Friday, November 2, 2012

I used to be jealous of suicide bombers

I’ll tell you a secret: I used to be a little jealous of suicide bombers.  

Not because I thought they were right, or because I wanted to blow myself up, but because I wanted the same amount of faith that they had.

When people think they have The Truth, nothing they do really surprises me.  Take the Puritans.  People are frequently amazed that the Puritans fled persecution in England only to persecute others when they reached America.  They point to this as an example of hypocrisy.  In reality, the Puritans behavior doesn’t surprise me either.  I bet the Puritans believed in persecution as much as their oppressors did.  They simply disagreed on who should be persecuted.  They had The Truth.  They had no interest in letting others practice what they considered heresy.

I’m guilty of it too.  For the past few weeks, I’ve been attending an Episcopal church with my family (I’ll probably write more about this in the future.  It’s a nice group of people but I won’t be dropping ‘Heretic’ from my name any time soon).  It’s down the street from the church we used to attend.  According to our former pastor, the Episcopal does not make the short list of “Bible believing churches” in the area (there are four in our small corner of the state according to him).

Because, you know...the other churches aren’t the right kind of churches.  

I used to believe this too.  When I “got saved” all churches that did not trumpet the idea that salvation was by faith and faith alone were automatically suspect to me.  The Catholic Church had led everyone astray, and only the heroics of Martin Luther had prevented total disaster.

Now, I like to think I’m not crazy.  What made me think this way?  I graduated from college with a black belt in open minded, liberal thinking.  Evolution, homosexuality, Bill Clinton...these were all fine with me.

Well, if you had asked me, I would have vehemently denied being close minded. I had simply found THE TRUUUUUUUTH.  After all, I would have pointed out, you don’t get upset when someone says that two plus two equals four, do you?  You don’t get upset when someone says that the Earth goes around the sun, DO YOU?  HUH? WELL DO YOU???


Behavior like this leads some to call the uber-religous ‘crazy’.  I seriously doubt whether most of these people are crazy.  They simply believe things that are anywhere from charmingly quirky to outright dangerous.

Some of them will turn on their friends and tell them they’re going to hell.  Others will blow up abortion clinics.  Or fly planes into skyscrapers, picket the funerals of soldiers, or deny others their rights.  All in the name of truth.  

Think about it: if you truly believed that a human fetus was no different than a fully grown person, why wouldn’t you try to blow up an abortion clinic (or at least protest outside of one)?  

If you truly believed that your friend is going to be condemned to eternal conscious torment in hell for not believing in Jesus, why wouldn’t you confront them about this?

If you really believed the world was going to an end, why wouldn’t you spend your life savings trying to warn people about it?

In fact, if you believed these things and DIDN’T follow through on them, that would almost be crazy.  

Or, some would say, it would indicate that maybe, just maybe, you don’t believe what you say you believe.

From time to time, I ask myself: did I really believe what I said I believed when I was an Evangelical Christian?  I certainly didn’t act as if I did.

As an Evangelical Christian, you’re frequently told that you need to be Talking to People About Jesus.  In eleven years of Evangelical Christianity, I can count on one hand the number of times that I did this. Those who know me might say because it’s because I’m an introvert and talking to strangers makes me anxious (this is true).  Fair enough.  Why didn’t I talk to the non-Christians I knew, then?  Why didn’t I start a blog?  Why didn’t I donate as much money as I could to evangelical organizations?

After all, I believed non-Christians were going to hell.  I believed that the world could end at literally any second.  But if you look at my life now, there’s precious little difference between it and the life I had when I was a Christian.

I’m sure there will be Christians who will read this and, with some satisfaction, say that I was never a real Christian.  Let’s examine that a bit, shall we?

One of the main selling points of some Protestant flavors of Christianity is that it’s just so dang easy.  No rules.  No legalism.  Just say you believe, and PRESTO CHANGO!  Jesus waves his magic wand, and you’re a NEW CREATION!  (Except when you do the same stupid crap you did before you were a Christian.  If asked about this, most Christians will mumble something about “the process of sanctification” and quickly change the subject).

In fact, if you talk to a Christian who believes this sort of thing, and you try to give them credit for something they’ve done, there’s a decent chance they will say something like, “It wasn’t me.  It was God.” (but if they do something bad, they’ll take all the blame).

This, of course, is not true.  They are the ones who planned and executed whatever good deed you are attempting to praise them for.  God didn’t do it by putting them on autopilot and operating them like a meat Hazmat suit.

So, I said I believed in Jesus.  I wasn’t lying.  If there wasn’t “real change”, what else was I supposed to do?  I had done the only thing required to be a Christian.  Supposedly all I had to do was sit back and wait for God to change me.  “God most certainly DOES NOT help those who help themselves!” I was told.  “He helps those who rely on HIM!”

So if I and all the other millions of people who say they’re Christians yet don’t really change much as a result aren’t really Christians, then who are the real Christians?

Is becoming a Christian as easy as Christians say it is?

1 comment:

  1. I actually envy baptists and fundamentalist Christians for the same reason. I'm Catholic, which means I believe that salvation takes grace. According to Catholic teaching God hands out grace like candy, but he requires you follow certain rules to get said candy. These rules include acts and prayer. My problem with faith is less about the teachings of Jesus, and more with the abuses, hypocrisy, and scandal the institution of the church has struggled with for centuries. I know it's made up of human beings, but you'd expect a slightly higher standard for the church founded by Jesus himself.

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