Friday, October 30, 2009

"I don't like Christians"

"I don't like Christians"

That's the opening line on a blog I read this week. It's not a pleasant read at all.

However, I still appreciate it, because she tells the truth, and because I know it mirrors the unspoken feelings of many people that I know, including friends, and some who used to be Christians themselves. And, at times, it has mirrored my own feelings.

This week I sat as someone I love told me that she thinks the Jesus stuff she used to believe is all a fairy tale. I know, because I've seen it before, that if she continues to move away from Christianity she will probably increasingly dislike Christians.

That's tough, folks. It's always been hard for me to deal with, and it still is. Partly because I'm a people pleaser and I very much want people to approve of what I believe and like me (yes, I know that's negative, I'm just being honest here). Partly also because I really do believe it all, and so I mourn with someone doesn't have or is walking away from what I believe is the very thing that is the meaning and purpose of life itself.

In many ways it makes sense that many people don't like Christianity or Christians if they aren't one themselves. For one thing, Jesus makes exclusive claims. Christians believe He is is the "Way, the Truth, and the Life", and that there is no way to God outside of Him. It's rather clear and rather un-postmodern, and people would much rather we believe that He is A way rather than THE way. It's all just pretty uncompromising - and I don't apologize for that.

But really, that's not the heart of what the blogger that wrote "I don't like Christians" is saying. This is from her blog:

Having lived my life among Christians, watching them from the outside, I’ve noticed a common thread among most. The closer ones claims to be to God, the farther one is from their fellow human beings. The man who preaches the longest about Jesus in a Sunday sermon is often the one who kicks a homeless man and tells him to get a job. The one who clutches her hands and comes to tears over the “lost souls” turns her nose up at the desperate masses right in front of her.

I am afraid that too often she is right. My own crisis of faith came not from any any doubt about theology or WHAT I believe about God or Jesus or a particular tenant of our faith (though eventually I had to deal with that). My crisis of faith came from looking around at the church here in the USA and being totally aghast. What I believe was vastly different from what is often represented by "Christians" here in the USA. Maybe that's true in most places, but I can only critique my own culture. I pretty much thought, "I don't like Christians" myself, and then wondered how I could believe in Christ if I didn't like His people, the ones who supposedly represented Him.

I've gotten past that, mostly because I was only seeing one side of things. It's true that there's a lot of people that are either bad Christians or fake Christians or perhaps just broken people just like everyone else, but there's also a lot of beauty and love that you see when you're looking for it. I mean, my friend that talked about all the Jesus stuff being a fairy tale? The people that have loved her most and walked with her the closest through a lot of pain are Christians. So you know - she may not like a lot about Christians, but she has also been buoyed by their love through huge personal struggles.

Still, I find this immensely convicting personally and for our culture. Whenever our "faith" makes us more self-absorbed in a Christian culture instead of moving us out to PEOPLE, then something within that faith is WRONG. That's why I push back or hesitate whenever there's a church program I'm thinking of getting into. Some Bible Study is good, but if I allow myself to be sucked into an entirely "Christian" world, then I have left where Jesus intended for the Church to be.

It's tough on an individual level. My closest friends that have walked away from faith have a tough time being quite as intimate with me, simply because the very core of who we are is now different, and we know it. I still love them, they still love me, but when we come to the point of really talking, most of my motivations and passions are connected to my faith directly and theirs are most definitely NOT. It makes sense - we always gravitate towards people like ourselves. It requires effort and commitment to keep going what once came naturally.

But really, it isn't about what is easy or most natural. My belief and my faith is the center of my life, but how it changes me should be into someone characterized by a deep, life-changing love and grace and joy. Am I that person? No. But I hope I am somewhere on that path to be like my Jesus. I desperately don't want to be a "church person", even though I do want to love the Church. I want to marked by a love for those that suffer, for those that are lost, for the poor, for my neighbors, for the refugees on Park Lane, the freshman girl who is alone and confused, for the people in the apartment next to mine, for the lady that serves Isaac and I at the Mexican restaurant every Tuesday, and.. and.. and...

It's absolutely amazing that we have twisted things so that our faith makes us more calloused and separated from other people. At its very core, the love of God is a love that reaches out into humanity and interacts, pours out grace and love, and redeems from brokenness. The evidence of our God in us is shown when we love like He does.


Amy said...

Awesome post, Kacie. This weighs on my heart a lot, and in fact I was pondering it last night as I fell asleep. Someone that my husband worked with recently passed away, and my husband shared with me that he knew she intentionally avoided any spiritual subjects with him. And he said he thought it was because she wanted to keep liking him, despite the fact that he is a Christian.

And that got me to thinking...somewhat defensively. I still like people who are atheists, Jewish, Muslim, all kinds of people who believe things I profoundly disagree with. So why can't they like me! Why are Christians so often picked on?! Why can open-minded people be open to anything EXCEPT Christianity?

But then I reflected that there are LOTS of Christians who DON'T like atheists and Jews and Muslims and gays and Democrats and on and on. And so in the minds of many non-Christians, THOSE are the real Christians,. And if someone like me or my husband is likeable, it is because WE ARE THE EXCEPTION. (BTW - I am not saying all that to toot my own horn. There are many ways in which I am probably not likeable to non-Christians, for the reasons you mentioned. In fact, the sermon at our church this past Sunday included the point that if everyone likes you and thinks you are a great person, then you probably aren't living your faith out fully. And that is because unredeemed people prefer darkness to the light.)

IAnyway, I don't really have anything to add - what you have said is just exactly spot on.

That Married Couple said...

I agree that this is disturbing, and even more so when we recognize this in ourselves! We all know that Jesus said to treat the least of these like we would treat Him, and yet it is often so hard to put this into action. I doubt that this is an exclusively American problem.

And then I keep coming back to those Christians who are helping and serving others. There are soo many of them! Before there were hospitals and government-run services in the world, there were Christians reaching out to those in need. And even now, I wonder if you looked at the people who volunteer and donate, how many of them would be nonbelievers and how many Christians? (Hm, it seems like there should be actual research on this somewhere out there!)

As you said, there are both "good" Christians and "bad" Christians, although I think maybe it's more nuanced than that? Are they truly bad, or are they ignorant, or are they so busy serving their needy family that they don't have time to serve the greater community, or are they not really Christians at all (fake, as you said)? That's of course something we can't know. All this to say, someone the other day reminded me of the wheat and the chaff (or sheep and goats, take your pick) and how Christianity is composed of both. It's sad, and yet seems to be the nature of any large social group. I guess all that's left for us to do is to try our hardest to serve and show the true face of God in our world, and pray that He takes care of the rest.

Jaimie said...

I especially liked the part about not getting too involved in "church." I think it can do more harm than good... most of the time.

CM said...

Great post and comments! I'm sure I'll be thinking of this for a couple of days.

Rachel H. Evans said...

I'm so thankful to Amy for linking to your blog. It seems we have a lot in common. (I've been through a few crises of faith myself!)

It's a struggle for me to strike a balance between protesting against the un-Christlike qualities I observe (and sometimes perpetuate) in the modern Church, while keeping in mind that the Church is the bride of Christ and is beloved by God. This is the challenge of the reformer - to love something enough to want to change it without destroying it, to be a part of the solution, and to always keep in mind that you can't do it on your won.

Regarding the exclusivity of Jesus' claim that he is the way, the truth, and the life - I would have to both agree and disagree. As C.S. Lewis put it, "We do know that no man can be saved except through Christ; we do not know that only those who know Him can be saved through Him."

Great blog! I'll definitely be back.

Rachel said...

I meant to say that you "can't do it on your own." I'm an author. I feel naked without my editor!

Togenberg said...

People who were serious Bible-believing Christians almost killed me, and I mean that figuratively and literally. Vice versa, I have received tremendous love and grace from people of no faith whatsoever, from the unredeemed.

Now, this doesn't logically prove anything but it sure did contribute to a lot of fear of and resentment towards Christians. I think now that I've returned to the church I have a very humbled, realistic view of it, partly out of fear but mostly from the knowledge that good people can do horrible things. Not a cynical perspective, but just remembering that the church is made of humans and not of angels.

In the end there is a paradox at work, a mystery. We cannot be Christians alone, and, being in community with imperfect people will at times cause pain, perhaps great pain.

Kacie said...

Troy, your comment ROCKS, and is so profound, and what has really amazing me about you is the grace that YOU show. Your love and gentleness after horror is really what I see as redemption at work. YOU represent love and hope to me, even though I know for you it is a daily challenge.

emily said...

I really liked this post :-) thanks for sharing.

Kathleen@so much to say, so little time said...

I hope you'll forgive the somewhat crude analogy...Once in grad school, I was expressing frustration with some guys who sat around talking about sex all the time. "Don't you think," said a friend, "that the people who talk the most about it are the ones who aren't having it?"

That's how this kind of "Christian" strikes me. The people who talk about it the most are often the ones who are so absorbed talking that they forget to live it. Actually, "they" is an unfair term; it happens to all of us at times. But when I think of the holiest people I know, they don't walk around talking about it all the time; you can just tell by the way they live. As someone who finds it difficult to open my mouth and "evangelize," (though it's much easier to write about it), I find that inspiring.

Ruth Ann said...

Hello, Kacie. I found your blog through Saturday Evening Post.

I found myself resonating with this part of your post:

"My closest friends that have walked away from faith have a tough time being quite as intimate with me, simply because the very core of who we are is now different, and we know it. I still love them, they still love me, but when we come to the point of really talking, most of my motivations and passions are connected to my faith directly and theirs are most definitely NOT. It makes sense - we always gravitate towards people like ourselves. It requires effort and commitment to keep going what once came naturally."

Yes, if our relationship with Christ is the core of our being, then it's hard when we can't share that with our friends and we seek friends who are like us so we have that outlet.

As for people of other faiths or none at all, I like the "live and let live" attitude my grandmother advocated. I like to hear others' stories, but I balk when they try to "convince" me.

drustee said...

Is it not a fact that in ANY formal group of people there will be those we like and those we don't?

For those who say they don't like Christians because of the bad things some of them do - what group can they then claim to like?

For that matter are they prepared to like Christians for the good things some of them do? (Mother Theresa, Damian of Molokai come to mind, off the top of my head).

I also don't understand the comment about not getting too involved with church. These saints did what they did because of their faith, not in spite of it. They are in fact the very ones who lived their faith fully, as opposed to just paying lip service to it (which is pretty much what 'bad' Christians are doing).

Staying away from church deprives me of the grace I need to live out the Christian life well, and boy do I need that grace. It would be like refusing to eat food because some people are then bulimic. Would that not make me anorexic? How is that better when I can choose to eat and be healthy?

Christians were persecuted in the early Church but still attracted converts because of the way they "loved one another". I suppose persecution doesn't leave much room for lukewarmness or 'cultural Christianity'.

So I'm guessing all the anti-Christian sentiment in the world today will ironically only serve to prune and strenghten the Church, and pave the way for greater growth later.

Kacie said...

drustee... true, very true. I am thankful that the anti-Christian sentiment helps me to prune my faith of the people-pleasing aspect of it, in which I believe because people like me when I believe. I hope that is never true.