Christ, Christianity, Connecticut, Gandhi, God, Good News, Grace, Hurricane Sandy, Jesus, Newtown, radical love, UCC, Westboro Baptist
Dear Fellow Christians,
After giving it much thought, I think the message of the Good News is being threatened.
Many people are leaving churches and turning their backs on Christianity. Why? Because people who speak on behalf of Jesus the Christ are dismissing the most important part of Christ’s message: Love.
About twenty years ago, I was rejecting Christianity myself. When I was in college, I had experiences that led me to believe that Christianity was the religion of hypocrisy. In the name of Christ, some were misusing their power to control and manipulate others. When visiting churches, people were more concerned about their dress or hobnobbing with friends than greeting others with Christ’s love.
I could not see the presence of God in church or surrounding many Christians.
Fortunately, by my mid-twenties, I began to find the light in the Body of Christ. I found my way back to church and began to see the presence of God in new and exciting ways. There were times I still found doubt in the goodness of Christianity, especially when my beliefs weren’t “good enough” for people. But I knew that spreading the message of Christ’s radical love was more important for me to focus on than negative remarks heading my way.
But not everyone is there.
Many people think that Christianity is the religion of rules and perfect morality. People think we care more about getting into heaven instead of making heaven here on earth. The message of Christ’s radical, enduring love has fallen short because Christians misuse the name of Jesus the Christ to correct and control other people.
And why not? Mahatma Gandhi once stated “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” This is a perfect example of the reputation Christianity now has in the world.
Thinking back to 2012, I remember stories like the exclusion of my friend’s church from a softball league because he identified as bisexual. Rev. James Darnell Semmelroth was the pastor of the church but did not participate in the games. Even though the pastor wasn’t playing, some churches didn’t want to associate with the church in any capacity.
While I am a straight ally, I understand that not everyone is at the place where they agree with gay marriage, ordination, etc. But for the love of LOVE, can’t we put aside our theological differences and eat together, laugh together, even play softball together? Love means crossing boundaries to embrace a person as a child of God, whether or not you agree with them. Jesus ate and associated with all people. He set “rules” aside as he healed people on the Sabbath. To Jesus, love and relationships trump dogmas and fears. By associating with people unlike ourselves, we hear personal narratives and learn to understand each other deeply.
We hear how Westboro Baptist Church wants to protest all sorts of funerals because we’re such a sin-ridden country. In 2012, we heard various clergy blaming LGBT persons/allies for Hurricane Sandy and atheists for the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. Do they realize how their hateful words ripples into our world? Do they realize their loud voices are drowning so many voices of love and compassion? Do they really think this is the message of the all-inclusive Christ?
Yes, maybe I’m being judgmental. But I’ll be honest… stories like these may be why many people are turning their back on Christianity. Many of the messages linked to Christianity are not ones of love. The Good News can not be heard. Because of this, many people find no use for Christianity anymore. And I can understand why they’ve reached that conclusion.
So for 2013, I challenge all of us Christians to break the boundaries of love. Let us love radically. If there is someone who you feel like judging, try to talk with them and understand their story. If there is someone who you fear, pray and understand why you may fear them. You do not have to agree with them. But in your love and escaping your comfort zone, you are being a witness to the greatest love of all time: the unconditional love of God that we Christians see in Christ. Let our voices be louder than those of judgment and hate.
I realize that no matter how hard I try, this doesn’t mean I’m not going to mess up or misrepresent Christ now and again. I wouldn’t try to misrepresent Christ’s love on purpose, but I think as humans we all tend to make errors now and again. Sometimes these errors come out of misunderstanding or fear. As a person of the Christian faith, my goal is to continuously find ways to focus on the radical love of Christ. Allowing this steadfast love to trample any fears and to clear misunderstandings will bring us closer as humans.
All I can do as a Christian is keep on trying.
If Jesus, the one who knew God greater than any of us, was able to love outside of the box, then maybe we should give it a try. Because if we call ourselves Christians and do not love, what kind of witness are we to our faith?
Instead of hearing messages of judgment and hate, what if people saw Christians feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, advocating for the voiceless? What if we told people who have been discriminated against, bullied, beaten, blamed and shamed that God loves you just as you are? What if we started a campaign to bring the louder voice of loving Christianity to the world? What if people realized that this is the true Good News of Christianity worth sharing? The worst that can happen is that by January 1, 2014, people will see Christianity being the religion of Christ’s radical love more clearly. If you have any ideas, post below. Let’s go for it!
I found your post very interesting to read and have to agree with what you say. I live in the United Kingdom (roughly 150 miles NW from London) and I believe a lot of Christians are losing their way in this country as well.
I am bisexual and I find it very sad that the church of England will not allow same sex marriages in their churches. They say on their web page that they are committed to the institution of marriage being between a man and a woman. No mention of love though.
You made me smile when you said people in churches were more interested in their dress and socialising than the church itself. I was once sitting in a church enjoying the quiet when a couple came in, had a brief look around and declaired that their church had a better alter nicer flower arrangements and promptly left.
For this reason, the bullying I experienced at a church of England school and the fact that I believe christianity is becoming more of a business than a religion I too turned my back on the whole institution and turned to the Wiccan religion (or became a witch if you prefer)
I found this religion gentler, kinder, more accepting and natural than anything else I have ever experienced. The people I have met are also nicer and more caring towards each other.
But that said I have to say I really do think you are on the right path and it was like a breath of fresh air to read what you had to say. You sound like a nice person and I would like to send all my best wishes to you and I hope that 2013 brings you much happiness and peace.
Thanks for your response! I am so sorry this was your experience of Christianity. That’s why I had to write this today. It’s time the loud voices of Christianity reflected the true love of Christ! Much peace and happiness to you in 2013!
omnivorous cinephile said:
Excellent points, and a good challenge for us to follow. After all, that’s what Christ challenged us to do in the first place.
Thanks! And I’ve been appreciating your blog very much lately! Need to catch up on my movies…
A very interesting read indeed. I am completely atheist so have no lean towards any religious beliefs etc. I think many people, especially here in the UK, don’t see the Church as relevant to modern day life anymore. We see the church rejecting same sex marriage, we see the inner turmoil over women Bishops and even the child abuse scandal of the Catholic Church! If you have a belief and it gives you comfort then good for you but some of us dont wish to share the same views and they also must be respected. There will never be complete peace in the world, not ever, as long as multiple religious factions continue on killing each other. Makes you wonder why God doesnt intervene and put a stop to it all, then again, which God would step up to the challenge?
“Yes, maybe I’m being judgmental. But I’ll be honest… stories like these may be why many people are turning their back on Christianity. Many of the messages linked to Christianity are not ones of love. The Good News can not be heard. Because of this, many people find no use for Christianity anymore. And I can understand why they’ve reached that conclusion.”
I loved that paragraph. And your own story. It mirrors mine. I was Buddhist for awhile in college (not a real one, a theoretical one…) until my aunt (who is an actual like for real Buddhist) said, “You’re Buddha sounds a lot like Jesus. Do your work on Jesus and then come back when you’re done.”
Now I’m a minister. Go figure.
But I left for the same reasons you did. And what mixedunmatched stated. Now I’m passionate about getting the good news out there! I love and won’t deny that others can find it in Wicca or Buddhism or whatever, but it’s in Christianity too.. in fact, it’s the #(&C*#’n core message of it. Not that you’d know that from watching Robertson or Westboro…
Great post. Loved it.
This post means a lot to me. I had a little meltdown in my small group the other night because in a course designed to learn how to talk to non-believers about Christ, I was being equipped with “savvy tactics” for arguing what “christians are supposed to believe.” I didn’t believe the first 2 things they brought up. I felt like I didn’t belong there. I am now struggling with what I understand about God and what my personal and social beliefs are and if they can be reconciled. I’m in a bit of a conundrum, and it makes me feel like maybe I don’t really know God at all.
It’s really tough to know. There are so many questions and routes. I’d love to talk more with you about this. I think there are as many beliefs for Christianity as there are Christians. The most important thing is spreading the Good News of Christ’s love and grace. That can mean so many things to so many people, but it’s a beautiful place to start.