From time to time I have been known to blurt out this statement: "I don't like Christians."
Don't get me wrong. I am one. There are, truthfully, many, many Christians that I really like. I am willing to be patient with most. I recognize that we are all in process, and I am totally excited about who we can be as we live in Christ, rest in His love, and share His compassion with others. We, truly, can be awesome people.
But we can also be miserably religious, ridiculously petty, unbelievably shaming of others, and embarrassingly judgmental. My passion for "counter-cultural" church is not just a desire to "do church different" nor even an attempt to "do it better." It's really just a passion, in any way I can, to stand up as a contrary voice to the spirit of religion that destroys true spiritual life, leaves wounded people wherever it goes, and yet is so often tauted as Christianity despite the un-Christlike nature of it. Religous Christians can be the absolute worst of the worst.
These rantings are inspired by a true story recounted by Brennan Manning in his book, "Abba's Child:"
A while back Roslyn and I took a day off and decided to play in the French Quarter here in New Orleans. We roamed around Jackson Square sampling gumbo, inhaling jambalaya, and finally stopping at the Haagen-Dazs shrine for the piece de resistance-- a praline-pecan Creole hot-fudge sundae that induced a short-lived seizure of pleasure.
As we turned the corner on Bourbon Street, a girl with a radiant smile, about twenty-one years old, approached us, pinned a flower on our jackets, and asked if we would like to make a donation to support her mission. When I inquired what her mission was, she replied, "The Unification Church."
"Your founder is Doctor Sun Myung Moon, so I guess that means you're a Moonie?"
"Yes," she answered.
Obviously she had two strikes against her. First, she was a pagan who did not acknowledge Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior. Second, she was a mindless, witless, naive, and vulnerable kid who had been brainwashed by a guru and mesmerized by a cult.
"You know something, Susan?" I said. "I deeply admire your integrity and your fidelity to your conscience. You're out here tramping the streets doing what you really believe in. You are a challenge to anyone who claims the name 'Christian.'"
Roslyn reached out and embraced her, and I embraced the two of them.
"Are you Christians?" she asked.
Roslyn said, "Yes."
She lowered her head and we saw tears falling on the sidewalk. A minute later she said, "I've been on my mission here in the Quarter for eight days now. You're the first Christians who have ever been nice to me. The others have either looked at me with contempt or screamed and told me that I was possessed by a demon. One woman hit me with her Bible."
I hope, before God, that we don't take any issue, including the type of church we believe in or prefer, and make it a religious one. Religion makes us ugly in the worst possible way. There are NO issues, in the most primary sense, other than LOVE God and LOVE others. Whatever it takes, can we Christians just get on with THAT!