- Religion and Philosophy
On Stupid, Bigoted, Hypocritical Church Groups
How Christianity Makes Me Mad
So, we were talking yesterday evening about Christianity and judging people at a small bible study. Raw honesty came out -- the nice, smooth surface of Christian groups was cut open, and we began to look at some parts of many of them that are really quite ugly.
One person noticed that, in Christian groups, you often had to claw your way in. You weren't automatically accepted. If you happened to be making money, were attractive, had a good job, and/or was life of the party, you might have a chance at getting into the "in" crowd without much effort. Otherwise, it could take a couple years of constant trying before you were finally "in."
Now, a lot of Christian groups aren't like this. But some are. One thing that's odd, which we talked about that night, is that many non-Christian groups are more accepting than many Christian groups. Why the heck was this?
And then someone else chimed in who had experience waiting tables and said that nobody was pickier at a restaurant than a Christian group that came right after church. Having waited tables for a couple years myself, I could relate to that comment. Sunday church groups were the worst. "Evangelist" Christians were particularly made fun of among the waitstaff-- it was not unheard of for someone to leave a tract as their "tip" instead of a couple dollars. The content of the tract often implied that the waiter was going to hell unless they became more like the person that stiffed them. What's weird is that they assumed that -- even if you happened to be a Christian already.
It also makes me upset that a lot of Christians don't take the time to listen to people who don't agree with them. It seems like part of loving someone is listening to them and thinking about what they say. That doesn't mean agreeing with them -- just listening can also be important. Sometimes, some Christians seem as if they think they are superior to other people because they are determined to bury their heads in the sand and not listen to those people (classic example -- the person who leaves a fire-and-brimstone tract instead of a tip without even treating the waiter like an individual enough to know that he is already a Christian!).
It makes me really angry, because the hate, indifference, and superiority complex that results from this head-burying is not what Christianity is about. I've been wondering why it might be that way.
Perhaps it's because we are tempted to think that because we're Christians, we're better than everybody else. We are on a more hallowed plane than those "heathens." We tend to look at Christian groups as a kind of celestial country club. Because we are connected to God and heaven, we can only allow the pristine into our midst. Everybody else, we can look down on.
This is reinforced by the way the world treats us. When most people hear the word "Christian" today, they think about someone who is morally superior (or who, at least, thinks they are), and we simply react to the way the world defines as and began to get proud of the title, as if we've earned it.
We need to realize that we are nobodies.
God is the only Somebody. And God loves everybody. Even me.
I am a dirty, rotten, no good sinner, too. God has saved me by his grace, not because I earned it. So we need to connect to other people with that same grace, without making them earn it. If we don't we are spitting on God's gift to us.
You can't say you love God if you don't love people.
I John 4:20-21 (The Message)
"If anyone boasts, "I love God," and goes right on hating his brother or sister, thinking nothing of it, he is a liar. If he won't love the person he can see, how can he love the God he can't see? The command we have from Christ is blunt: Loving God includes loving people. You've got to love both."
You can't say you're more spiritual than others if you think the rest of the world is beneath you based on your own merits. That's really, fundamentally, messed up. (See I John 4:7-12 if you need more support on this).
Jesus tried to tell us this. There's a reason he hung out with tax collectors and "sinners" while calling the elite religious types "hypocrites," "sons of hell," and "dead men's bones." Few things made Jesus madder than religious elitism.
I wonder what names he would call elitist church groups today?
Mahatma Gandhi -- "I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ."