Today I was driving home, and I decided to flip on the radio. It was a “Christian” radio station, in the middle of a “news” broadcast. The announcer was talking about how some highly decorated military guy (I’m sorry, but I really wasn’t paying attention) was going to be speaking at a church in a near-by(ish) town. He went on and on about how said military guy had been in every major war since Viet Nam, 3 purple hearts, half a dozen other awards, blah blah blah. “Besides all this,” the announcer continued, “he is also a born-again Christian. The question is. . .
. . .what does he think about the army rolling back the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ rule?????!!”
“That’s the question?!” I blurted aloud–and shut off the radio.
Okay, so tell me why I was so surprised this was the question du jour, the question of great necessity? How come, when he was doing his dramatic lead-up for why we should all be listening to this grand speaker–how come all I could think of was “love thine enemies; bless and do not curse”? And why was that not on the mind of the announcer?
I’m not talking about war in this world in general, I’m talking specifically about the roll of self-proclaimed “born-again Christians” in the wars that inevitably come upon this world. It hurts my head to hear, without the slightest shred of recognizing paradox or quandary or difficulty, someone claiming to be both very good at the art of war (e.g. killing people) and at the same time claiming to be part of a religion who’s defining hallmark is supposedly “for God so loved the world, He sent His only son to die”–for crimes He didn’t commit, and without resisting. A religion that is supposedly defined by a radical, extreme, defenseless love, a love extended even unto enemies, loving those which do not love–and yet it’s followers don’t even blink to hold the sword in the other hand.
I know, I know, I know. . .it has happened all through the ages, and will continue to happen. But it just seems that in the last several days I have been bombarded with reasons why I hesitate to identify myself with anything that has the tag “Christian.” I want a new word; that one’s spoiled.
When the secretary at clinic asked me what type of music I liked, she was trying to be friendly, share the air-space, maybe find some common ground, and make sure she wasn’t offending me or stepping on my toes or driving me nuts by the music she was playing. It was a profoundly uncomfortable conversation, because I didn’t want to say I listened to “Christian” music. Not because I didn’t want her to know that I believed in God, or believed that I was a sinner incapable of saving myself or any other such thing–but because at a gut level I knew saying that I listened to “Christian” music would be slamming the door in her face, presenting myself as a pious, holier-than-though, I’m-too-good-for-you kinda person.
You can call it profiling if you want, but most people react that way. . .and people covered in Goth tattoos and who are ex-rock band singers I suspect particularly so. A week or so later, I got all the confirmation I needed that I was glad I hadn’t publicly vocalized adherence to the “Christian” tag. First the conversation fell onto how when she enters retail facilities she’s stalked by the staff who suspect her of shop lifting solely on the basis of her tattoos. From there it went on to how, when she worked in a video store, the “Jesus Freaks” would come in and hide pamphlets in all her videos.
“Dude,” she said, “I’m all good with each to their own beliefs and believe what you want to believe, but stop messing with my merchandise!!”
Yeah, like really. What kind of “witness” is it to do something so disrespectful as essentially vandalizing someone elses’s store?
The story continued to progress to how, during her time working at the clinic I’m at, someone had left a tract on her desk, because, as she puts it “somehow they think I look more profane than anyone else around here.” (Please note: she takes care to do her best to cover every tattoo she has while at work. She’s not deliberately going around freaking out the patients.) She found the tract so offensive (not her words, but the gist of her thought) that she kept it. She pulled it out for me and the other PTA to see.
It was horribly offensive. I don’t say that because it claimed a difference “essential” stance than I do–that evolution is false and that God created the world–but it is as though their one deliberate goal was to ridicule and shame anyone who didn’t believe them. It was a mocking, derogatory, condescending, revolting display of “Christianity”.
I see so much of this type of “Christianity” these days, that I don’t want to be a “Christian”. People hear the word “Christian” and they clam up, because they associate (and I cannot say wrongly) the word with people who don’t approve, people who look down on them, people who are snotty and superior toward them, people who have no respect for them.
Do I think our tattooed secretary has never done an un-holy thing in her life? No, but that could also be said of the innocent looking, porcelain doll-like of their PTA, and it could also be said of me. Recognizing God’s standards is not about condemning anyone who hasn’t lived up to them; it’s about recognizing that none of us has met them, and so we’re all equals.
I’m not saying I’m perfect at applying this. I’m not saying I don’t grind my teeth mightily when working with worker’s comp patients who are so obviously trying to game the system. But it leaves me feeling. . .I don’t know; sad, I guess, when you see people sizing you up. “Okay, a pious person; that means when you find out I’m not like you, you’re going to hate me, dis me, look down on me. I’m not good enough for you.”
I don’t like being viewed as the most morally superior person in the room. I am me and you are you, and God is over us both.
I just find it so frustrating, or sad, or pathetic or something, to be sitting here trying to figure out how to love the world and at the same time hearing how “Christianity” is trying to figure out how to judge the world. The time for judgment will come, to be sure, but that time is not now. But if this time was extended a hundred-fold, I still don’t think I’d ever be able to properly comprehend what it means to “love your enemies.” I suppose that’s the exact reason I feel we must to consciously consider such things.