, but you’re not. So first, figure out (if you haven’t already) what it is that actually matters to you, then put your mouth there. Stop being one of the people who only publicly espouse the popular view. Yes, it might put you in the margin, but it’s easier to find that new community that will support you and that you can support if you’re not still being one of the many mouthpieces of the very thing you cannot stand. (Or maybe you’re not a mouthpiece. Maybe you just say nothing and roll your eyes. Still not helping.)
It can be hard to make this change. I get that. But here’s the thing: God is not limited to one single church building, nor is God limited to one single flavor of Christianity, no matter what your religious leaders may be teaching you, no matter how you were raised. That’s just silly talk. Wherever two or three are gathered in Jesus’ name, you’ve got Church, baby. Break out of that box and find what you need to support you. And then support them.
Point of Fact: All the things that Anne Rice said in the above quote were all things particular to one very specific flavor of Christianity. To name names, that’s all Roman Catholic stuff. Me, I come from a different flavor of Christianity. As a body, we don’t actually promote any of those things. Point of fact: I’m a woman, I’m a priest, I’m not a virgin, I have used birth control, I’m pro-life and yet not anti-abortion, I’ve been a Democrat and still most closely associate with their view point, and I think being Gay is a perfectly acceptable ontological state. And you know what? I’m also a Christian. I also have God’s blessing on my life. God loves me, too. (And to be transparent, I think wielding ex-communication like the Roman Catholic Church does is a base and cowardly abuse of power. But that’s me. People of good conscience are allowed to disagree with me, and that’s okay. It’s still my view.) And back to Anne Rice, for her to say what she did doesn’t make sense to the rest of us Christians who aren’t actually her flavor of Christianity. There were many of us reading that quote who were very confused. Did Ms. Rice confuse Roman Catholicism with all Christianity? Does she simply not realize that The Church is actually quite a bit larger than Rome? Does she buy into the line that most RC’s are spinning: Outside Of Us, You’re Screwed? And to be fair, it’s not just the Roman Catholic Church that favors that line. Many conservative Christians like to use it. And the rest of us think it’s bullshit, but then again, we would. We’re outside of them, and thus by their logic, screwed. We shrug and pray for them. They’ll either come around in the end, or they’ll collapse under the weight of their own uber-controlling bullshit, like the Soviet Union and the Aztec Empire. Either way is okay by me. But as for you, if you want to be a Christian and not an Asshole, go find some other Christians who also don’t want to be Assholes and hang out with them. Perhaps you could introduce yourself, ala AA. Hi. My name is Sarah, and I used to be an asshole Christian. ::choruses of ‘Hi, Sarah.’::
3) Stand Up To Hatred. When you see people, especially fellow Christians, acting badly, being hateful, seemingly infested with the very demons they purport to be exorcising in others, do feel free to call them on it. Be warned they may not take it well, but please do feel free to call assholes on their assholish behavior and let them know that it’s not cool with you. Don’t sink to their level, mind. Don’t be an asshole in return. We’re trying to leave off assholish behavior, remember. But simply, kindly, inform them that it’s not cool.
In most places in this country it’s not okay to make a racist joke (I’m not naive enough to believe that’s true everywhere), or a sexist joke, or to make a demeaning remark, and in most places in this country it’s absolutely acceptable to inform the speaker that it’s not acceptable to say such things in your company. Just because someone has interpreted differently a writing that you both find to be sacred doesn’t give them the right to verbally shit upon your fellow human beings in your presence. I don’t care if they think being gay is an Abomination Unto The Lord, and I don’t care if they think Women Shouldn’t Speak In Church, and I don’t care if they think [fill in the blank here]. That’s nice. They can think that way, but there are other very pious, very learned, very holy, very Christian people who look at the very same text and come out with a very different understanding of the world, and this has been true all the way through the history of Christianity. We’ve never really agreed on things, we Christians, and anyone who tells you different is selling you a party line of bullshit. Further more, there isn’t much new we can come up with that someone hasn’t already mused upon in, oh, say the sixth century – we just have to do a little research to find out who said what, if we’re so inclined.
Assholes have no right to take over the public discourse, even if they are prone to yelling, threatening a painful afterlife that they have no power to deliver and getting in your face in an unpleasant manner. That doesn’t make them right. It just makes them loud, and usually, offensive.
4) Find friends. Seriously now, this can be tough stuff in this world, being a Christian and not an Asshole. Find yourself a support group. That support group might actually be a church, but it might not be. But seriously now, find some like minded people to give you support, because it might not be easy and it especially won’t be easy at first. But you can totally do it. And it’s worth it, really, because when you come right down to it, Jesus said and did some bloody amazing stuff. The guy stood up against the Roman Empire for heaven’s sake. And yeah, they killed him for it, but what he was preaching (lovelovelove) is radical today, it was even more radical then. He got killed for saying that maybe God is not just in the temple, maybe God is closer than breathing, maybe God is like our Father. He got killed for believing so clearly that what we thought made a difference in how we lived that he was able to heal people, to perform wacky miracles that really only made boatloads of sense if you were from that culture. He got killed for preaching that the way of love was more important than pax romana. So if you’re going to walk this walk and talk this talk, a walk and talk that have gotten stronger people than you killed, do find some support first. Because it’s much, much easier to say ‘fuck you, I’m leaving’ than to say ‘fuck you, I’m staying’.
This is Sarey, signing off. (Which is to say, ‘Fuck you, I’m staying.’)
[Editorial Who-Ha: this blog has spawned further conversation. Check it out at CaffeineCoquette’s blog post: Christianity Needs Better PR.]
Appreciate your comments, but according to my mail, and comments in the Amazon forums in which I post, many Protestants are anti-gay; and many fundamentalists condemn gays based on biblical passages they quote with great frequency. These Protestants also detest feminism. The suspicion of secular humanism, and an inevitable Christian pessimism seems to affect a great many Christians from many different denominations. And many Protestants tell me they do most fervently believe that the vast majority of people created by God burn in Hell in agony for all eternity. My response to “Christianity” is not based simply on the Roman Catholic Church. It’s based on ten years of investigating and being in contact with many Christians from all different backgrounds. But I appreciate your very intelligent and interesting and generous remarks.
And thank you for your time and thought in responding to the blog post. I appreciate it.
I suppose my basic stance is this: the conservatives and fundamentalists of my own religion, in all of its flavors and varieties, drive me to distraction because I disagree with their basic world view. We use the same words, but we’re speaking a different language with those words. And I acknowledge that they are the ones who drive the media circus. I find them offensive on a basic human level. And yet I find myself completely unwilling to remove myself from Christianity or the Priesthood I’ve been ordained into because the Assholes have the microphones. I’ll stay instead and keep preaching the things that make them go purple in the face and call me a heretic. Things like love your neighbor, things like a loving God sends no one to hell, things like sex isn’t evil…
And if they try to silence me, which I suppose only my own bishop could attempt, should he feel so moved, I shall do as Salman Rushdie suggests, and speak louder.
Having said that, you’re absolutely right. There are several branches of Christianity that have conservative wings within them, and there are some branches of Christianity that are themselves conservative. I pointed out Roman Catholicism because the word of the RC leader is absolute, unwavering, and there is not recourse for disagreement. In the RC Church the rules themselves are very clear, and conservative. Not all churches are this way. I, for instance, am an Episcopalian. We’ve got our issues and perhaps you’ve heard about us in the news, but part of our issues stem from the fact that our rules aren’t so clear cut and there is quite a lot of room for us to disagree with one another. (And we do, oh, we do.) But the Episcopal Church has space for radical and progressive priests such as myself, as well as my conservative brothers and sisters. But every major flavor of Christianity organizes itself differently, has different polity, and that makes a huge difference as to how it is capable of changing.
And change it must, if it is to survive, if the Church is to be remotely helpful to anyone, anywhere in one hundred years.
Thank you for your comments. I enjoyed speaking with you.
Certainly the nuts are there in all branches: Jesus said forgive them. Love them. Live with them. It’s the walking away that isn’t Christian. Mind you – I say this after being trapped in my own bedroom for a year of Sundays because I wanted my own church my way. It’s giving up on “my way” that’s important.
In the end it’s being together that will change the nuts.
It is being together that will change the nuts. I worry about the people who are stuck in the middle without support, getting crushed by the nuts, though.
I guess those folks don’t have the internet? SOrry to be snarky… but there’s really no reason for not knowing how to use google
Point of fact: My new bishop-elect doesn’t know how to use Google. I have tried very hard, and continue to do so, not to judge him harshly based on this fact.
Thanks Sare for a very thoughtful, balanced look in response to Anne’s pronouncement yesterday. I don’t think she is really leaving the beliefs and teaching of Jesus, just the intolerance and inflexibility in so many “Christian” institutions. Ultimately, if we are to be Christians, we need to follow the teachings of Jesus, not the institutional interpretations. We need to practice the teachings of lovelovelovelovelove, like you say. That’s what it is all about…and it is HARD to do that.
It is hard to stay in any sense when the majority opinion, or in any case the loudest opinion stands in such disagreement to your own. Be that as it may, only Ms. Rice can explain herself, which I think she managed fairly well in her response.
Very good points all. And you are completely correct. None of it is easy, but easy does not always produce something worthwhile.
True, and well put. Easy doesn’t always produce something worthwhile. Which for some reason reminds me of H.P. Lovecraft and tentacles, but perhaps I’ve been reading too much. Ugh.
I will read and ruminate on your words Sare, theres a lot there to ponder on. I find your words very thought provoking and so i intend on doing just that. what i get from Anne Rices statement is that she has left the religion of Christianity, i think she used the word “quit” very intentionally. I understand she has written book on Jesus but havent read it. I might get more insight into what she has said by reading that.
There is a lot to think about in them, and to be honest I’d rather someone, anyone consider them, maybe be challenged by them, and then make of them what they will than to just throw them away out of hand. Thanks for listening, and for commenting.
Personally, I am pretty sure I don’t believe in God or any kind of higher power, and generally I am sceptic to organized religion for above-mentioned reasons of assholery. But, I respect other people’s beliefs and opinions and I am intrigued by the concept of faith and all the good things it has led to. And thus, I thank you for giving voice to the side of Christianity, the one I’ve come to understand is there but the one you don’t see a lot/enough of because the assholes steal so much of the talking space.
I remember, when I was visiting some of the gothic cathedrals in France (and Notre-Dame de Paris particularly), I was thinking: ‘How could people who made such magnificent things in praise of their god also have done so much bad things in the name of the same god?’ This is a thought I often return to when I see great paintings and such and I still get confused when (as I’ve understood it) the concept of Christianity is the love thing. Why bother picking on other people because their beliefs aren’t identical to yours? Isn’t that just cloaking bigotry and power urges with a surface of god?
You’re welcome. And that’s exactly what I hope to do. And I wonder the same things sometimes. To answer your final question: Yes. (And, good observation.) Thank you for taking the time to respond to the post. I appreciate it.
and I think it is amazing that the people who have the most similar beliefs tend to have the most bloody battles (Northern Ireland, Iraq, Sri Lanka, etc)
Wow. Apparently I’ve been following your guide without ever knowing it! Of course, being an ordained Baptist female in the South is an oddity in and of itself.
Glad to find you and your lovely musings.
Yeah. It’s not really breaking news to the Christians who are already practicing it. It’s downright shocking to some others, though, and I think there are many people out there who could benefit from being exposed to it. Thanks for putting your toes in the water here and letting others know that there are a variety of different flavors of us. :)
Your blog is a refreshing breath of fresh air. This is an important issue that needed to be addressed and I am glad you wrote about it. There are too many ‘Christians’ who are nothing better than sinners with a saint’s face. It really is an issue of the blind leading the blind in too many cases.
Thank you for your comments. Your point is apt, but I think what I really want to focus on is how many Christians there are out there who are drying so very hard to live with integrity, love their neighbors as themselves, and to figure what it means to love god with everything they’ve got. And those Christians are on both side of the liberal-conservative demarkation line, and on both sides of the God As Judge: compelling or appalling question.
Which then always sort of leads me to the same place: what am I doing in my own life, and how am I being a model for those within my sphere of influence? It’s a question we can all ask ourselves, but it’s a question only we can answer for ourselves.
I read this post weeks ago and have been mulling it for a while. I’ll preface by saying that I don’t identify myself as Christian, and usually say that I’m an atheist not because I don’t believe in god, but because I don’t believe in religion.
I strive to seek the love of all things in that unique kind of love for which one can have for all things … all kinds of love at once and none that can be experienced at the same time. That is a personal experience, but one that I think is shared among people.
But to put a name on it is to start to restrict it — it’s to say, “that is not the right kind of love; _this_ is”. It’s simply a deficiency of language stemming from the desire to sort, organize, and categorize.
When I explain this to someone religious, they try to lay claim to it and identify it as _their_ god — for Christians, it’s God. I find this condescending, limiting, and dangerous.
I actually think religions have it backwards: gods are surrogates for that all-love, so experiencing God is a step towards experiencing the all-love rather than the other way around.
It also limits the all-love to what is in religious texts — trying to apply morality to all-love. But all-love is amoral (perhaps “super-moral”) in that it includes all things: loving the rape of your own child by the hand of another does not make sense if the all-love has morality. No priest would claim that God loves that act.
And from there, religions use a false all-love concept as a fulcrum to split society. This leads to dangerous situations where they make claims like homosexuality is evil.
The trouble with the all-love concept is that as individuals, we can’t experience it forever. Sometimes we get a more pure view than average, but for the most part, it’s pretty invisible. It seems to be more visible when I engage in actions that are deeply heart-felt. However, sometimes I have to stop and eat a sandwich.
Your response was exactly what I feel, but can never articulate it.
Yep. :shrugs: I agree.
You’re absolutely right when you say that words aren’t always helpful. I’ve witnessed people using the same set of religious words to illustrate exact opposite concepts, and I’ve witnessed people using completely different sets of religious or philosophical words to express exactly the same concept. I think that when we really listen to people, asking question to clarify and understand, rather than to debate, words can work in our favor. When we stop listening, we when only seem to spit out party lines, or doctrine and dogma with ancient phrasing and no current context, we provide no space for understanding and application… and sometimes when questions are asked in such situations it gets even trickier because suddenly hackles get raised for no apparent reason, both parties can go on the defensive, and if answers are forthcoming at all, the are confusing, self-referential, and not obviously applicable to every day life for an outsider.
This would be the downside of religion. Or, one of the many downsides, should I say.
I was reminded the other day that the experience of God is just that-an experience. Once removed from the experience of God that you or I or anyone has is our feelings about that experience; whether or not we acknowledge them intentionally, we are human beings so the feelings exist. Twice removed from the experience of God that you or I or anyone has is our thoughts about it. Feelings always presage thoughts, and deeply affect them. Thrice removed from the experience of God that you or I or anyone has are the words we use to describe the experience, the feelings, and the thoughts involved. As I was reminded of this, I remember thinking, ‘Well, shit. Is it any wonder we mess up this whole communicating about God thing on a regular basis?’
Also agree. As a non-theist (I personally don’t like the connotations attached to the word “atheist”) I find it difficult to understand the boundaries and rules that religion require.
Once upon a time, really less than 5 years ago, I was what you might call a “Jesus freak”. I was super involved in my church, went on missions, studied the Word and felt a calling to go into the ministry. One day, like Ms. Rice, I realized what that word “Christian” meant to so many people and I decided that I wanted no part in being labeled a bigot, racist, homophobe or “asshole”. I know for a fact there are Christians out there who love themselves… but they’re the ones being persecuted by the others out there who feel the need to preserve some outdated way of life that hates progress. In the wake of the tragedy in Norway, I would love to hear opinions of the Christianity of the man who opened fire on a camp full of children in order to get rid of the Muslims and the Liberals.
That was a bit all over the place, but you all have given me so much food for thought that my brain may just explode. =D
THANK YOU….you have no idea how much this has impacted me and opened my eyes. A dear friend forwarded me this information and it has made me realize so many wonderful things. Sometimes people write things and wonder “did I make a difference”? Please know that you have! Thank you.
Thank you very much. :hugs: I appreciate knowing that my words were helpful. May God bless you and keep you all the days of your life as you continue remember that you are a beloved child of the Holy and live fully in that experience.
I’ve read just the first paragraph of your blog a few months back, you see I’m a huge fan of your fanfiction and it led me to your blog. I read just Anne Rice & Ghandi’s quotes and have been ruminating on them. Then came back and read your post.
I’m still at a place in my life where I’m at a loss as to what I really believe and feel towards Christianity and religion as a whole. I can say with certainty that I believe in God. I know it, I feel, I see God in all things when I’m paying attention and most times in hindsight. I’m not perfect, never have been, never claimed to be, and never will. That said I struggle with Christianity the most. I was raised a Christian with two different leanings throughout my life, but as I’ve grown and spent time with people, I’ve fallen away from what I once believed.
I’m pretty sure I’m not a Christian. I believe in Jesus Christ the way I believe in Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jr., et al… Do I believe he was the son of God? Sure. In the same way were are ALL the children of God, but that’s where my belief ends.
My biggest issue is with the bible. I look at it as I would Kant, Bentham, Socrates, Plato…, but I just can’t put my faith in a book that’s been lost in translation many times and written by man (who is fallible) as absolute. So I think that pretty much means I’m not a Christian anymore right? I mean what makes that book absolute and not the Book of Mormon? The Koran? The Illiad or The Odyssey? Or any other piece of old literature? Some days when I’m feeling really snarky I say I’m going to write a book of all my beliefs and thoughts and bury them, then 1000 years from now they’ll be practicing Jennaism. Mankind is fallible. How can I put my heart and soul in the hands of anyone who would believe that my mother is an abomination is the eyes of the Lord because of who she is and how she lives? She’s never been perfect or pretended to be, but I love her for who she is.
I, however, do agree with everything you mentioned, Christianity apart. That’s pure humanism to me. If more people just thought with just the small amount of tolerance you have in church maybe I’d go. But the truth of the matter is I haven’t ever found a place where I fit. I don’t want to be a pick and choose Christian or pick a church that’s tolerable and feel phony sitting there. At least I can take comfort in the fact that I believe in a just God and I try to live my life in the lovelovelove way. It’s super hard to do when there are so many assholes out there, but I just try to remember that it takes too much effort to hate anyone and I can’t make anyone believe what they don’t want to believe. So I pray for them. Any I pray for patience, for that isn’t a virtue I was blessed with. Thank you all for sharing your thoughts and feeling with us all.
All of what you say makes perfect sense. I think, at the end of all things, each human being in this world needs to have integrity. I say this as being most important (at least, this is how I think today…) because if we have a deep and profound integrity, then we will be able to hear God speak to us, directly. Lack of integrity stops up the ears, so to speak. And by integrity, in this case, I mean having the space between what we actually do and what we say is important to us be an ever decreasing space. When we begin to live with intentional integrity, it becomes harder and harder to ignore the voice of God.
Religion is handy for many reasons. Not because it is the purveyor of the voice of God. We all have access to that, should we choose to actually acknowledge it. Religion is handy because the voice of God tells us the way that is good and true and holy. It tells us the thought, word, and action that love sponsors, and this is quite often NOT the thought, word, and action that is popular, amusing, and going to win us influence amongst the powerful, and particularly those who have power over us. And so, religion is really, seriously helpful as a support group… when it’s functioning properly.
Religion is also helpful as a challenge. Even the best people can get complacent, can reach a certain hoped for level of success, kick back and say, ‘okay, I’m done now’. This is not how God functions, or so I’ve noticed. We’re done when we die, and not a moment before. Possibly not even then, but I have no solid reports.
And so, religion stands as this place that that both comforts, supports and challenges in due course, and when necessary. It does other things as well, of course, and some of them are positive. Wise elders help to interpret ancient wisdom–sometimes they do this well, sometimes not. Ritual deeply affects our physical bodies, allowing us experiences of God we might not otherwise be a party to.
Now, you say you are uncomfortable with church shopping. I say, there is no shame in it. It’s seriously helpful to have a church family to support and challenge you, and for whom you might also be able to (eventually?) provide support and challenge. But don’t feel that it is incumbent upon you to check your brain at the door. And do your research–not all churches are healthy, helpful, or good. They’re just not. That’s a sad fact of reality.
And if it’s just not for you and there’s no way you’re going to go church shopping, then find support elsewhere; a friend, a relative, online, whereever works for you. You’ll need support, if you’re serious about living life like this because our world is not yet an easy place in which to do it, and we’re only human.
Just to give you some levity. I attended a VERY conservative wedding with my parents in high school. I believe my dad worked with the father of the bride. Anyway, my folks warned me ahead of time that the experience would be… interesting (for example, the bride and groom had never been alone together). Being a teenager, I deliberately wore a red power suit and enormous black dress hat (think 4 Weddings and a Funeral for a visual). At the reception: Mother of the Bride says, “You look so lovely…” Me: “Thank you!” MOB: “I wonder if the outside matches the inside. Are you a Christian?” Me very startled: “Yes.” MOB: “Oh good.” My mother 5 minutes later: “You handled that so well.” Me: “??? I just answered her question.” My mom: “Yes, but we were afraid you’d say you were a Methodist.”
Still makes me laugh…
On a sad note, I’ve been embarrassed to call my self a Christian in certain situations because I don’t want to be lumped in the the assholes. I own it, but I tend to have to defend myself against the stereotype of conservatism. I’m sooooo not conservative!
Okay, I snorted and grinned at your story. :) The presumption and lack of manners displayed by the mother of the bride were shocking… but perhaps I shouldn’t be shocked. We humans are capable of acting in rather assholish ways.
And on the more sombre note, I understand completely. This was something some of my friends and colleagues discussed just this week at our sermon prep group… How we, like Nicodemus have sometimes (frequently) avoided being obviously identified as a priest. I know I, for one, do NOT wear a clergy collar every day. I’ve had young men yell at me on downtown streets, asking if it was halloween. :shrugs: I make my choices and do the best I can, acknowledging that the best I can is different in each situation varies depending on the day, but largely is getting more and more admirable as I mature as a human being (not the process of getting older, I’d like to point out, which is inevitable-becoming mature is not inevitable). And because this is all I can ask for from myself, it is all I can ask for of others as well.
Thank you for commenting!
Matthew 22: 37-40 says “37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself. 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.
Christ even says that “All Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” No where does it preach that any hatred is acceptable. As a Christian, I prefer to be Pro-Love, instead of anti-anything.
Preach it, brother.
THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!! GOD has led me to a place where I am reaching out to those who hate GOD; or at least think they do. Some actually do, but many just hate what they’ve been told about GOD which is NOT true. You know what I mean. I’ve been told “You’re not like other Christians”. YEAH!! I must be doing something right. It was so good to hear that I have found another like minded non asshole. Bless you!
::grins:: I’m happy to be a non-asshole right along with you. Woot!
Perhaps I’m just an “asshole” – one of the few types of people that it’s o.k. to condemn. I “get” what you write about. I hear that none of us benefit from judgment against our fellow man, and all of us wrestle with the label and assumptions made when we say we are “Christians.” I am with you. I want my actions to be about loving people in His name and in His way, sacrificially. I also am keenly aware of the fact that we have been given a guide in Christ who pointed us to a very specific God and Father of all. God wasn’t presented by Jesus as one we could create in our own image of what God should be. God is. God can be known. God is holy. God is love. God is grace. God is jealous. God demands every last ounce of us. God expects obedience. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. I fear creating a god that meets my expectations and understanding – or yours. I don’t want to create a god. I want to know God. “The road is narrow,” he said. I fear leading people outside the narrow road only to find that the god they created…the one that made them feel good… is not the One, True God. Jesus said the world hated Him… and it will hate us. What is there to hate if we say that “all roads lead to heaven… just love each other.” Clearly, He brought a message more challenging than “simple” loving. Don’t get me wrong – love is the fruit. But to experience and share God’s love depends on being connected to the vine that is perfect love. Plenty of god-haters still love their neighbors and their children. There’s more to His message than human love. If I want to know and share His love, I must know Him. Wisdom, knowledge, peace, suffering, joy, eternal life… He promises all of it when we follow Him. It’s not about me, or my creation of him. “My sheep know my voice and listen.”
Wow! What a great missive.
In Fr. Van’s AP English class (Bishop Borgess HS, Detroit), I was required to read Dostoevsky’s the Brothers Karamazov. I read the chapter entitled The Grand Inquisitor and was enlightened in many of the same ways you apparently have become. It has been probably the single most moving experience of my time in high school.
Thank you for a truly great introspective!
At the end of the day isn’t all religion the same, people connecting to the spiritual realm? Even though I am not Christian (I left Christianity after reading the Bible), Jesus does have very awesome teachings! Personally what comes to my mind is Matthew 21:31-32 with the tax collectors and prostitutes. My interpretation is that Jesus would rather be with people who aren’t hiding behind masks but with people who are being who they are. The assholic Christians (for the most part and I hope I am not acting like one) seem to be hiding behind a mask.
Our loving God doesn’t “send” anyone to hell. But our loving God did give us free choice and, sadly, some choose hell. If our Father makes all of our choices for us–which is the only way to prevent some of us from choosing hell–we no longer have free choice and then what’s the point?
There are consequences to the choices we make. We can choose Life or death, and the beautiful part is that it is entirely up to us.
Being cynical, sarcastic and self righteous doesn’t make you wiser, it just shows you’ve got a jerk annointing.
This is a fantastic post. Yesterday I watched a really great documentary called “Lord, Save Us from Your Followers”. I really think that your post goes hand in hand with the message from the documentary, and echoes the thoughts of so many Christians walking about today.
A friend of mine, Heather, sent me the link to your post after I blogged about the documentary yesterday. I think I quoted your post back to her lol because it really got me. So much of what you said is what I’m going through now and thinking about. These growth spurts, these differences in what I was taught.
But also, as we head into another heated campaign season, I can already feel the tension between the politicos. How many regular Joe’s really want the Mouths talking for us? Sigh…I hate this back and forth, us vs. them thing going on.
Anyway, thank you so much for posting this. It made me stop and consider what I really believe and what I want from my faith. And for once I was able to say this is what I believe, publicly, for the first time. I’m getting braver about voicing my beliefs as I find others who believe what I believe.
Now…I just need to find these folks in my town. lol Wish me luck!
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This post is beautiful. Just my kind of aim in this oh-so-pluralistic world.
Thank you very much! I’m glad it resonated with you. :)
I just stumbled on your article and it’s one of the first times I haven’t felt like a “bad Christian.” It’s affirming to know that someone else out there believes so passionately in some of the same ideals I do. I work in a Christian environment and do my best to preach love and tolerance to my students knowing what they are being taught at home is anything but loving and compassionate towards people who may not fit what their mold of a perfect Christian should be. In a way I feel God has lead me to read this, and you have inspired me to find likeminded people and try and make a difference, even though sitting around complaining is the easier option. Thank you and may God continue to bless and inspire you!
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one. A must read article!