You, the readers of this blog, are a diverse bunch. You come from all over the world (including Saudi Arabia, New Zealand, Italy, Britain, and France last week) and you come from all types of backgrounds. You are business-people and church-people, yoga-lovers and couch potatoes, rich and poor, young and old, etc...
And I must admit that I think of those of you who I don’t know to be Christians more than the others – not to influence you or persuade you, but to do my best to keep from misrepresenting what I claim to believe. Really, I want to avoid influencing you at all costs. There are enough people selling half-baked, man-made, eternal life schemes out there. I sometimes sit back and hope that somewhere a group of folks are having a discussion about how irritating Christians are and you’ll mention that you know at least one who seems to be somewhat different, even though his proclivity to write about the rain and the fog is, admittedly, a bit vexing.
And that is not to say that I hope to blend in. I probably couldn’t if I tried. I just want to avoid being one more reason for people to say (as Gandhi did) “I would consider following Jesus if not for the Christians.”
All of this to say...
I am reading this book called unChristian. It is the result of years of research into what non-believers (in particular those aged 16-29) think of Christians.
And it confirms all of my worst fears. Christians are seen as hypocritical, overly political, judgmental, intolerant, argumentative, irrelevant, and generally out of touch. What I did find some solace in were the numbers that showed that Christians of the same age felt the same way towards, well, themselves.
We find ourselves to be hypocritical, judgmental, overly political, intolerant, argumentative, irrelevant, and generally out of touch. At least we can be honest, huh? Ashamed, but honest.
We see clearly that we Christians have become decidedly, well, unChristian.
The reasons that people avoid Christians are the same reasons that we find ourselves embarrassed at times to call ourselves such. We’ve hijacked Jesus and turned Him into a bumper-sticker or a way to sell CDs or a way to make all of our co-workers and friends uncomfortable.
In fact, as the book points out, Christians have become famous for what they oppose (don’t make me name them – abortion, Islam, homosexuality, media, liberals, and on and on) rather than who it is they are for (namely this loving, merciful, graceful, sacrificial, tolerant man named Jesus).
And it becomes difficult to get around those things, especially for Christians who don’t fit the stereotype. I hesitate to tell people we are missionaries for the simple reason that missionaries have a negative connotation, being thought of as folks knocking on doors trying to convert every man, woman, and child. I tell people we are on a justice mission, trying to redistribute some of America’s wealth. I say that we are representing some people from America who recognize that the world’s poor are our responsibility. I say anything to avoid saying we are Christian missionaries.
We’re not ashamed of who we are. We simply know that too many people have been burned by religious nuts and political fanatics to give any credibility to someone traveling around the world promoting religion.
Am I rambling?
Here is what I guess I am getting at: We Christians have jacked a lot of things up and we have flipped out priorities around to such a degree that we turn Jesus into a capitalist and a republican from the suburbs and we sleep soundly as we have made God in our glorious image.
I would issue a blanket apology to all those who have had to deal with us in that manner, but that would be less than genuine. I don’t know who thinks what about whom. So I’ll save the canned apology and tell you that I honestly consider you when I write, if only to be a voice in the wilderness reminding people that radical love can be liberal, tolerant, merciful and all about Jesus at the same time (as I pray we are).
What I do know for sure, thanks to this book, is that Christians have a lot of work to do (and undo) before anyone will look at us for what we are supposed to represent (love of Jesus) as opposed to what we have come to represent: overly political, judgmental, intolerant, argumentative, irrelevant, and generally out of touch folks. As a start, we have to abandon our attitude that says, "I don't care what they think of me" and adopt the attitude of "How does what they think of me reflect a reality that I need to change?"
If we truly desire to be the light, we must walk as Jesus walked...