I stumbled across an article by John Shore this morning, titled “Ten Ways Christians Tend to Fail at Being Christian”. It was a breath of fresh air for me. It summed up most of things that drive me crazy about Christians in general, and it sums up the reasons I won’t consider myself a Christian (even though I was raised as one).
These are the 10 things faux Christians attack everyone else with; things which I cannot subscribe to. I should send it to my dumbfounded relatives, who’ve had little use for me since I escaped the cult of their particular version of The Bible and Jesus Christ. To paraphrase Christopher Buckley, “I didn’t leave Christianity, Christianity left me”.
My perceptions of God and religion confuse a lot of people, because they can’t relate to what I believe, trapped as they are in their traditional ways of thinking. But it’s really very simple. Once I stripped away the trappings of religion (all religion), what I was left with was a simple and stunning understanding of God. Once the trappings of Man was stripped away, all I was left with was God – and I realized that was all I, or anyone else, really need.
As a young child I began to become aware of the hypocrisy of the Christians in my church. It seemed like the most horrible people, the ones who did the most gossiping and worked the hardest to cause problems for other people, were the ones who stood the straightest on Sunday mornings, convinced that they were the best, God-fearing Christians in the church. I saw the hypocrisy in whisper campaigns to get rid of a choir director who wouldn’t cower down to a few arrogant deacons. I saw it in a pastor who stood up in the pulpit and preached politics instead of the word of God. I saw it in the actions of a deacon who stood up piously in church on Sundays and led prayers, peppering his sentences with “dear God” dozens of times, after drinking beer and cursing and yelling at people during softball games the Saturday before. I saw the hypocrisy in the personality of a choir director who walked into our family restaurant and offended people without saying a word, by looking over the place like she’d just discovered a den of snakes. I saw it in the actions of the misguided Christian missionaries who thought they needed to bring the Word of God to the Piedmont of North Carolina, and planned their weekly soirées into the area by arranging three or four tables together without asking the management and with no regard to the other customers (they were on a mission from God, after all, and everyone else was unimportant).
As a young man this all confused me greatly. I saw little of evidence of the teachings of Jesus Christ in the actions of most of the Christians I knew. There were exceptions, of course. The most Godly woman I’ve ever known was my mother – someone who understood the meaning of The Bible and the teachings of Jesus Christ, and tried to live her life by it, without feeling compelled to launch campaigns to subjugate the world. I saw it in the simple, peaceful spirit of a man named Joe Blanton, whose face always glowed with the serene spirit of God; a man who was a living, breathing example of what a Christian should be. But these people have proven to be few and far between. If anything sums up Christianity to me today, it’s a quote from Mahatma Gandhi, who said; “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
Anyway, a dissertation on what I believe was not my intent here. What follows is the list of 10 issues which John Shore mentioned. I’ve added my own comments to each point on his list, but I encourage you to go read his “Ten Ways Christians Tend to Fail at Being Christian”.
1) Too much money.
Yeah… what about that? How did it become fashionable to accumulate wealth to glorify God, and then sink your money into pointless monuments and mega-churches. When I was driving a truck, we used to pass a mega-church that was being built in Little Rock, Arkansas, that took over a year to complete, and I always used to think “How many poor people could they have fed and clothed with the millions of dollars it took to build that mega-church?” To some people, the question “What would Jesus do?” is answered with “Why, he’d build a multi-million dollar church for the upper-class.”
2) Too confident God thinks we’re all that and a leather-bound gift Bible.
How many Christians have you met who think they’re morally superior to you because they’re Christian. In other words, once they accepted Jesus Christ, they simply became a better person than you, and they treat you accordingly. How does it serve The Lord by treating everyone else like they’re shit?
3) Too quick to believe that we know what God really means by what he says in the Bible.
Sadly, a lot of the people who call themselves Christians have never really read The Bible. Oh, they’ve picked up on the highlights that have been fed to them from their religious leaders, but they’ve barely read The Bible themselves. Or if they have, they’ve cherry picked the passages that support what they prefer to believe. Which pretty much explains why there are almost 200 different denominations within Christianity. That’s almost 200 different explanations of what The Bible really means, and each group thinks they’re the ones who really got it right.
4) Too action-oriented.
A lot of Christians get caught in subjugation campaigns, considering themselves soldiers for Christ, and spend so much of their time trying to spread the Word of God that they tend to confuse that busy-bee mentality with the very definition of what it means to be a Christian. They confuse their frenzy of activity with worship and glorifying the Lord, and they relate to the world in terms of those who are with them and those who are not.
5) Too invasive of others generally.
It’s none of your business what the people down the street believe, and it’s definitely not your place to decide that those people should be brought to heel, or ostracized from the local community, and try to push through policies in local school boards and city government to limit those people’s impact on your community.
6) Too invasive of others personally.
It’s not your place to step up to a stranger because your prejudices have led you to believe that the long-haired man in the super-market who’s trying to decide between the orange juice with pulp and the orange juice without needs to hear the Word of God. And maybe the guy who’s sitting on that park bench is enjoying a beautiful day, and not, as you assumed, lost and in need of Jesus. And if you invade that person’s personal space to dispense your message, don’t be surprised if he thinks you’re the biggest asshole in the world – especially when you get defensive because he’s annoyed that you’re bugging him in the first place.
7) Too quick to abandon logic.
All that needs to be said here can be summed up by the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, which features such idiocy as human riding dinosaurs. Just because you want to believe something is true doesn’t mean that you can just pull things out of your butt.
8) Too fixated on homosexuality.
I’ve always personally believed that the people who are the most passionate about bashing Gays and Lesbians are the people who are struggling with their own sexual identity. How many effeminate men have you known who have wound up in the seminary? How many preachers have been caught with their fingers in the proverbial cookie jar, trapped in hotel rooms with prostitutes of the same sex after building a career upon attacking those very people? Really… aren’t there more pressing issues than whether Gays and Lesbians exist? And do you really think you’re going to bring them to Jesus by treating them like lepers? If homosexuality is wrong, isn’t that an issue between them and God? How did you get appointed judge and jury?
9) Too insular.
I heard it a lot when I was growing up, that Christians should not have non-Christian friends. I’ve seen it so much throughout my life, that Christians distance themselves from the world and worldly things, buying their children only Christian books and listening only to Christian music. That’s a cult mentality. That’s the first thing cults do, you know. They ask you to sever your ties with people outside of the cult. Just because it’s a big cult doesn’t make it any less of a cult. And I’ve never really understood how you’re supposed to save non-Christians when you keep them all at arm’s length.
10) Too uneducated about Christianity.
I’ve always been amazed by the numbers of Christians who know so little about Christianity. People who will get visibly upset if you suggest that The Bible was assembled by men, much less that they chose to leave some stuff out. Or the people who will be ready to fight you if you contend that there’s any other version of The Bible than the King James, and won’t listen to any of your hate-filled stories about King James and his political motivations for creating his own Bible in the first place. And many Evangelicals refuse to accept that the widely popular, organized Christian church was the Catholics, not the Baptists. I don’t expect Christians to be historians, but get your heads out of the sand, people.
I’m well aware that my mother is likely to read this, and will be greatly vexed by it. She never truly takes the time to try to understand what I believe. I mean, she wants to. But the defenses go up automatically, because any time I talk about Christians, she instinctively starts defending Christians. She lets too many charlatans who don’t even know me tell her what they think I believe. But I hope that she will someday understand that while I may not believe exactly like she believes, the fact is that by distancing myself from most Christians and Christianity itself, I’ve actually brought myself closer to God. I would contend that if someone is knowledgeable about what it means to be a Christian, and what The Bible says about how you’re supposed to interact with the world and other human beings, I am, in fact, more a Christian than most of the people who label themselves as such. Yes, I admit that I have questions and doubts about the divinity of Jesus Christ, but I firmly believe in God and have a personal relationship with Him (even as I believe that words like “God” and “Him” are archaic concepts that serve only as placeholders for us to describe that which cannot be described). Maybe I can’t call myself Christian because I refuse to believe that the hundreds of millions, or even billions, of people who existed on this planet in the tens of thousands of years before Jesus Christ all went to Hell. If God set that particular scenario up, he’s an asshole of Biblical proportions (pun intended).
Of course, I can say that, because I don’t believe God is an asshole. I believe Man is the asshole. I believe Man corrupts everything he touches. Including, especially, religion. And that includes Christianity. Looking around me at the assholes who call themselves Christians (the good, decent, moral people excepted, of course), I don’t think Jesus would find much in modern Christianity that he can relate to.