“I don’t want to have anything to do with a church,” he said to me. “They are nothing but a bunch of haters and hypocrites.” I felt his pain, and was actually grateful that he was willing to engage with me.
“I sure get that, I’ve had some horrible church experiences myself,” I offered.
“Why would I want to go anywhere where I’m hated for who I am?” He wasn’t asking, he was telling.
“I’m so sorry,” I said, “I believe you are unbelievably loved by God and that a lot of people just don’t believe that for themselves, which means they can’t offer that to other people who are different than them.”
I wish I could say we embraced and then he came to my church and now we’re meeting for weekly coffees. But nope. He walked away. And I get it. I’ve had many people walk away from me during my self-righteous days. And I’ve walked away from many people, too.
I don’t believe this guy, and millions of others like him, have a problem with Jesus. Most people who have a problem with the Church actually have a problem with Conservatism—a political movement that has hijacked our faith, using Christian language to solicit support of the powerful, and financially rich Evangelical community.
Conservatives take up social issues, declare what God’s take on that issue is, and then raise money to support politicians who subscribe to those same beliefs. Even if it’s only one particular issue they support (being against abortion at the top of their list), some politicians can be the most un-Christlike in their speech and how they treat people, but they’ll still get the Evangelical vote. It seems like insanity to those on the outside. And I get it.
I love the article Nathaniel Manderson wrote on Salon.com recently. He said, “[As] an evangelical pastor for many years, I saw faith in Jesus Christ gradually replaced by right-wing ideology.”
In his article he points to 1980 as when a massive shift took place in Evangelical Christianity, explaining how Jerry Falwell, Sr. said, “We must stand against the Equal Rights Amendment, the feminist revolution and the homosexual revolution." Manderson said this created a blueprint for how a Christian can and should affect political change for God, which also meant that funds must be raised to support these efforts. This clarion call from Falwell laid out a clear enemy, one that must be defeated.
Thus the unequally-yoked marriage of politicians and evangelicals began.
If we don’t defeat our enemies, they will take over our culture and we will lose our privilege, power, and blessing as God’s country, they not so subtly intoned. And the Conservative voices are still shouting this fear-inducing gospel of inequality and intolerance. And making a ton of money in the process.
A massive number of well-meaning, God-loving Christians are being consumed by these powerful threats, even making celebrities out of these prognosticators. The result is a coup-like effort to keep people distracted from actually being like Jesus.
I feel like the Church is missing the point. I mean, isn’t the point for us to be like Jesus? To be Christ-like? If the Church was more known for being like Jesus, more people would be drawn to the Church. But instead, the Church’s reputation is more about what they are against, than the Jesus-like things they do. And it’s repulsive.
Yes, many believers all over the world are living lives that emulate Christ. But most of these folks are living quiet lives, wisely not taking out billboards to announce their good works. Jesus even tells us to not make a performance out of our religion. Mother Teresa was known to not want any attention or credit for her work with the orphans of Calcutta, and she’s revered for not only her work with kids but also for her humble, meek spirit.
We crave people in whom we see Jesus. We want to be around people who are full of love, joy, peace, gentleness, patience—literally exhibiting fruit of the Spirit, not just talking about it. We need people who understand God’s love and communicate it through their every word and deed. People who are willing to sacrifice their own lives, for the sake of helping others. People like Jesus.
Pointing out the evil of the enemy (or political opponent) has been a tactic used throughout time. Convincing people of the horror that will occur if “the other people” get in office is nothing new. But in our current day of social media and multiple 24-hour television news outlets, pundits are screaming louder and more offensively than ever, simply to rise above the morass. And I’m sickened when some of these people wear crosses and tout their Christianity, yet are more committed to stirring up fear, than engendering love. If this was actual Christianity, they’d be talking about how we can better love our enemies, and how we can let peace and anti-violence bring healing and hope to our world. Like Jesus did.
If I can encourage you to do one thing it’s this: Be Like Jesus. Many people might not even know what that means. They might be able to explain the doctrine of sanctification, how Jesus died on the cross to take away the penalty for their sins, that he walked out of a grave, and ascended into heaven to be seated next to God, the Father in heaven. These are core beliefs about Christianity. But it’s not about how to be Jesus.
Most people don’t care what you believe. They care about how you treat them. Jesus showed us how to treat people.
To be like Jesus you have to first know how incredibly loved you are by God—this is the Gospel message—awakening to God’s love for you, and letting that love bombard and transform you. And then with all your words and actions, declare that every single person you meet is also loved to such an amazing degree. Maybe you don’t say those particular words, maybe you listen as they share their pain, without trying to fix or change them. Maybe you celebrate their joys with them, dancing together to awesome 80’s music. Maybe you bring them a pizza when their car dies. Jesus met people where they were, on their turf, and helped meet their deepest needs. This can only happen as we begin to see every person as part of our family, regardless of their skin color, gender, sexuality, class, or religion, and then believe they have great worth and value to bring to the world. Maybe even to you.
That’s when the Church will be the most like Jesus.
What ideas do you have about how to be like Jesus?
I think we need to put all difference aside and remember the first two commandments. Love the Lord with all our heart, soul and mind and the second is love your neighbor as yourself
This is great…except you have a typo: it should read “dance to great 70s music.” 😉