What does it mean to be a Christian, to you and to the people around you? How do you find a balance between what you believe and what people think you believe, between your understanding versus their mental associations with your faith? What do you do if your personal beliefs are drastically different from the primary tenants of what, in reality, is a small (and crazy) faction of Christianity – but one that the majority of the world fails to distinguish from the rest of your religion? How do you overcome people’s animosity toward the Christian faith as a whole when, pound for pound, the majority of the religion’s ignorant crazies are part of the loudest and most media-focused faction of American Christianity – the Fundamentalist Christian community?
That’s been my conundrum recently. See, I find myself with this odd amalgam of beliefs in which God is central (not Christ, necessarily, but I’ll get back to that in another blog post), and I don’t buy into a lot of what most Christians consider to be fundamental beliefs one must hold to in order to be considered part of the club. Inclusion into this very exclusive club was never something I really wanted, since upon examination of the members’ handbook, they seem to tack on tons of rules and responsibilities with no tangible benefits whatsoever. In fact, doesn’t the Bible actually promise toil without reward and separation from the majority of society as a result of following God through Christ? Sure, Christians are promised eternal life, but I have yet to meet anyone who’s actually been paid out on that. All in all it seems like a pretty crappy deal, sometimes. Honestly though, I’m still willing to explore it, but there’s still that pesky problem of these asshole fundies.
What can be said about fundies here that hasn’t already been said? They’re loud, they’re ignorant, they spout whatever crazy hate from whatever crazy verse in the Bible they want to at any given moment. Then they do stupid shit, like putting that loud, ignorant hate on loud, ignorant placards. Then people take pictures of them so we can all laugh and shake our heads. People like me roll their eyes and say, “Thank God there’s another type of Christianity”. The rest of the world shakes its head, rolls its eyes and says ,“Christians.”
And therein lies my problem.
How do you counter that? How do you even begin a discussion about God with people who think that all Christianity looks like that? You hear your friend, neighbor, or coworker is going through some raw shit. They talk to you about it and you, wanting to be helpful but having nothing else to offer, say something like, “I’ll pray for you”. Instantly the person you’re talking to is thinking of all the things they’ve said or done that you’re secretly judging them for. If not that, then they’re thinking of the things they feel or believe that they’ll never tell you because they’re automatically filing you away under the mental file of, “Christian: crazy”.
Honestly, it’s enough to make a girl renounce her faith.
Well not quite, but the lack of any sort of accountability for the things fundamentalists say and do in the media bothers me tremendously. By itself that wouldn’t be enough to make me doubt if the whole thing was worth it, but if you add to that quandary my ongoing struggle with believing in the Bible, the end result is a person who’s looking at the vast majority of Christianity going, “. . .I’m not sure I actually believe the same things these people believe. Does that mean I can’t continue to call myself a Christian?”
So that puts me in an uncomfortable position. Neither my call to morality nor my faith in God are in question. I can never again believe that God does not exist (though I can be mad at him, which is another blog post as well). However, when I sit down and look at all the points of dissension between myself and fundamentalist Christians, and then I add to that how blatantly and proudly off-target fundies seem to have gotten from whatever it was Christ was actually trying to teach us . . . I just find it really hard to swallow the idea of being in any way associated with them.
Does that mean I want to give up my faith? Previous suggestions to the contrary, no, I don’t think so. My faith is more than what people think of me, or how other people act out beliefs that are similar to mine. Faith is very personal. That said, I fight with this regularly, because it’s hard for me to separate what I believe from what people think I believe. In a world where image and brand are paramount, how separate can those two things really be? I know I’m not a prejudiced asshole – have other issues, certainly, but exclusion isn’t one of them. But if everyone else in the world thinks I am a prejudiced asshole, and I’m reacted to and treated accordingly, does it matter what I really am?
I doubt I’m the only one with this issue. I think that until we, the reasonable and rational Christians, stand up and get as loud (though not as ignorant, please) as the people who are damaging the whole of Christianity’s brand (while making the devil laugh and dance with every word), we will continue to lose my generation. If we don’t find some way to reclaim ourselves and our image as people of love and charity, there are tons of people who are making the decision I didn’t, and join the ranks of “the nones”. If you haven’t yet heard about “the nones”, you can do so here – and you might want to, because that’s the future the church is facing if we continue our current course.
On behalf of all of the people struggling with the issues I’m struggling with, and I’d put money on the fact that there are thousands. . . Christians, we have to do better. We have to; we have no choice. I don’t know what that means, but we can’t keep letting the ignorant, narcissistic assholes in our community separate us forever from people who would make wonderful Christians if they could only see we weren’t all hate-filled monsters like Marc Monte.
So, long story short, I don’t know what to do. Do we give up entirely and make up some new faith that allows us to separate ourselves from that tarnished image forever? Do we make our own placards and signs, organize our own rallies and try to beat those Westboro Baptist Church douche bags at their own game? I don’t know. I don’t have the answers. I’m sure I’m far from the only budding Christian who’s ever wondered what the hell they were doing being associated with these crazy people. I don’t have the answers for this query, except that I know that something needs be done, and Christians. . . I’m sorry, but I’m afraid the responsibility to hold our own people accountable to a higher standard falls on us. If we don’t do it, someone else will do it, but in passing the buck we do more damage to our image. If ongoing scandals within the Catholic Church show us anything, it’s that people are very unforgiving when it comes to large, powerful organizations that don’t police their own for misconduct. The world needs to see that we’re not all crazy, and that we’re willing to call out our own when they are.
What do you think? Is there more that we, as a community, can do to take accountability for the hatred and ignorance within our ranks? Do your non-Christian associates think less of you because of the tarnished “brand” your faith has earned?