“Christians have always tended to transform the Christian Revelation into a Christian religion. Christianity is said to be a religion like any other or, conversely, some Christians try to show that it is a better religion than the others. People attempt to take possession of God. Theology claims to explain everything, including the being of God. People tend to transform Christianity into a religion because the Christian faith obviously places people in an extremely uncomfortable position that of freedom guided only by love and all in the context of God’s radical demand that we be holy.” –Jacques Ellul
We Christians really are a faithless bunch. Want to send the average Christian – particularly a Christian like a pastor or church elder – into a nervous sweat? Tell them, “Jesus said the world would know his disciples by how loving they are” without adding any qualifiers at the end. No mention of morality or the need for correction. In fact, if you want to send them into a dead faint, point out that the biblical definition of love doesn’t include correction, purity or virtue.
Or tell them that you’ve decided to take Jesus’ instruction not to judge literally. From here on out you’re just going to take a live and let live approach. A person’s choices are between them and God so you’ll just leave the judging to God. You may want to bring smelling salts. If they’re still standing, you can add in that Jesus said we should be perfect like God who causes the rain to fall and the sun to shine on the good and evil alike. So you think we should help anyone in need without regard to whether they deserve it or not. And no making loans – if you’re going to help someone, you need to do it without expecting repayment. That should finish the job.
You could suggest that instead of fighting to protect our rights, Christians should follow Jesus’ teachings and example and refuse to fight. Let the other side defeat us without resisting it. They’ll either give you a blank, uncomprehending stare or quickly escort you off the premises. On the way out you could add in that God doesn’t really care if you receive or keep what you’ve earned through hard work. Just to make sure you’re never invited back.
Of course, not all Christians are like this. There’s a growing segment of Christians who already have a live and let live attitude. They work hard to be loving, accepting and willing to lose. Not that they have it all together either. Try telling them that no one has a right to inflict the horror of fatherlessness on another human being, so Christians are morally obligated to refrain from sex outside of marriage and to encourage others to do the same. Tell them its a matter of social justice. Be prepared to witness much equivocating.
Or tell them that government welfare programs should focus only on people who have no one else to help them – that no one who is connected by birth, friendship or community to a group of Christians should have to avail themselves of them. That making sure everyone we know has what they need is the responsibility of any Christian not in need themselves. Even if it means skipping a vacation or regular meal or an extra enrichment activity for the kids or walking outside rather than paying for a gym membership. That Jesus really meant it when he told the rich man to sell everything he owned and give it to the poor. And that the early Christians really did get rid of their investment property to meet the needs of the community.
If you want to be fair and make sure that this sort of Christian also never speaks to you again, you can always throw in that the places on the planet where people are the most free and women, minorities, the disabled and the odd are most respected are all places where Christianity has deep roots. Tell them that you believe missionary activity going on today his helping to make the worst places to live on the planet better and you can’t wait for the day when everyone knows Jesus.
Jesus said, “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” He also said, ” “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching.” The two are related. Christianity isn’t an easy religion. You have to want Love more than you want anything else. More than you want to be right, enjoy your freedom, keep your stuff, have a good name, please others, be comfortable, be included. It requires complete devotion to God – and not some anthropomorphic version of God, but God as he defines himself – Love. Squishy, mushy, ill-defined Love.
Which is why I started by saying that we Christians are really a faithless lot. There’s nothing I’ve listed here which ought to surprise anyone with even a passing familiarity of Jesus’ teachings. But we view the things Jesus taught as unrealistic. Those who would insist on keeping to them as too idealistic to be taken seriously. They create a moral hazard Yes we’ll do them – as long as we can add qualifiers. Wouldn’t want to get carried away.
At the end of the day, we don’t believe in our heart of hearts that God’s ways work. We don’t trust Love. And the truth is that it’s a foolish thing to trust Love. It may well cost you everything. Which if you believe that your life is yours to live and benefit from, is far too risky. Sure, we sing songs about being a “living sacrifice”, but that doesn’t mean we’re actually willing to live in a way that might benefit others – maybe even other generations – and not ourselves. It’s easier just to sing the songs and call it faith, eh?
* I went to find a picture for this post and put “narrow path” into the search engine. All sorts of pictures of beautiful paths through meadow and woods came up. Bullshit. So I put in “dangerous path”. Ahhh – that’s more like it.