I’ve had this thing nagging at me for a while, an issue in the back of my mind which I keep bumping into and then turning away from. But since moving to Utah, I’ve come face to face with it a few times and now I’m really thinking.
For the first time I’m in a place where the majority of people have a strong faith, but it’s a faith different than my own. Texas was a bubble of Christian insulation. Los Angeles believed in everything and nothing simultaneously. But Utah, as everyone knows, is predominately LDS/Mormon. So I’m in the minority.
And I think I like being in the minority. It causes me to examine my own faith. To challenge what I believe with big questions. I’ve always grown in those times, even when it hurt.
So here I am learning from the Mormon believers around me. And while there’s a lot of misconceptions about the LDS church, there are also plenty of things which have given them a strange reputation. Yet no matter what you think of Mormons there’s one thing you’re never going to hear…
“Those Mormons are Assholes.”
Never gonna happen. In fact, I may be the first person in history to put that sentence together. Because Mormons have a reputation for being nice. And I’ve felt welcomed, helped, and even surprised by the selflessness of many people around us in Utah.
But that’s just not true of Christians. We are the Assholes. Here we have a belief system based on one core principle – Love – and yet we can’t even maintain a reputation of being nice. God loved us. That resulted in Grace, which by definition is something undeserved, and we’re charged to love others. Which means we’re going to have to share some grace.
Yet, we aren’t. We’re too busy circling our wagons and hurling out arrows of intolerance, anger, fear and hatred at anyone who doesn’t share our beliefs and dares come within a hundred yards. We’re consumed with categorizing everyone that isn’t in our little club and concluding that we know their motives and purposes all without even having a conversation.
And in the club it’s just as cutthroat. Christians in Hollywood do everything they can to not help each other and would be perfectly happy to stab you in the back and step over you in the process. Churches push people out during their lowest moments, condemning them for whatever sin or failing they’ve committed. Anyone is expendable – only one public screwup away from being shunned. And the more highly regarded they are the more intolerable their failings. Because we all know those in leadership never have struggles or problems.
When I look at the life of Christ I see a guy who loved even when it made no sense. The people who enraged him were always the folks with spiritual access and thought to be in the “in” crowd. The farther you get from Him, the softer he got. He called the religious leaders a brood of vipers but cried out to his father to forgive the very people killing Him. He lived something which rarely gets mentioned – He knew that those who didn’t know God needed love and acceptance first and foremost. And love can lead a person to grace.
I don’t see love coming out of the Christian world. Some individual Christians, yes, but the group as a whole is a frightened cornered animal clawing out at the world. Everyone is out to get us. Every belief different from our own is trying to systematically unravel our world. There’s a prideful belief that we are on everyone else’s mind all the time and are being targeted with forethought.
So there’s no room for discussion. There’s no chance to sit down with people different from ourselves and have a conversation. Because who knows what would happen if we discovered that the person we so fear, or judge, or ostracize is actually just a flawed human like we are – trying desperately to make sense of their life.
Peter was a poor hot-headed fisherman with a tendency to act before he thought.
Paul was a self-righteous murderer who believed he had all the answers.
I’m not sure they’d be welcomed in most Christian churches today. Certainly not in positions of leadership.
But look at Paul in Athens in Acts 17, talking with people of every belief other than his own. What’s he doing there? He’s discussing. He’s having a dialog.
Meanwhile our Religious Right is building barricades, pointing fingers, and making sure to label everyone as evil, bad, dangerous, and unwelcome in our little group.
It chills me as I realize something really sad. If I weren’t a Christian already I doubt I would become one. We’re not a group displaying anything worth joining. We aren’t present in the lives of those around us – we’re just pointing out all the things we don’t like about their existence.
We stand in a world drowning in despair, hatred and failure, while keeping the hope, love, and grace to ourselves. Instead of reaching out in love and acceptance to those who need it – which is every single person, by the way – we are focused on things we can’t control and don’t need to worry about.
It seems like everywhere I go Christians are talking about the news in concerned whispers. Shaking their heads in dismay and checking off boxes toward Armageddon. We’re supposed to be loving our neighbor. Being in the world, not of the world. Yet were too busy with intolerance and exclusion. All while looking skyward with a stopwatch as we brace for the world to burn.
I can think of no more hypocritical waste of time.
Why? Because if the world really is going to march through a one-night-only performance of Revelation then that means 1) there’s no stopping it, and 2) there’s nothing we can do about it. So worrying and preparing for it is a complete waste of time and energy. And… if God really is going to win in the end then there’s absolutely no reason for fear.
I believe that Jesus Christ was like no one else to ever live. And He died. And He rose. And there is nothing I can do to get to God… because by the sheer fact of calling Him God it means I am less than Him. So Christ is something vital.
I am nothing without Love. I am lost without Grace.
And so is every person I will come across in every day of my short life.
I know what I need to be worried about: I don’t love my wife enough. I don’t love my son enough. I don’t offer them a fraction of the grace I’ve been shown. Or the amount they show me. And the friends who fill my life. They build me up with love and grace over and over and I don’t return the favor… not nearly enough.
I want people to be surprised that I’m a Christian. I want to surpass what they expect of Christians. I want to be more accepting. More loving. More willing to help. I want to supplant that bad experience they had with a cold-shoulder church, or a legalistic friend, or the parent who modeled God as abusive and unreliable.
Of course… I’m going to fail at it… But it’s something to shoot for. Because I am no better than they are. In fact, I might be worse.
Jesus was a revolutionary because he defied expectations.
How amazing it would be to not associate Christians with “the end is near” talk show hosts or waving hateful banners at groups we don’t like.
What if people said “Christians are awesome. Christians are the most loving people I know…”
That would be a new revolution.