I like your Christ…

There is a famous quote, allegedly from Mahatma Ghandi (but some people say it can’t be confirmed – either way, the quote is profound and warrants discussion.) It says, “I like your Christ, it is your Christians I don’t like.”

There have been times lately when those words resonate deeply with me – times when, of late, I’ve had a Christian accuse me of things that he knows nothing about, and/or things that aren’t even slightly his business. Times when I’ve thought it in relation to hunting for a church and finding nothing with deep meaning or relevance. Times when I’ve thought it about people I see in the street or at a restaurant…

But, I also come from a different perspective than Ghandi. At least, I assume I do. I didn’t know the man, after all.

I operate under the mindset that God loves His church – so God, unlike Ghandi, loves Christ, but He also loves the Church. He loves both. He doesn’t reject the church because of their inability to live exactly like Jesus. He doesn’t just choose Jesus because He’s divine. So, I should have a more positive mindset towards the church.

But, let me just face it – sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I think Christians are idiots. Sometimes I think Christians are shitty. After all – humans are shitty, and Christians are human, therefore Christians are shitty too. And that’s okay to admit – after all, we aren’t supposed to be the heroes. Jesus is the Hero. Should we do our best to be like Him? Yes, of course we should. But we’ll fail. And that’s okay.
But here are some things I think Christians get really, really wrong – and I will express them in restated forms of Ghandi’s original statement.

I like your Christ, and your Christians are alright, but I don’t like when they’re just purveyors of cheap, meaningless art. Why does every “Christian” song have to have a happy ending? Why the need for everything to be fixed? What about real pain? Is it never okay to have a lamentation? Songs like “praise You in this storm” are good for perspective, but is it not okay to just mourn sometimes? Didn’t the psalmist have such songs without resolution? Why do Christian media outlets have to be so poorly named? Why is GodTube a thing? Why are the movies so bad? Hell, why is there such a push to be distinct in the arts? Why can’t you just make really, really good art and let it speak for itself? Why is there such a thing as “Christian” radio? If Christians wrote really good songs, they’d make it to mainstream radio. Why is the definition of a good painting a blob of paint that just turns into the face of Jesus?

I like your Christ, and your Christians are alright, but I don’t like it when they take employment with ulterior motives. I don’t like that they shy away from a fast-paced job, or a job where they’re isolated, because they may not have time to “minister” to their co-workers. What do you expect? Do you expect to come to work every day with a new sermon to preach? Why can’t you be an example of Christ in the excellence of your work, and/or in how you foster community outside of work? If you don’t have time to talk during work, you can always go out for a drink afterwards, or make dinner, or have them over to your house. Isn’t that the way the disciples did it?

I like your Christ, and your Christians are alright, but why are they so dang obvious? And I’m not talking about “they’ll know you’re My disciples by your love.” Why is it that you can tell that a group of bros is a group of “Christian bros?” Maybe what I’m asking here is why does it feel so cliquey? Why are your Christians so afraid of hanging out with someone who isn’t a Christian? Why do your Christians only hang out with each other? And why are your Christians only ever in coffee shops? Where are they in the bars? Where are they in the art galleries? In the restaurants? And – as much as I respect and appreciate scripture – why do they always have to have their bibles? Why don’t I ever see a Christian with a Richard Dawkins book, challenging their own thinking about what they believe to be true?

I like your Christ, and your Christians are alright, but why are your Christians the most dreaded lunch crowd on Sundays? What’s with two-cent tips? What’s with tipping a tract instead of actual money? What’s with not tipping someone because of an opinion that came up in your conversation and your subsequent disagreement?

I like your Christ, and your Christians are alright, but I hate your Christianese. Why such nuanced language? What does “pouring into” mean? Why cliché questions like “how’s your walk?” Why are people afraid of asking serious questions so they just change the inflection in their voice when they say, “how are you doing, bro?” Why can’t people just have normal conversations?

I like your Christ, and your Christians are alright, but sometimes your preachers seem clueless. First off, why waste four weeks in a year talking to one group of people? Why would your church ever do a series just for men? If you’re going to advertise it that way, and if you’re going to preach it that way, then you give women those weeks off. Why don’t preachers trust that the Gospel is good enough for all people? Why do preachers assume people are stupid and assume that nobody listens to the Holy Spirit, so they spend twenty minutes at the end of their sermon telling people what to do? Does nobody think in the church anymore? Listen, you don’t need a series for men. You need a small group for men. You don’t need a sermon series about Godly family structure – you need a small group about family structure. If you’re going to preach, then preach about Jesus. If you preach about Jesus, then He’ll shine through, and He’s the most important thing in the Bible – He’s what the Bible is actually about. So all of those passages you want to preach on about “biblical manhood” (whatever the hell that means) are really about Jesus. All of those passages about Godly families are about God and His family – established through Jesus. So preach Jesus. Stop thinking that you have to tailor-make sermons. Jesus is enough for everyone and anyone, and if you preach Him, it’ll make sense to anyone and everyone right where they are.

I like your Christ, and your Christians are alright, but your churches can be a total sham. Nobody needs a Kanye West cover song at the beginning of the service. Nobody needs lights and fireworks and a big ole PA. Be excellent, but don’t be excessive. Jesus wasn’t.

I like your Christ, and your Christians are alright, but they try to make every situation have a silver lining, and that’s disingenuous when someone is suffering.

I like your Christ, and your Christians are alright, but they could stand to be more honest.

I like your Christ, and your Christians are alright, but sometimes your Christians need to realize they are not Christ. They don’t always have to say something. They don’t always have to diagnose and accuse and prescribe. Sometimes your Christians are at their best to hurt with someone who is hurting, to keep their mouth shut when someone has an opinion or a thought or has done something they already know is wrong, or even if they don’t know it’s wrong. Sometimes the best thing is to make someone feel that they are not alone. No – USUALLY, the best thing is to make someone feel like they are not alone.

Because we aren’t. It’s not just us. Everyone in the world has a story. Everyone has an experience, everyone makes choices. It seems like modern day Christianity tries to create a cookie-cutter model Christian – and while it’s true that humans are to shape to the gospel, it’s also true that the gospel is true to every tribe, nation, and tongue. And that doesn’t mean (in my opinion) that every tribe, nation, and tongue consequentially congeals to look the same – but it’s the same message to very different people.
To people in the north, the south, the east, and the west.
To people who are into science, and to people who are into the arts.
To people who are thinkers, and people who are feelers.
To people who like alcohol and people who don’t – free from a moral bias (let the Holy Spirit guide and direct each individual.)
To people who smoke and people who don’t – free from a moral bias (let the Holy Spirit guide and direct each individual.)
To people who’ve got a sexual past, and to people who don’t.
To people who’ve got addictions, and to people who don’t.
To republicans and democrats.
To black and white.
To slave and free.
To Europeans, to Americans, to Africans, to Asians.
The Gospel is the Gospel, and the only thing I remember Jesus saying to just about everyone He met was: Follow Me.

That’s the most important thing. Doesn’t matter how it looks – just follow Jesus.

uncategorized behavior.

About a year ago, I started to understand the concept of why people make art. A good artist, in my humble opinion (or perhaps this opinion is a projection of my own reasoning for making art) makes art not based on the market that is open, or based on what the consumer wants, but based on what they’ve been through themselves (the artist, that is.) I heard musicians talk about how they don’t make music for other people, but they make it for themselves, and it’s starting to make sense.

When I was a senior in high school, I wrote a lot of poetry and a lot of lyrics, but they weren’t based on any personal experiences, they were just based on things I heard musicians say in songs and I tried to make it sound really nice and philosophical. And, honestly, I was probably a better writer (aesthetically) then than I am now. I abandoned writing just after that year because I felt such a lack of fulfillment doing it – it wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy writing or that I didn’t even enjoy my product, it’s just that I didn’t feel anything.

But recently, with the help of a few friends and a lot of listening to music, I’ve started writing again. In fact, I think that my ability to write blogs, for instance, has suffered a little bit, because I’m getting used to being concise and writing my thoughts over the course of a few bars, a few stanzas, a few lines.
My latest piece is one that came out of a time of processing my life – so in a sense, this is just a fleshing out of the thinking that went into that one – when I pondered my own mistakes, my own failures, my own humanity, and my own righteousness (or, as some would undoubtedly say, lack thereof.)

What does it really mean to be only human? And, as a piggyback to that question, what does it mean to be human and righteous?

See, I feel as though the biggest misunderstanding I have as a result of being in among Christian culture is that as a Christian, I have room to fail and make mistakes, but not the types of mistakes that the world would make. It’s almost as though Christianity subtly preaches, “there’s grace for your past, and there’s grace for your future, but the threshold changes a lot once you’re saved.” Let me explain…

Say there’s a young man who comes to Jesus at an early age, like 17. He follows hard for a few years – goes to youth camps, conferences, attends every Sunday, etc. then at age 21, he and his (Christian) friends start a band. They start playing shows locally, and it turns out that this band thing could really blow up and they could really start doing it full time. So they start booking tours. They start going on the road. They start meeting a lot of new people. They make friends in a band, and in the interest of friendship, they start going to bars before or after shows. A few times here and there, they get caught up in the fun, excitement, and overall strangeness of the situation, and they have a few too many drinks a few too many times. One or two of them even get in a fight. One of them meets a girl and starts kissing her and goes back to her place for a night. One of them has so many drinks that he blacks out and remembers NOTHING the next day.

Does that sound like post-conversion behavior to you? Probably not. But it’s sounding like it moreso to me every day, and here’s why…

I totally believe that spending years in church is a really good thing, and it’s a really great way to build a really great theological foundation, and it is a good way to determine the sort of behavior is good and what isn’t good, etc. But I also think that it’s easy to think that there are two categories of behavior: things Christians do, and things Christians don’t do.

Things Christians do include: read the Bible, hang out with friends at coffee shops, listen to worship music, read C.S. Lewis, listen to Christian podcasts and sermons, work at Christian businesses, witness to their co-workers, etc.

Things Christians don’t do include: go to a bar, have a few too many drinks, make out with their girlfriends or think of them in an even slightly sexual way, work at a secular or otherwise non-religious business, hang out with their co-workers just for the sake of hanging out, read a book by Richard Dawkins, cuss, listen to a non-Christian band, etc.

At least – that’s how I feel I was taught. Not by anyone in particular (I always want to be careful because I don’t want to make it sound like I grew up in a bad church or around bad people, but I feel like being in among Christian culture all of the time [this includes music, books, etc.] this is the impression I got. The church I came from taught me all about grace and I understood it in a very theoretical sense, it seems to me like this season of life is a season spent learning what grace means practically.)

So what happens when a Christian does something in the Things Christians Don’t Do category?

If he’s anything like me, he freaks out. He questions the whole thing, he beats himself up for being too selfish and having no self-control (perhaps true) he might even start to resent Christian culture a little bit. He wonders if God still loves him, he wonders if he’s stupid for being so subject to temptation, so on and so forth.
But –
– here’s where I become a heretic.
Christians are full of it, too.
As in, Christians make mistakes.

Christians probably most strongly condemn the things they’re most prone to doing. Christians probably most harshly judge the things they don’t understand, or the things they’re most afraid of.

I’m encouraged when I read the Bible because I realize that there are heroes we praise in the Bible who were absolutely full of shit and made horrible mistakes.

I realize that Peter was a coward – Peter, who swore he’d follow Jesus to death, denied Him without any threat of persecution.

I realize that Abraham was a coward and a liar – he pimped out his own wife for safety from the Egyptians (or whoever it was.)

I realize that David couldn’t keep it in his pants and he sought out the hot, naked chick on his neighbor’s rooftop when he saw her bathing. Oh, and then he had her husband killed.

I realize that one of our biblical heroes (can’t remember who off the top of my head) got drunk and his daughters went in and slept with him. HE HAD SEX WITH HIS DAUGHTERS.

I realize that Job was a bit of a whiner and a complainer when things went wrong.

I realize that humans are human.

I realize that there was never a threshold at which people stop making mistakes – these guys didn’t just stop making mistakes once they started believing God. Their lives didn’t take on this façade of sanitary morality – they made real, big mistakes in the middle of what most modern-day preachers would call “fulfilling their destiny” or the promise that God had for their lives. They did bad things in the middle of their “faith journey.”

I don’t write this because I want to justify the mistakes I’ve made – I write it because I’ve experienced first-hand how, in some cases, there’s a level at which the mistake you make becomes too big for the cross, according to this clean brand of Christianity we practice nowadays. I write this to cope with the thoughts I’ve had after a night when I had one drink too many and I felt the voices in my head saying, “don’t you dare open that Bible. What can you expect to find there?” When I’ve worked long nights and have had borderline murderous thoughts about people I work with or work for, or customers who made the day hard, and I find myself thinking that the last person I can turn to is Jesus, because if I really knew who Jesus was, I would have never done or thought those things in the first place.

Jesus.

Jesus, who is so full of grace and truth, who deals with us with such a tender heart and a faithful love. Who never rejects us for our mistakes – no, the only people Jesus seemed to come down on were those who didn’t realize their mistakes were mistakes in the first place.

Jesus, who loves us, even when we don’t understand in the least what that entails.

Jesus, who isn’t done with us, whether we stumble blindly in the dark or willingly turn away.