Chapter four – be interesting
Making fun of born-again Christians is like hunting dairy cows with a high powered rifle and scope. ~P. J. O'Rourke
The current state of modern Christianity has become a joke. Not just a joke to outsiders who have always looked at strongly held beliefs suspiciously but also a joke to most Christians themselves. There is no doubt whatsoever that the world in general and the media see the church as a bunch of backwater, uneducated, superstitious, misanthropes, but Christians can’t even take each other seriously anymore. With the advent of more and more “fundamental” Christian groups and their focus on trying to moralize and “biblicize” every aspect from medicine, to archaeology to the big bang it’s no wonder that the world sits back and laughs at what was once a great and influential concept. Christians fight over who’s more conservative, who has the best grasp on biblical inerrancy and who can throw the most expensive and impressive Christmas pageant. They can’t decide whether gays should be acceptable or despicable, or agree on what is or is not appropriate church wear. They fight denominationally, about who is the most accepting, most loving or who can bring in the most converts. And this is not even giving consideration to those ultra-fundamentalist groups that spend their time bashing everyone from Jews to gays to soldiers with hate rhetoric.
I find myself ashamed to tell someone openly I’m a Christian, because it has acquired so many negative connotations in the last few decades alone. I’m afraid if someone finds out they are going to run screaming hoping that I’m not going to attack them for some perceived sin or try to woo them in conversion. It makes me angry that Christianity has been broken down to squabbling idiocy and become a laughing stock around the world. When Jesus of Nazareth began teaching among the people of his homeland his message was esoteric, mysterious and deeply meaningful. It was in many ways a practical message of growth and change, one that simple folks like fishermen and merchants could take to heart and find hope in. Not once do you see Jesus tell his friends what to wear, how to cut their hair or trim their beards, because there was already enough of that sort of picky cocks waddle going on among the Sadducees and Pharisees. He never once seemed concerned about the sexual orientations of his disciples, or whether or not they had been “slain in the spirit” or even if they brushed their teeth regularly.
People in the current fundamentalist movement love to throw down moral catchall phrases and fight over what it really means to be a Christian. They love to point at the bible and proclaim that “God says…” whatever will uphold their claim to truth and righteousness, when in fact, Jesus says very little about such things. Jesus wasn't interested in keeping notes on peoples moral lifestyles, nor did he seem to care one whit about whether anyone was “saved” or not. Instead Jesus is concerned about people and their internal struggles in a very practical way, a way that cuts to the heart of their issues. He is compassionate in an almost invasive way, asking cutting questions that dig deep into the subconscious egoistic behaviors of those he speaks with. He is subversive in that he often seems to ignore moral and dogmatic rules set up by the established religious leaders of his day. He is universal in that not once does he turn away anyone who asks humbly and truthfully for his assistance. He is consistently graceful in that although many of the people he seems to most directly care for are by most moral and ethical standards undeserving of that care. He spends most of his time with harlots, liars, backstabbers and all sorts of folks who live on the edge of morality and society. He rarely has time or patience with those who strut about claiming to have spiritual knowledge or some inherent authority given to them by their position. He deals almost exclusively with daily life issues among the people he gathers around himself, dealing with their sickness, debauchery, anger, fear and guilt with words and deeds intended to help them start an inward journey of growth and self-acceptance.
What is it that has caused Christianity to slip so far from its namesake’s example? Mediocrity and conformity, these two aspects have destroyed what that teacher from Nazareth brought to our attention so long ago. The church favors and supports mediocrity, because in a world full of media scrutiny and congregational gossip, no one wants to stand out, no one wants to look like they might be doing something different from the crowd. That sort of behavior can be the death knell for a minister. Take for example a prominent minister in the charismatic church in Oklahoma. No need to name names here, you can find all the info you want about it on the net if you’re so inclined to look. But this man was a well-respected leader of the church with a large and growing congregation, but suddenly after an epiphany that convinced him of the universal love of God, the bottom fell out on him. His own church and supporters disowned him; those that had once lifted this man up fell on him with anger and venom. All because the fellow wanted to tell people that God was capable of loving them no matter what, seems to make sense to me. I mean think about this logically, if God is all-knowing, all powerful and seems to be consistent in His telling us He loves us, and then doesn't it seem strange that such a powerful being would be so put off by the failings that He inherently built into us? It seems to me that if we worship a god that is so shallow that he follows each of us around with a note pad jotting down our sins just so that in the end he can whip out this scathing report and cast us into a lake of fire, he’s pretty much a sadistic, albeit powerful, infant. If that seems like the god you want to follow, be my guest, but logic tells me that that sort of god is nothing but trouble.
You see as Christians we don’t use our logic, we don’t look at these theological issues and ask why…why does god hate gays? Why does god seem to be a loving parent one second, and a maniacal genocide minded despot the next? We read the bible and forget that men wrote those words, and that many of the perceptions we have about who and what God is are based on the perceptions of those same men. Christians should be interesting, not scary. If we could simply do away with this entire dogmatic finger pointing, and learn to really love people the way Jesus did, we could really be a lot more social about who we are. The best Christians that I have known were simple people, devoid of any real interest in theology, politics or the gay agenda. They simply lived a life in the example that Christ gave. They emptied themselves out for others; they gave themselves to healing the sick, talking with prostitutes and laughing at themselves. These people are interesting because they aren't mediocre, they don’t hold back who they are, and they don’t care to be assimilated into any conformist sect. These people are open minded, willing to study, learn and incorporate any ideas that can better the lives of hurting people. They walk like Christ, with a humble attitude and a willingness to cross lines of conformity to get the job done.
I will warn you, if you start becoming interesting in your congregation, it’s going to become quickly uncomfortable. Folks will take notice, and the second you don’t look like them, talk like them and act like them, they are going to start making it hard for you to stay around. Don’t give in though, because it’s the interesting people that are needed to get things moving, to question the status-quo, and to create enough discomfort that change starts to happen. So go pick up some books on healing herbs, sustainable farming, or universal love, and get in there and be who you are. Talk about new ideas, new ways to love and heal and get people involved in the world around them. You’re going to come up against that wall of mediocrity and when you do, don’t back down, put your head down and keep pushing. That wall will fall one brick at a time.