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.