Saturday, November 26, 2011
On October 2, 2006, Charles Robert IV went to the Amish community in Bart Township, Pennsylvania where he had often gone before often as a milk tank driver. On this day, however, we went to the small community and entered the one room school. He sealed off the exits, and for about an hour stayed in there with ten young girls, having let others go. Police arrived, but before they could stop him, he shot and killed five of them, execution style and then himself.
The first thought for everyone who heard the story is of vengeance and for justice to be done, it’s just natural. Yet, the horror of the situation was met instead with an unequal show of compassion. The Amish community showered Robert’s family with compassion and love usually reserved only for loved ones and victim’s families. The family of the man responsible for the ruthless killing of the Amish children was met with comfort, forgiveness, and even a charitable foundation set up by the Amish themselves.
This story is one of the most remarkable stories in my lifetime because it goes against every cause/effect, injustice/revenge, eye for an eye scenario we are accustomed to witnessing everyday. Their response doesn’t make sense, and I find that inspiring.
It stands out in both compassion and rarity.
These were people digging deep and acting out a “Christian” response that we so rarely see from Christians.
I am a Christian, I just am. I often cringe saying it, to be totally honest, maybe I’m just a weenie. Whenever I say that to someone, I almost immediately follow it up with, “but I’m the loving kind.” Not that I have the capabilities that I just wrote about, but because the prevalent voice of Christianity in America is just the opposite. The prevalent voice is harsh and judging with no room for compassion, and I hate it. If I wasn’t Christian, I would hate it even more. I get why people do.
With that in mind, I’m going to present, “20 Things You Want to Hear a Christian Say.” Now, these are my own thoughts, I don’t think any of them are offensive, but you never know when it comes to religion. I wrote about politics awhile back and a friend joked that I should do religion next, well, here it is. After this, I guess I will have to tackle race.
20 Things You Want to Hear a Christian Say
1. I’m sorry. I’m sorry for the big things like the Crusades, The Catholic Church’s handling of sex abuse, the Protestant church’s handling of various abuses. I’m sorry for the small things like individuals acting horribly in the name of Christ. They were wrong, and very hurtful.
2. I’m still sorry.
3. I don’t think that science and religion are incongruent. Boy, Christians have been on the wrong side of science so many times. All it does is communicate insecurity, in my eyes. The Earth being 4 billion years old doesn’t change anything to me.
4. We have really, really, really screwed up the homosexuality thing. What percentage of homosexuals feel loved by Christians? 9%? 3%? 2%? That is 91%, 97%, and 98% too low. Rarely do opportunities come along where love can shine, and we, instead, do the opposite.
5. Using the Bible to prove points to people who don’t believe in the Bible doesn’t make any sense intellectually.
6. A lot of the backlash in our society against Christianity is not about persecution towards Christians, it’s about the fact that Christianity became The Man. There is not much backlash against Buddhism, Buddhism is not The Man. Becoming The Man is one of the byproducts of being integrated into society and power. I don’t like most aspects of The Man either. Christianity was initially anti-establishment and things have gotten a little wonky when we became establishment.
8. The belief that God had a son who came to Earth and died for the sins of the world sounds crazy. Listen, I’m a Christian, but I just want to affirm that, yes, objectively, that sounds nuts.
9. We’re all hypocrites. Christians or not, we’re all hypocrites to some degree. Christians are often the worst because we profess very lofty things, while we often do the very base things that are the opposite. People who don’t profess lofty things don’t reach the same degree of hypocrisy in their failings. What if every time we profess something lofty, or are critical about a person’s failings, we immediately follow it up with ways that we personally don’t live up to it either. I think people could respect that. Hey, I’m writing a fairly critical piece about Christians who are critical, as we speak. Hypocrite!
10. We are rarely humble.
11. Using religion to divide is egregious. There are differences, but what if Christians emphasized the things we have in common as opposed to emphasizing the things that make us different. We’re all walking this road together, right?
12. We could stand to listen more and talk less.
13. A lot of the kindest people I know are not Christians. Some of the biggest jerks I know are.
14. On the whole,we have become known for the direct opposite of what we want to be known for. I think that for a lot of people if you were doing word association with them and you said, “Christian,” their response would be, “judging.” I’m not okay with that, and I don’t blame the person. Listen, there is an inherent tension in the Christian’s role. Along with grace, the Bible does talk about high standards for morality. So, the Christian is always walking that line. I’m just arguing that we are always going to err on one side or the other. I believe that on the whole, we’ve been erring on the side of morality judging for a long time. We could take the next 50 years to err on the side of grace and we won’t have gone too far. Christians believe that grace ultimately wins, so what if that was the word that came up in the word association?
15. If someone doesn’t believe in God, it doesn’t make them a bad person by any stretch of the imagination, yet we make them feel like it does. I can completely understand and respect people who come to an atheist position, we shouldn’t make you feel bad for it.
16. People’s negative feelings toward Christianity start with me. I’m probably the most spiteful, non-humble, not turn the other cheek person, hypocritical person I know. I do one thing and say another. I am the best at being hypocritical. Here’s an example. I work in retail right now, and sometimes I have to be in charge of the line for appointments for people to get their computer repaired. People get so impatient and rude toward me at times. In my head I’m thinking, “How are you so upset? Don’t you see there is a line, and that we’re working as fast as we can? Are you so spoiled that you can’t understand that? You are a bad person. I do not like you.” Yesterday, I was getting a prescription filled at a CVS and it was taking longer than I thought it would. In my head I was getting upset, thinking, “You should have this done by now, are you even working back there? How about showing some hustle? You are a bad person. I do not like you.” As a result, I was very cold and short to the woman. My hypocrisy list could stretch for miles. Miles, I tell you, miles.
17. Often times people argue Christianity more for the sake of their ego than for the sake of love. They want to prove that they are right, and lose sight of what it’s all about and that is hurtful to people.
18. I honestly don’t know if the Founding Fathers were setting up America as a Christian nation, that was a long time ago, all we have are hints on either side. If we are a Christian nation, then based on how we act, like me, we do a pretty good job of hiding it at times. The Founding Fathers did give us freedom of religion and I think that’s good enough.
19. Jesus talked about caring for the poor a lot, and we talk about it very little.
Bonus. Finally, on the whole, Christian music is not as good as regular music. There, I said it.
So, there it is. People can disagree, I probably got some stuff wrong, I can own up to that. Again, I’m no theologian, I’m just interested and vested in the intersection of Christianity and society. It would be great if society associated Christianity with the things that we profess. It would be mildly upsetting if things were just a little off base. It is crazy to me that, in fact, society associates the opposite with what we profess. I don’t blame society.
I recognize, I’ve been painting in broad strokes here, which I’m not entirely comfortable with. There are a ton of amazing Christians doing amazing work. I wrote this to address the overall sentiments of Christianity and society, and Christians’ role in that. What if people read the Amish story above and the compassionate response wasn’t rare? What if they read it and said, “Oh yeah, that’s how Christians handle things, they forgive.” What if that’s how I handled things? That would be amazing.
Note: Here is the link to my response to the overwhelming response of this post, published 12/16.
Editor’s note again:
Much of the time I write humorous things on this blog, but this post has proven most popular. Here are some other more sincere, heartfelt posts you might like if you liked this one.
I Actually Talk Politics. The UC Party || Open Letter to All Women || My First Appreciation of Memorial Day ||On Moving Home and Dreams || My Best Friend Matt || Could Have Done You Better || Letting it Happen || Two Types of Hikes