I recently read an article by a fellow CP entitled Atheists Aside: Does Anyone Still Really Believe in God? It is a fantastic article, and I encourage all of my readers to hop over there and check it out. She asks questions of the faithful that are very thought-provoking, yet she does not attack anyone for their beliefs. It’s a great read.
But the article and some of the comments from her readers planted the seeds of thought in my own head and left me with some questions of my own. Why do so many people find it difficult to be faithful? Why does Christianity carry so many negative connotations in our country? Why are so many believers turning away from their faith in disgust? In short, when did Christianity get such a bad rap, and why?
For many people, Christians look like nothing more than naïve sheep, following the herd unthinkingly. There is an accompanying image of the Christian hypocrite who judges others even though he himself lives an imperfect life. There was a time that I thought this sentiment extended to all of the faithful, but I’m finding that other religions tend to have a different connotation associated with them. I have always believed in the Christian God, even though I was not raised in a “church-y” family. Yet even I struggled when I got married and my husband wanted to try to find a home church. I resisted, because I, too, could not shake the mental image of the Christian sheep and hypocrite. Why?
I think that in many ways, this image is justified. As of late, the Christian right has made quite a name for themselves in this country. Speaking out in judgment and hate against homosexuals, condemning young women who have had abortions, claiming that Hurricane Katrina was God’s retribution against the sinners. We all remember the Bakkers, who exploited their “faith” to solicit money from the pious in order to buy themselves all the modern luxuries, including their own private jet. American Christians have certainly made their presence known, and it’s not always in a positive way.
Christians are “supposed to” follow after Christ’s example. Jesus brought a message of love and compassion for our fellow man, living a life of humility and servitude for others. He taught that we should not judge or condemn our neighbors, but instead try to lead by example and love them, regardless of their actions. He taught that we should not seek popularity or wealth, but instead live selflessly, renouncing worldly possessions and not worrying about the opinions of others. But it seems that many Christians, especially in America, have forgotten this message. Christians are too quick to judge, spouting their belief that anyone who does not live a perfect life according to church standards is condemned to burn in Hell for eternity. Yet these same people are the ones who beat their children, swear like sailors, drink, smoke, do drugs, lie, cheat, steal, and otherwise lead decidedly un-Christian lives.
And why? Where do these people get off behaving this way? I think it’s because they have misunderstood one of the key points of Christianity: forgiveness. The Bible teaches that God loves us and forgives us our sins; we need only ask. Some Christians take this as license to do whatever they please, as long as they ask for forgiveness later. They believe that their sinful lives are more protected simply because they go to church every Sunday. These are the folks who read the Bible selectively, only hearing what they want to hear. Forgiveness is there for the taking, but it does not carry with it a license to judge others. Not only that, but we need to embody the spirit of Christian forgiveness if we ever hope to be able to truly repent for our own sins. We cannot constantly nag about the splinter in our brother’s eye while ignoring the plank in our own.
We’ve all heard the old saying, “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” Christians, you need to take these words to heart. How can you expect to be accepted, how can you expect to turn people against their “sinful” ways, if you constantly judge and condemn them? The whole point of Christianity is to renounce sin and turn to God, but how can you expect anyone to want to join you in worship if you set such a bad example for the world to see? If Christians are looked down upon in this country, I can’t help but assert that it’s their own fault. If you lash out at everyone around you, criticizing everything you see, then pretty soon they’re going to strike back.
In the end, there is one point that everyone, believers and non-believers alike, overlooks: we simply don’t know. No one knows what truly awaits us beyond this life. Even Christian scholars, who have studied the Bible for their entire lives, find new meaning in Scripture as time goes on. As mere humans, we cannot judge for ourselves what the Almighty would condone here on Earth, and we cannot condemn those who make choices with which we don’t agree. Don’t be so naive as to think that yours is the only path to salvation. If you are Christian, then you must submit to the will of God, and leave the judgment up to Him. He doesn’t need your help.