Note to reader: I only had time to write this post because I happened to be up late last night and was able to quickly jot down some unfiltered thoughts. I closed the comment section for this, only because I don’t have time right now (having a baby in 7 weeks, just added a teen to our family, working overtime, etc.) to engage in an online discussion. With that said, this is a topic I am more than happy to talk about in-person and at anytime.
I’ve been in the social advocacy arena for the last decade. I started out with homeless teenagers living on the street, then a shelter for women and their children leaving domestic violence, and now I am deeply involved in all aspects of foster care and child-welfare. This has meant that the bulk of my adult relationships have been with liberals of various religious – or no religious – beliefs. My past decade has been spent with youth care workers, social advocates, and social workers. These people are eager to see poverty addressed, drawn to advocacy, and despite their higher levels of education, they ignore student loan debt to embrace careers characterized by long hours and little more than minimum wage. Their passion for people drives them, and I have been blessed to work alongside so many passionate individuals, even in the presence of big differences in our belief systems.
That is the backdrop of me saying I am tired that the only “face” many of my liberal, social activist friends see of Christianity is constructed from sound bites on Comedy Central, Fox, and NPR, which usually involve an evangelical saying something incredibly insensitive. Name the topic: race, gender, poverty…and homosexuality. Hear me loud and clear: I am not blaming the media for this being the “face” given to Christians; when it comes to communicating on issues that divide the political parties, I wish Christians could be more articulate, compassionate, educated, and loving.
I am not afraid of talking about my God or what I believe the Bible tells me about life & living, and I want everyone to know the Christ who has completely transformed my heart and soul. However, the honest truth is this: Sometimes I am afraid of people meeting my Christian brothers and sisters, and I find myself anxious thinking of what words may cause unnecessary offense. I’m okay with Jesus and all that he stands for creating offense, but I struggle with his followers creating offense where Jesus doesn’t.
Yet, This anxiousness and fear of my two worlds colliding is ridiculous, because the truth of it is, the evangelical church is where I have met the most giving, generous, and self-sacrificing men and women. I actually think the friendships I have developed in both groups would enjoy each other greatly.
It is in the local church where I have seen people sacrifice financially – not just be generous, but forgo a vacation, their home, an upgraded vehicle their kids can all fit in, all for the purpose of meeting the needs of someone else. I have seen mothers willingly welcome a constant battle of loss and depression into their heart and home as they faithfully take children into their families, become attached, then have the children leave (sometimes knowing it was what was supposed to happen, while other times knowing the child is still at great risk).
I’ve seen black men have to filter through the ignorant statements of their Christian brothers and sisters who are in the white majority, willingly choosing to show grace and keep no record of wrong for the sake of maintaining a diverse church community…even though they would probably feel more comfortable in an all black context. I’ve seen people show incredible vulnerability and openness about their addictions, past child abuse, current broken marriages, depression, anxiety, and worthlessness. I have seen people who were not suffering choose to take on the suffering of others in order to provide love, comfort, and relief. And I could go on and on…
I have seen all these things in my Christian community. Being a part of this spiritual family has been extremely challenging and painful at times, but for the most part, humbling and beautiful, as well as something I have never come close to experiencing in any other setting. I hate that liberal churches demonize the evangelical church, turning them into the whipping boy for all that has gone wrong in this world. I love the local church, and I believe in the church.
But a lot of the world we live in doesn’t get to experience this face of Christianity, because their only encounter with Christians is someone who tweets about gay marriage or posts about how “stupid” and “un-American” Obama is. Due to the fact they only see a distant sound bite of a “Christian” congressman demoralizing people in poverty, so many of my friends have never gotten to experience the beautiful, sacrificial, self-giving, loving community that can occur within a local church.
And I think this problem has surfaced – yet again – with this new Arizona bill, which I find poorly written and completely unnecessary.
Christians need to move the homosexuality discussion away from social media platforms and to Starbucks, over a good cup of coffee with a liberal or gay friend. Your position and opinion may remain the same, but I really believe your tone, reasoning, and message would be different if you actually walked alongside and developed relationships with people who are not conservative Christians.
Scripture tells us that we are known by our love, but in fact, I keep hearing Christians talk about the world hating them as if it is something to be proud of. 1 John 3 says, “Do not be surprised brothers and sisters if the world hates you…,” but that verse is sandwiched within a paragraph that is talking about our deep, deep love for one another. I am not so convinced it is our love that is causing the world to hate us right now, but maybe there is a lot about how we communicate our message that actually prevents the world from seeing the incredible love that truly exists in Christian community.
Little love is communicated via regurgitating political sound bites. Let’s have Christ’s love eminate so richly from our lives that we cultivate a safe place to engage in real relationship with others, for it is through real relationship that you can truly understand and be understood by another.
And to my liberal friends who just can’t relate to what you see and hear from Christians in the media: To you, I ask for grace, and to please move beyond the sound bites to get to know some Christians. I’m not going to apologize for Christians as a whole or judge the evangelical church in a way that somehow acts like I stand outside of it. I will just say Christian community is so much more than what the political parties have hi-jacked it to be. The Republican Party doesn’t care about introducing people to the amazing person of Christ, but simply wants more votes. Unfortunately for now, the more passionately divided Republicans and Democrats are, the better it is for those leading each party.
Christians may engage in politics, but engaging in a particular political party is not a religious mandate. Christian community has been life-changing for me, and I love it and the people I do life with. I hope you too can get to know some Christians in a deep enough way to overlook and challenge the hurtful ways issues get discussed at a broad, popular level.