Wednesday, April 6, 2011

My fellow Christians...Please stop doing these things.

There's a bus stop at the traffic light right before you turn into my subdivision.  It's close to downtown, and the juxtaposition of a relatively well-to-do neighborhood next to a cheap shopping center and some woods makes it an ideal locale for panhandlers.

I was on my way home from work, stopped at the intersection, with my windows down because the weather was nice.  A homeless woman was walking up and down the rows of cars.  She was smiling while she shouted at us that our whole city would be destroyed, a la Sodom and Gomorrah.  I thought to myself, "What is she so excited about?  If fire starts to rain from the skies, she's the one who doesn't have a ride out of town."

I'm sure that woman, like so many homeless, suffers from severe mental health problems.  I feel sad for her, but it's also a self-pitying kind of sadness, because I'd like to help her and others like her, but am never really sure how.

But what sticks with me most is that eerie, cheerful smile.  She was screaming at dozens of strangers that they were headed straight for hell, and she was doing it with the same facial expression a kindergartener would have telling you about her new puppy.

I finally realized what it was about her that so creeped me out.  That smile is so familiar.

Allow me to elaborate...

Things Christians Do that Isolate Non-Christians

Delighting in people going to Hell.  This is where I've seen that smile.  It normally accompanies a statement like, "Well, they'll all have to stand before God in Judgment some day," and is directed towards homosexuals, or Planned Parenthood employees, or any other group the speaker finds distasteful.

What happens in these circumstances is that the "Christian" in question finds a certain group that, for whatever reason, really attracts their ire.  Instead of praying for these poor, lost people's souls, they feel such anger and hatred towards these people that the Christian gets all excited by reassuring himself or herself that these people will be in Hell someday, and then who will have the last laugh?  Nevermind that the last laugh is coming at the expense of another human being's eternal damnation.

Bonus Irony:  You'll often hear these people talk about "loving the sinner but hating the sin".  Just about every person I've ever met who uses that phrase hated roughly 98% of the global population.  (Oh, excuse me, hated their "sin".)

Double Bonus Irony:  Being one of these people and also...

Just wanting to see souls saved for the Kingdom.  Let me clarify on this point:  Wanting to see people surrender their lives to Christ is a wonderful, loving thing.  The most important thing in a person's life is that they accept Jesus into their heart and secure their home in Eternity.

But that doesn't mean that the Church's full-time job is to sell fire insurance.

A little backstory.  I was attending this church that was very big on hit-and-run evangelism.  Go somewhere, pass out tracts, lead people in the Sinner's Prayer, and then take off, your work done.  And I had this boyfriend.  And, at best estimation, there were about 74 reasons I broke up with him.  But the breaking point came when he made this statement, "I just want to save souls saved for Jesus.  I don't care what happens to them afterwards."

Here's the thing...You can't love a soul on an individual basis.  You have to love a whole person.  Being saved by Jesus changes a life.  But it's the church's job to not just to lead that person to Jesus, but to stick around and disciple that person in their new life.  Not these evangelical one-night stands.

I've been to churches that like to brag, "We saw 37 people give their hearts to Christ at our revival last week."  But they don't stick around these people to get to know them.  They're not around to celebrate when one man, who dedicated his life to Jesus the third night of the revival, is celebrating 30 days off drugs a month later.  Or when the young woman who came to the altar the last night finds out she's 8 weeks pregnant, with no baby daddy and no job, and needs a community of believers to support her.  The church did their main job by leading these people to Jesus.  They can solve their own problems now.

Bonus Irony:  "Christians" who lead someone to Christ and then abandon them, and then criticize them when they fall back into old ways later, saying "they must have never really been saved".

Double Bonus Irony:  Saying that these "backslid" Christians are in danger of Hell...again.  Or, no one taking responsibility for these new Christians actions, because you're too busy...

Giving the Devil too much credit.  Oh...this one always gets to me.  If you grew up fundamentalist, you met this person.  Every sin, major or minor, every bad feeling, heck, every case of the sniffles this person ever had came hand-delivered straight from Lucifer himself...Because this person, and everything they're doing for the Kingdom, is of such paramount importance.  Also, though they'll never admit it, this is also a way to avoid any personal responsibility.  These people give into temptation, but only because Satan and his minions are attacking them, personally, so hard.

To give you an example of what I'm talking about, let me apply this to my own life.

"Satan used the demon of alcohol to tempt me into drinking a 40 of Steel Reserve Saturday night."  Actually, I'm pretty sure a combination of genetic predisposition, cultivated high alcohol tolerance, and being irritated about my period coming a week early were stronger factors than a metaphysical attack.

"The devil attacked me with illness Sunday morning to try to stop me from making it to church and teaching the Word of God to preschoolers.  'Suffer the little children', and all that."  In real life, I know I was probably a combination of hungover and PMSing, which accounts for the illness and crappy attitude I was experiencing.  And those things came from my own lack of moderation and crappy biology.

"I've suffered ovarian tumors and impaired fertility because Satan knows that any children I raised would be mighty warriors of God."  OR, we live in an imperfect world, and disease and physical suffering are a part of that.  We have to just deal with bad things as they happen; it's too much extra work and stress trying to pinpoint WHY they happen.

Don't get me wrong.  I'm sure the Devil is behind some things.  But I don't think he hangs around every Christian, pestering us with minor illness and petty temptations.  I think the Devil could only dream of doing as much damage as our flawed human nature accomplishes on its own.

Triple Bonus Irony:  I don't know if this one counts as ironic, but let me tell you a little story.  A few years back, before I took off from going to church for a while, I'd actually helped start this church.  The pastor was a dynamic speaker, and seemed to be a real prophet.  He was obsessed with outward holiness.  He refused to sit at a table where any alcohol was present, and we had to dip into our (very meager) church funds to buy him an iPod, so he could drown out the secular music playing over the speakers at the gym.

So when he left his daughter and pregnant wife to run off with the (married) worship leader (and the church funds), the congregants who stood by him had a very logical explanation:  He was so incredibly, overwhelmingly holy, that Satan had taken a personal interest in him, and sent a whole army of demons to lead him and the worship leader into temptation.

Now, years later, those same supporters are probably blaming the Devil for stealing his child support checks out of the mail, which is why his kids never get them.


So, here is my appeal to my fellow Christians out there...Please, PLEASE, stop doing these things.  You really want to change the world?  Love people, serve people, take responsibility for your own actions.  No, we do not live for this world, but we are living IN this world, and there are things we should be doing while we're here.  Stop watching the skies and look around you.  We've got plenty of work cut out for us right here on Earth.


Jess said...

Courtney. I love this. I think you know a few reasons why, as you witnessed some of them. I wish a certain educational institution (or two) could read and benefit from this amazing piece of yours. Thank you, friend. This just made my life better. :)

Anonymous said...

Ms 8PP,

This is one of the best articles I've read in years. And spot on. So many people are in love with religion, instead of Christ.

Great job.

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