The Christianity I Wish They Knew

Sometimes I feel like I’m on the wrong side of the fight.

Sometimes I feel like a liar.

Sometimes I feel like I’m part of the problem.

There are many days when I hear myself loudly pushing back against the brimstone breathing preachers, Bible-pounding bigots, and filth-spewing pew sitters—and I wonder if I’m mistaken.

Though I often feel burdened to climb to a high place and to let people within earshot know that the sick, fearful, bullying monster running amok in this country isn’t Christianity; that it is a terribly deformed creature disguised as it but in reality sharing nothing in common with it—I realize that isn’t true. It may be true for me, but it is not universally true.

I know that for many people, the grotesque monster is Christianity.
It is all they know or have known of it.
It is the only kind of Christianity they have experienced.

The horror for them is commonplace.

Every day I sit with people, who because of their gender or who they love or the color of their skin or their nation of origin or the faith they profess—have known only condemnation, sustained only injury, received only violence from people claiming to speak for Jesus. 

Lately the tears come easily when I hear their stories, because these stories compellingly testify of a different reality than my own. They suggest to me that I might be wrong to defend this faith so fervently, because practically speaking, the faith I defend is the same one doing them damage. The more I argue for them not to discard Christianity, the more I feel complicit in their wounding because it is putting them in proximity to those who would do them harm. 

I so want them to know a different Christianity; to experience the compassion and gentleness and joy that it’s supposed to be a source of—but maybe that’s just my privilege talking.
Maybe because I’m a white, cisgender-heterosexual man born in America—they will never know the Christianity that I know, because maybe only people like me get that luxury.
Maybe that is the saddest truth here; that what most people experience from organized religion: misogyny, bigotry, exclusion—is what Christianity largely is now. Maybe that is the terrible rule, and my experience a rare exception.

And the thought of that grieves me because I don’t know how to fight that battle. I don’t where to push back or how to do something redemptive; whether I can be both for organized Christianity and for marginalized communities simultaneously anymore. I don’t know whether staying and waving the flag for my faith tradition is hurting the very people I’m most hoping to embrace.

At the end of the day, maybe it’s actually the brimstone breathing preachers, Bible-pounding bigots, and filth-spewing pew sitters who I most wish knew a different Christianity.

If they really experienced the lavish, open-hearted, open-handed welcome of Jesus for themselves, perhaps they’d be compelled to offer that to the world; to women and to Muslims and to transgender teens and to black men and to gay couples and to immigrants.

Maybe they’d see that the only way they can truly be people of Jesus, is to make sure that other people walk away from their presence feeling loved. 

Then maybe fighting for Christianity wouldn’t feel as odd as it does right now.
Maybe I wouldn’t have to feel like I needed to leave my religion just to show them Jesus.

 

 

 

27 thoughts on “The Christianity I Wish They Knew

  1. I am a christian who share the same views as you and the same Jesus; we are living a in a very difficult and very hate filled time. I truly appreciate you and all you do; I have no doubt you are extremely exhausted. May the love of Jesus continue to fill you and may He lift your spirits. Keep up the good work, you are a wonderful person!!

  2. John,
    Four times in the last 2 months I am writing a response and everything shuts off .
    I hope someone has not messed with your responses website/posts…thought I should tell you . Bess Lee

  3. John I have read and “liked” so many of your words on FB I get a steady stream of them now. I’m grateful for all your words making me feel less crazy and alone out here outside the buildings. May you stay strong and be blessed.

  4. John, I have been reading your Blog lately more and more . All very interesting and to the point. I, agree with most of your points.
    Especially the the Bible Banging Preachers. I , as a Non Practicing Catholic due to many things. I, also believe God Loves all people
    regardless of being white ,black , gay or straight. When I hear a preacher say all gays should be executed is not the word of God.
    The same goes for all people who feel the same way. This nation has bigger problems and all people should all regardless of who , what or where and when. Keep the good work up and I look forward to more articles from you.
    Best Regards
    Stan Swit

  5. I get this John. I am a Christian, but believe me I am careful now, how I say this.
    If my love does not show first, then what I say has no value. Love must lead the way for that is what Christ taught us and father God.

  6. I am confounded by those who most loudly proclaim the power and majesty of the Almighty God also portraying Him (in their language) as so fragile and easily hurt. Their God not only fails to show the classic Divine Attributes of all-loving transcendence of human failings, but He embodies the worst of our pettiness and fears. Their God rewards materialism, where Christ warned against it. Their God delights in fear of the stranger, where Christ commanded that they be welcomed by him and his disciples. Their God prefers a good, righteous cover story to genuine repentance. Politics over service. Retribution over Grace. Exploitation over responsible care. Low taxes over all else.

    I am another, John, who does not recognize what goes by the name “Christianity” in America today. I don’t see any resemblance between their God and the one revealed in scripture. I cannot bridge the gap between their values and the Gospel. You are far from alone.

  7. Why would anyone align with an outdated, perverse system just because in centuries past through myth and fable, stories were concocted to keep people in line and under control with the express purpose of extracting money and other resources and to force certain beliefs both of a religious nature and political stance? Why, Why, Why???
    Especially when this system of control has nothing at all in common with the simple message of one Jew from two thousand years ago who stated over and over to love one another, be respectful and do good.
    Not part of my belief system – that is the so called ‘christian’ way of bastardization of a pure ideal of living. That is why I found a better way forward.

  8. Hey John – I hear you on this. I too have struggled with what to call myself lately and whether I can be for any kind of organized religion or not and still follow Christ. I also am a ci-gendered, white male, but I come from a family that is so much more – Jewish, Pagan, Agnostic, ci-, trans-, bi-, gay, white, Native American, African-american. But despite our differences we are still family, still a community who loves. Which gives me hope.

    But to be honest, since last November I have started calling myself a Carpenter, rather than a Christian. Because Christian doesn’t seem to fit right any more as a title. Not in today’s environment. But I’m not giving up on Christ so following in his footsteps, building bridges, making shelters and safe spaces, getting my hands and feet involved, doing rather than sitting, have led me to consider Carpenter, as Jesus was, as the appropriate title for where I am at in my faith journey. I may circle around to calling myself a Christian again at some point… but not right now. I do not follow the “American Jesus.”

    • Carpenter is a great word to use.

      But it won’t be long before the religious steal that one as well, like they do for all our labels we use to try and differentiate ourselves from them. ‘Christ-follower’, ‘Jesus-follower’, even ‘Christian’ – they have stolen and twisted all these titles.

  9. Oh, John, please don’t stop speaking out. You are the prophet which God has chosen at this time to be God’s voice to God’s people — ALL of God’s people. You encourage those of us who hear your words and enable us to continue to be Jesus in the worlds in which we live.

  10. John, I’ve been reading you for a full year now. Written you one other time. Your blog today seems like your taking on too much responsibility for other Christians. Be good to yourself. You have eloquently phrased the class struggle and fight against this evil over and over again. Thank You. Just summing it up helps me and many others. I may not have Christian faith but I’m sure as hell glad you do.

    Susan

  11. Why do you feel compelled to credit acting as a healthy, loving, compassionate, protective adult male to Christianity? Would you be less of these things if you were simply John?

  12. Hi John,
    You always have something relevant for me to read. I look forward to what you’ve written each day. I most definitely agree with you. I’m 65 years old, raised Catholic, tried different branches of Christianity, spent some time being Buddhist, checked out Wicca. I found wise teachings in all of them but realized I could not fit in completely with any. I just say “I’m a child of the universe.” My late husband said “spirituality is the search for the truth and religion is the rule book you play by”. We were both lifelong students of comparative religion. I’ve heard so much b.s. while growing up, reaching young adulthood and into these later years. I remember a minister I rented from who lived downstairs with his family said “the Lord said it was okay for him to smoke cigarettes” I wanted to say “seriously?” Anyway I’m also just so disgusted with the actions of so many of the “faithful”. I want to say “aren’t you just a little worried you might go to hell for lying? I sometimes have to bite my tongue or delete what I may have been ready to post on social media. I would love so much to look forward to a time when so many people were true and genuine followers of Christ or anyone expounding love and understanding. Thank you for speaking your mind brother!

  13. Thank you so much for this article, and for all the other ones that you’ve been writing since the presidential campaign. As an Asian-American, I also thank you for speaking out on behalf of us who are not on a level playing field. Coming from a white heterosexual minister, your words give me hope. We need the majority in this country to stand with us, whatever religion, race, gender, sexual orientation. So, please don’t believe that what you’re doing isn’t helping. It’s when we lose hope that we give up and die inside. So, again thank you and please keep doing what you’re doing.

  14. Dear John,
    Please do not despair. You are fighting the good fight. The true message of Jesus, which you proclaim, has always been at risk from those who co-opt it, since the earliest days of the church. Your situation is similar to that of the Apostle Paul, whose anti-slavery message was perverted by others, writing later using his name to make Christianity palatable for the many powerful opponents of Christ’s true message. The gospel, at its roots, is anathema to the powerful, who fight it by transforming it into its opposite. Keep up the good work.

  15. You won’t be the first of us to leave American “Christianity” because it’s turned bad. I almost wrote “There are other ways to be good, other paths to the same place” here, then I realized that I don’t want to be their version of good, and I don’t want to go where they’re going.

    Every minute you give your name to a movement that’s doing evil, you’re part of doing evil. I think the common excuse of trying to make change from within is nonsense, myself.

  16. That’s the dilemma of religion versus love. I frequently am embarrassed to identify as Christian in light of all that goes on these times. And yet, I am constrained by the grace and love of Jesus to identify with all people in my path. Throughout history there have been faithful lovers of God who have been horrified by the atrocities committed in the name of their religion. I guess our task is to live lives of love as a testimony to Christ whether relating to the oppressed or the oppressors.

  17. Feel you pain john : life is not fair, But man is not just and that is why Jesus Christ Died a horrible death of crucifixion and was born in a barn full of animals
    Yes , Manger , not a pleasant place
    Yes a crucifixion for sin, sin s of all
    Yes a mankind who is at the heart , desperately wicked and full of every kind of evil , Pleasure seekers
    fulfilling what Please’s Himself.
    deceptive in every way , That is OUR heart with out God, Jesus Christ , the Holy Spirit to control our self.
    YES , God sent the Holy spirit to comfort us while we do Gods work , spreading the gospel
    No other reason
    Just to spread the Good News that Jesus Christ was born in a manger to die for sin on a cross .
    Alone
    Together in ONE Spirit as we together worship our God , true God, Jesus Christ , and Accept the Holy Spirit to comfort as we Teach other to lean , trust, obey God, Serve God, Follow His Holy word the bible . Written Examples of Godly living and what not to do from the experiences of past generations
    Blessings are rewards from God
    Rich’s are a gift from God to show his strength and power and to use for his glory and to grow believers in Jesus Christ

    • “Blessings are rewards from God.”

      “Riches are a gift from God to show his strength and power and to use for his glory and to grow believers in Jesus Christ.”

      Freeman, I don’t know what drugs you’re on, but you are so out there I hardly know where to begin.

      For a start, if you are using the Bible as your source, it’s clear as crystal that either you’ve never actually read it or that it’s been so long you’ve forgotten. Because the Bible clearly states that God “makes the rain to fall on the evil as well as the good.”

      Nowhere does it say that riches or blessings are “rewards” for doing the right thing.

      Do us all a favor and go crack the Book open and look inside and come back when you know what you are talking about.

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