Monday, August 25, 2008

No True Christian Part 2 - Confession

Since long before I even had the thought of starting a blog I wanted to give a confession. Not in the Catholic way though, I didn’t see the point of that. No, I wanted to confess to everyone. I felt this way ever since I read Blue like Jazz. In it (if you haven’t read it yet) Donald Miller tells of the time that he and some friends set up a confession booth on the Reed University campus grounds during a particularly rowdy festival. It was a rather strange mood as Christians weren’t the best loved group of people on this campus, but the difference was that they didn’t take confession, they gave it. They confessed their own shortcomings as Christians and the shortcomings of the church to anyone who would step inside the booth. I remember reading that chapter more than once because there was something incredibly right about that to me. So I had the idea to do my own confession long before I started the blog and once I started it I realized this would be the perfect place for it. Of course that was back when I didn’t think anyone would actually read my blog. Although it wasn’t really a case of me continually postponing actually doing it, the right moment for it just never seemed to arrive. After writing my previous post however, this just seemed like the most natural follow-up. After all, to talk about how we need to come clean regarding the times we aren’t acting like disciples of Jesus and then not actually do it would be the height of hypocrisy,

I ran into yet another great motivation for actually doing this post when I read a brilliant post by Digapigmy about racism and how we tend to judge a group of people by the worst experiences we have with them. This is most certainly true of Christianity and when reflecting on all the horrible things we have done in the name of Jesus I sometimes wonder why people still want anything to do with Christianity. I remember once reading this article in a magazine about a guy who got drunk after his girl left him and proceeded to vandalize all the traffic signs in town, causing a small fortune in damage. The reason I remember that is because in the article he was posing proudly with a WWJD bracelet and I remember thinking "Wow, so not only do you embarrass yourself but you plan on making Jesus look like an idiot right along with you?" It's just so easy for us as Christians to make Jesus look bad. I stand by what I said in the previous post – we – as the community of Christians – need to start owning our mistakes. Simply saying “those people weren’t true Christians” doesn’t make every evil thing done in the name of God magically disappear. Pretending we’re perfect isn’t fooling anyone.

This then is my confession:

First of all I would like to apologize to every non-Christian out there for the terrible things we as Christians have done. It would be presumptuous of me to pretend I can apologize “on behalf of” all Christians since I don’t really have that kind of position or authority. No one elected me the mouthpiece of Christianity. I can speak as a Christian however. Since the Bible teaches that all believers act as many parts of one Body, I cannot see myself as wholly separate from the things other parts of this Body does. I share a part of the responsibility and a part of the blame and therefore as a Christian, I ask your forgiveness. Not just for the Crusades and the Inquisition and the witch hunts of the past but also for the greedy televangelists, the faith healing con-men, the Westboro Baptist Church and all the fundies in online forums saying the most ignorant, cruel and stupid things.

I don't know why we do these things. Sometimes it's the way we've been raised, sometimes it's because we've been misinformed and for some of these things there is simply no excuse. These things were wrong, they were wicked, they are evil and they have nothing to do with Jesus. I know all the people who committed these terrible things would say they were acting as His representatives, they may even give many reasons in support including Bible verses, but they really aren't representing Jesus. If you look at Jesus - and I don't mean that in some kind of spooky, mystic way I mean if you just read about His life in the Gospels - you see that He was nothing like Torquemada or Fred Phelps. He didn't go around hurting people, He spent his life doing good. His message wasn't that God hated you but that God loved you and wanted you as a family member. You hear the words "Kingdom of God" and you shudder at the thought - and for good reason! The way people have been talking about this "Kingdom" is downright disturbing and scary sometimes. That was not how Jesus meant it though, for Him it was about creating a better sort of living here on Earth - one were we actually gave a crap about one another and didn't spend our days screwing each other over. People didn't follow Him because He forced them to or threatened them, but because they wanted to. He was good and He was kind, especially to those who didn't have it all together. He never lashed out at people who were broken or immoral or feeling lost, in fact the only people He ever lashed out at were the religious leaders who made the lives of broken people more difficult. You never see Him asking for money or even taking up collection - you do however see Him giving and giving and giving to the point of giving His own life. He wasn't slick and polished like the televangelists or too neat and clean to spend time with sick or outcast people. He was raw and revolutionary and real and He loved people and not in the fake way you often find in church but rather in the real way, they way that makes a difference. He didn't need clever speeches or fancy marketing, if He drew crowds it was because He was genuinely honest and kind and accepting of everyone.

Personally I have failed to live up to this example. In fact I'm sorry to say that if you have been looking to me to see what Jesus looked like I wouldn't blame you for not liking Jesus that much. He told me to take care of the poor and the sick and I don't do that so much. I don't feed the hungry or clothe the poor, in fact I usually wish that poor people would just leave me alone. Jesus set such a high standard for morality and I really don't measure up to it. I am self centered, greedy, lustful and selfish - all the things He asked me not to be. I don't always have faith, I'm not even always sure God exists. A lot of the time I feel as if God is more like an imaginary friend than anything real. I am good at theology because I know the Bible and I know the terms but I'll level with you - a lot of the time I do seminary assignments I feel like I'm writing an infomercial for a product I don't use. I have done a lot of wrong things and even worse - I've neglected to do a lot of right things. I'm truly sorry for not actually showing you what Jesus looks like in the way I live my life. Because that's the one thing I'm most ashamed of - the fact that actually doing it wouldn't have been impossible. I simply didn't choose to.

Considering the way my fellow Christians and I fail to live up to the example and teachings of Jesus I would understand if you wonder if there is anything real about it at all. The Buddhists do far better at the behavior thing it seems and the Muslims certainly do better at being devoted. These days its pretty hard to come up with a good comeback when people call Christianity fake. But please know that this movement, this organization, this monstrous thing that Christianity has become doesn't really resemble what Jesus (and His disciples after Him) brought to the world. The change for the better that Jesus promises is very real and it happens every day. I don't know why we seem to stray so easily but when we act like Jesus and we do what He told us to - when we see the inherent worth of every human being regardless of who they are and when we love people for exactly who they are and when we take care of the weak and the sick and the marginalized, there are no words to describe it. When it happens you can see the Kingdom Jesus was talking about and you want to be a part of it. The change He promised to bring to our hearts - it happens. I'm really sorry for not showing you more of that. Please forgive me for not always following Jesus. That's not His fault though. The fact that I got lazy doesn't invalidate Jesus any more than getting sick again after prematurely ending your antibiotics invalidates antibiotics. Just listen to Him for a bit and you will see that Jesus offers something far better than this monster called Christianity.


RandomSue said...

wow, that was really raw and honest. refreshing really. please know that you are not alone in your views. we just can't give up on the process of becoming all Jesus intended and we certainly cannot give up on trying to get the message out that the Christian machine is NOT what Jesus is about.

scoey-d said...

the Reed College confessional booth really resonated with me as well - I can remember reading it & thinking, "YES."

I've had a couple of opportunities come up at our local university where I got to (informally) confess our/my sins & wrongs... it was surreal.

GumbyTheCat said...

Jesus died on the cross because of the things you wrote about - that no one can live up to the ideals of Christianity. If it was easy being Christ-like, there would have been no reason for Christ.

Jesus lived, and lives, because no one is perfect. I fail every day, in the simplest and most easily avoidable of ways. But the true meaning of Christianity to me is that when I fail, I know it. I may be a weak Christian but I know what is expected of me. I also know that when I fail to live up to those expectations, which is approximately 20 billion times a day, Jesus is somewhere saying, "That's OK, that's why I was nailed to that cross - so that you don't have to be something you, as a weak mortal, cannot be. However, I expect you to keep trying."

God is the little voice in your head that lets you know when you're wrong, why you're wrong and how you can correct the error. Jesus is the little voice in your head that says you're forgiven when you screw up.

With our amazing technology and advanced society we tend to forget we are just simple flesh and blood creatures, not far removed from the animals we evolved from. We are an infant (and infantile) species, and being able to admit our flaws (as you have so eloquently done) is a major step in spiritual evolution.

I believe it's the people that think they haven't done anything wrong that God looks cross-eyed at.

TPluckyT said...

I really can't add much to Sue, Scoey and Gumby's thoughts . . . Well, maybe here's a thought . . .

You'll recall that Jesus said "On this rock I'll build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it."

I think it is highly probable that we are so indoctrinated with the concept that the church is an organized entity we fail to realize there may actually be a "true church" (for lack of a better term, maybe "grassroots" works) that is composed of true overcomers (those who don't give up in spite of their many mistakes) and that what we we normally think of as the "church" isn't really a church at all.

Enjoyable read Eugene and thanks for your openness . . .

RandomSue said...

Gumby- this may be the only thing you have written that I have really gotten a hold of. Beautiful and encouraging. Thank you for the reminder of who Jesus really is.

GumbyTheCat said...

Thanks randomsue.