I go through this thing where I don't like being a Christian because I see how we Christians treat each other and those outside the faith and I just don't understand it at all. I don't know how to label it. A phase? A season? I honestly don't know. I see things. I hear things. I read things. And I shake my head and think, "Is this what God had in mind?"
I have to remind myself that we're all human, that no matter our faith affiliations or outlooks on all things spiritual (including a rejection of them), that we are all human. We are subject to failures and capable of inflicting pain even when it's the last thing we intend. I shudder to think causing pain would ever someone's first intention, but I suppose it happens.
Christ calls us to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, etc. and to love our neighbors as ourselves. I'm pretty fond of myself, so you'd think I'd be all about loving others. But I'm not. Not really. Not like I should. I'm selective. I put up walls. I've lowered my tolerance for others' behavior. That includes those within my own faith family. We eat our own sometimes, we Christians, and it's an ugly thing when it happens.
I also go through this thing where I feel like an outsider all the time.Not that people at church don't like me, but that I'm on an outsider. A tag-along. In high school and college, I had a select group of friends that I formed my closest bonds with. We hung out all the time. We did life together and it was great. We spoke our own language. It's not that we didn't like other people or didn't have other friends, we just were most comfortable in our little core group. Occassionally, someone would hang out with us and, while they had fun, I couldn't help but feel like that person felt a little out of the loop. Set apart. Not One Of Us. I felt bad about that but lacked the maturity to really do anything about it. Now, sometimes at church, I feel like that person that would join our little group. I enjoy it, but feel like if I weren't there hanging out, the group would be just fine. It's hard to penetrate the ingrained group dynamic. Again, I don't feel unwelcome or disliked, just...well, I feel like I'm on the outside looking at everyone having a good time and doing the church thing the way it's supposed to be done and I'm missing out because I'm either too stubborn to step up and join them or I'm too cynical to trust that's how it works.
I bristle, too, at the notion that I must align myself in unison with the entire Republican party and be a social, political, and fiscal conservative in order to be a Christian. I sometimes believe that in order to be a true part of the church I must watch Fox News only to get my information because nobody loves The Church more than Fox News. If anything, I feel like Fox News only uses Christians as a target demographic to manipulate for ratings and people fall for it. I realize that's my cynicism getting the best of me, but, really, that's how I feel. I also feel like I have to profess a deep hatred of Barack Obama because he's a Democrat and, most likely, a closeted Muslim who wants to pound America until Socialist submission until we are no longer a republic but a dystopia. I don't see him that way. I'm not his biggest fan, but I'm not the biggest fan of many Democrats or Republicans right now. I don't align with a political party because I feel manipulated by them. When I tell people at church that, they look at me funny, grunt a little, slap me on the shoulder and say, "Love ya, brother!" and walk away.
I feel bad for even saying all of that. It sounds pissy and whiny and stinks of self-righteousness and self-pity. But I said it, so there. It's how I feel. I say it because I want to be transparent at church. I want to be real. And I want to be with a group of people who want the same thing and are willing to do that. No catchphrases. If I share a big issue with you, don't just tell me to pray about it. Help me talk about it. To just tell me to pray about it makes me feel like you are dismissing me. I'm probably being hyper-sensitive, but I can't help it. We Christians hide too often behind our catchphrases and mumbo jumbo. We use words like "ministry" and "service," but I don't think they really mean anything.
The original New Testament church took place in people's homes. I could into that. I really could. Our church sorta kinda does that. They're called Community Groups. They are small groups of people who meet in people's homes to do a Bible study and socialize. It's really Sunday School class, but not held on Sunday morning nor held at the church. It's supposed to be, I dunno, less threatening. Less churchy. I can dig that.
I don't belong to one.
I don't belong to one because they are almost exclusively offered on Wednesday nights and Sunday nights. I work Wednesday nights and my wife works at the church on Wednesdays and Sundays. She helps take care of the children of couples who attend Community Groups. I don't want to go to a group on Sunday night by myself. I'm sure that's stubborn, but would you do that? Really? C'mon, be honest.
|Go to a couples' Community Group by myself? Ain't nobody got time for dat!|
I suppose I could always start one on my own. I taught a Sunday School class for a couple of years. I loved it and loved the people who attended.
At the end of it all, I end up feeling like it's just me. I've always felt like my spiritual journey is a true pilgrimage. I'm not very good at it and there are days that, frankly, I don't like being a Christian. I like Jesus and what he teaches, but sometimes I just wanna walk away. Not because it's too hard or because I got my feelings hurt, but because I don't see anything different about being in the church. Not really. Worst of all, I feel like I'm a big part of that problem. I'm no different. I have to keep reminding myself of something my favorite Christian writer, Donald Miller, once said. "When you stop expecting people to be perfect, you can like them for who they are."
And, like I stated above, I feel like I have to be go through some kind of programming and be a cookie cutter Christian who believes all the right things, says all the right things, and never questions anything. I just read Brave New World again, a book about a dystopian society where people are programmed from birth to behave a certain way and not to question anything about the World Order. I gotta tell ya, sometimes I get that same feeling being in a church.
What do I want, then? I want transparency. I want to belong to a group that loves people. ALL PEOPLE. And not with "I love you, but..." I want to see genuine love of all people. Loving our neighbors and getting real about what our struggles are.
But that starts with me. I can't moan about the church and all that if I'm not willing to embrace God and what he wants from me. I started this blog post with a rather scathing quote from Gandhi about Christians. It's harsh but can be very, very true. Even for Christians. But what good am I if I sit back and just be a complainer. I don't want to be that person, so I'll close with another quote by Gandhi as a reminder of what I need to be doing.
My life is my message.
Thanks for reading.