December 21, 2012
They Think We're a Hate Group, & They Might Be Right
The "Christian leaders" in the media don't speak for me.
Since the world is supposed to end today, I want to share some thoughts before we all go. First, let me establish a couple of my personal beliefs. I am a believer in Jesus Christ. I believe what the Bible teaches about homosexuality and the sanctity of life. Now let’s get to the unvarnished truth.
This may not go over well with some, but hey, at least we’ll have a conversation piece for our last day. After watching an interview by a person speaking for our Christian religion, I was less than blessed. He subtly blamed the gays, iPods, computers, evolution, and the fact that God is not in our schools for the shooting in Connecticut. I was compelled to distance myself from him as quickly as possible. It’s a feeling I have had many times over the years when our so-called “religious leaders” make accusatory remarks about entire people groups. What’s worse is as much as I want to distance myself from the remarks, I can’t because we are still tied by the Christian religion. I can’t because the people these leaders attack hear only their view of my God. And so, like an unwilling hostage in a cruel game, I catch the heat from those far from God because they assume I hold the same position.
Sure these leaders make a few decent points, but then follow it up with a very misguided missile of fault. When high profile leaders do things like this, I feel like I’m with a crazy uncle who makes ignorant comments while you’re helping him shop. You have to stand behind him and mouth, “I’m so sorry. He’s old and bit crazy. He means well.” So to my gay friends, scientists, iPhone users, and others he blamed for the HORRENDOUS killing spree by that mentally ill young man, I stand here mouthing a few words of apology to you. And while I’m at it, maybe I could talk to my own fellow Christ followers as well.
While some Christians say that the reason we have school shootings is because we have taken God out of schools, I wonder why we have shootings in our churches as well? We may not be able to put a nativity up at a local park, but we can instill the story in our kids at our churches and homes. Maybe the fall in church attendance has less to do with the gay agenda, the lack of prayer, or abortion issues, and more to do with the fact that we are all too often seen as a hate group. They say that for fifty years we have removed God from our schools and that’s why these things happen more. But if you go back fifty years or more and you will still find a host of terrible things happening even at the height of “the good old days.” In 1949, Howard Unruh killed 13 people in Camden, New Jersey, with a gun on a public street devastating a barbershop, a tailor’s shop, and a pharmacy in twelve minutes. On May 18, 1927, a man named Andrew Kehoe in Bath Township, Michigan, killed forty-five people, mostly children in grades two through six, by using explosives in a school. He also injured fifty-eight others. If you spend any time researching it, you will see that evil has been around forever. In fact, at the height of school prayer, things still went awry. China has marched God out of its culture from the government on down, and yet the church there is growing like crazy.
I’m tired of our so-called religious leaders speaking for the rest of us in blaming entire people groups. I have never met a Jesus who rejects people or blames them for the atrocities in which they were not involved. Yesterday I had a gay friend email and ask how this shooting was his fault. It’s a fair question. Many Christians commit adultery, steal, and withhold forgiveness. What if it’s those sins that caused this evil? Silly, right? But as long as we are playing the blame game, let’s deal ourselves in for one hand.
Can we agree that the world is a dark place and it needs hope? Maybe we could try something different when bad things happen. We can still have convictions and strong beliefs without trying to create some new morality law ever year. We cannot legislate good moral behavior because it does not work. We demand that no one be allowed to get married unless they are a man and woman, and we shout about the sanctity of marriage. All the while, well over half of Christian marriages end in divorce. Perhaps we should shore up our own issues before we try to pass laws that take rights away from others? I won’t officiate a gay marriage, but I also won’t oppose them in some law.
What if God wants people to choose for themselves the life they will live? Yes, I believe I read that in Deuteronomy 30:19. “I (GOD) set before you life and death, blessing and curses. Choose life.” You choose. It’s your call. And where God won’t violate our own free will, the church seems ready to educate God on a better way. We Christians are in every argument and yet we seem to be out of every real conversation. We cannot reason with people when we are too busy blaming them for all the pain we can’t comprehend. It may make cool Facebook posts and sound bites for the conservative community, but it holds very little truth. God wants to reason with us. Isaiah 1:18: “Come let us reason together, though you sins are scarlet, I’ll make them white as snow.” Reasoning and conversation are God’s way of changing hearts.
Maybe the church should trade its picket signs in front of the abortion clinic for a blanket and a ride home at the back door. Maybe the church could walk away from politics for a while and start working at reaching hearts. Maybe we could all try to find a gay man or woman and apologize for how some Christians have treated them. We should tell them we may not agree with that part of their life, but we could still learn about each other and maybe even become friends! We should show love instead of blame and judgment. We have laws against killing, stealing and all sorts of things; why do we think a law against gay marriage, abortion or any other moral issue is going to change the human heart? After we make things illegal here, are we going to work to make them illegal in the other 196 countries of the world?
It could be that the Mayans are right and the world will end today. It’s likely, however, that we will be around for a little longer. So, maybe some of us should try a new approach to understanding the world around us. It doesn’t make us worldly; it makes us involved. Christians should be involved at a gut level because the world is full of blame and apathy. We have to get back to being involved with our communities and in the conversations. We need proximity to those we keep throwing rocks at. I’m not on CNN, Fox, or TBN. I don’t have a big platform to speak from. Maybe that makes my Jesus different than theirs, but I love the Jesus I know and he doesn’t speak in blame and hate. He stands up and says he loves us all. My Jesus says, “Let’s keep talking. Keep the channels open.” My Jesus is okay with people coming to him slowly like. My Jesus knows how to cry at the horrible shooting when there are really no words for the pain it has caused, just as he wept at Lazarus’s tomb. And my Jesus stands back up in his community to try and bring hope and healing where he can. My Jesus would be friends with gays, prostitutes, drug addicts, and anyone else who would welcome a conversation.
As much as I would like to turn in my “American Christian” membership card because it seems tainted with a lot of hate and politics, I cannot. Unfortunately, we are all going to be tied together no matter what, so I’m going to get louder about my Jesus. I’m also going to start standing behind my well-intentioned older uncles and aunts and mouth to a lost and dying world, “They mean well, but you really should talk to the real Jesus.”
Michael Cheshire is author of How to Knock Over a 7-Eleven and Other Ministry Training. Follow him on Twitter @JourneyMike.