Sunday, September 23, 2007

When Christianity pushes people away

(Originally posted on another site by me--now its being moved:)

I wrote a recent email to somebody and thought I'd post it here and elaborate, since I have not posted for awhile...

I was in SF yesterday with a friend, in crowded Union Square. I came across a man well dressed in a suit with a huge sign that had phrases related to Jesus saving you if you stop sinning. All phrases were related to sex. One of the phrases was "stop whoring around"...another on the other side related to going to hell for having so much sex. To me this was a pretty warped view of how to be close to God.

Ive seen this type of stuff before, people with their signs relating to God and almost always in a negative way, but the word "whore" being used by a man trying to bring people closer to God struck me hard and offended me. I also thought of "whore" as only referring to women, as if we as women were the ones he considered would be going to hell.

I'm going to rewind a bit, and give some more background and then come back to this...

For those who may not know, I consider myself a Christian. It was a struggle for me though growing up, as I was always the type to just "go to church" on Sundays (although my parents made me go as a child/teenager), pray to a God I didn't know very well, and always wondered if there was more I was missing but didn't know how to find it.

My personal story is I have always believed in God, was raised Catholic, but was not always close to God and so for many years just considered myself "non-religious" even if I'd go to church on occasion. I was angry at Him for things that had happened in my life and to others. I would go to church and never feel connected, often ignored and judged instead. I got constant remarks out of pity for me, and those telling me theyd pray God would cure of my disability so that I could walk (Muscular Dystrophy--good luck Googling it--there are over 40 different kinds, and apparently I'm not "textbook"!), and if "cured", I could be more "normal" just like the rest of the world--where, as I saw it, if God wanted to "cure" me He would, and so it just made me feel like something was "wrong" with me.

This distanced me from the church, and I thought this "religion thing" just must not be my thing. I was left feeling alone in a relationship with a god I wanted to know but didnt know how.

It was during the Spring of this yr somebody I knew invited me to church. I was honest and said church wasnt really my thing and my relationship with God was more personal. She didnt push me, but told me it was different then what I was probably used to.

On a whim one night I went.

I consider that the beginning of what I call my "re-birth" and new relationship with a God I really never got to know.

This church was different. It was full of all different types of people, from all walks of life. It was full of life, it even had many non-Christians there just searching for something. It was inviting to all.

the pastor speaking that night certainly wasnt like the priests or other ministers I was used to. He was a stylish "rockabilly" looking man (who I now know as Dan) who spoke about God on terms we could all relate to.

Something that night happened and has stuck with me. I had lived the year prior in Santa Cruz finding it difficult to make friends--now I have many, I'm acknowledged, I'm shown through example of how to become closer with God, and my own relationship with God has become so different and is still growing.

I no longer just "go to church" once a week and thats all, but its become a part of my daily life.

It makes me think, wonder, learn to be accountable, want to learn and grow, realize I'm not perfect but can work on it, and start to forget about a lot of the superficial I thought would make me happier.

Going back to the day in Union Square, it makes me sad when I see that these people with their signs can become the stereotypical view of Christians. It makes me sad to think that when non-Christians hear I am Christian they think either we will have nothing in common or I will try to "convert" them.

I have many non-Christian friends. I don't "preach" to them, and they respect my views. I wasn't close with God myself at one time and thats the last thing I'd want is somebody telling me being a Christian will "save me".

Declaring my faith has been a true test for me--Those who believe in God are judged by many, and I am now often harder on myself. Its not easy.

I do hope that people can start to widen their perspective of Christians, through examples of those who may have been in a similar place like I was, and by those who have had a much longer strong relationship with God. My hope is that people can know that God loves ALL, believers and non-believers, even those who are angry at a God they struggle to have faith in.

Now again, back to my story of the other day...

I immediately went up to this man with the sign and bluntly asked "are you really calling women whores, and telling people they will go to hell?"...his reply was a robotic "its not me, its the word of God" which i said "well its on the sign YOU have and God doesnt call people whores in the Bible"....I then told him I thought he was pushing people away from God, and as a Christian woman I took offense to him using God's word in such a way...I got another scripted comment, realized he wasnt listening, and left...but then said from a ways away "You help give us Christians a bad name, thanks!" (alright, didnt totally keep my cool but I was really offended and knew his sign probably had more impact in keeping people away from God then bringing them closer).

A couple hours had passed and I had time to go gather my thoughts more clearly and really wanted to see if I could go back and talk to him, see where he was coming from, and also try to have a conversation...probably a little overly optimistic, but, I was going to try.

Unfortunately he was gone, replaced by people walking with signs and megaphones telling people they were going to hell.
I believe these signs called people "fags". This again upset me, but I was at a loss of what to do at this point. Everybody was just looking at them like they were crazy, a tourist attraction. I thought this was the view many would and do have of Christians.

It left me wondering what we can do to counteract such negativity in such open public places when I know this is how so many non-Christians have unfortunately come to view us who do believe in God.


Matt Anderson said...

I'm so glad you came to vintage and honestly happy I met you.

L.G. said...

Interesting. I am going to a Christian church with my boyfriend and I find it so different from Catholic church. I am so confused with the differences, rules, what have you. But I like it.

Jonathan Armstrong said...

This very post reminds me of a video Rob Bell put out, part of his Nooma series, called "The Man with a Bullhorn." As you can guess the story goes pretty much hand in hand to the one you just shared with us.

I wish to add a few comments of my own here. I do believe that these individuals intend on doing what is right in the eyes of God. But sometimes individuals get carried away and forget about the big picture. The greatest commandment is loving God and loving others. So obviously, these individuals calling people out and telling them they're going to hell isn't loving.

This also reminds me of the message I heard when I visted at Vintage a few weeks ago, when pastor Dan spoke about Hell. People choose where they are going... whether that be heaven or hell. I like the example he shared with us where a character from the video clip Elaine said: "If I'm going to hell, you should care that I'm going to hell." We as Christians should care about non-believers and about the state of their souls. Frankly, holding up a sign, doesn't seem to be a very practical means to an end.


Mi Evolucion said...

The thing is Lauren. I have never felt conected to God in any way. Maybe it was the way I was raised. I HAD to go to church, it wasn't a choice. Even with all the good things that I have, all the good things that happen to people I sometimes feel that God have in some way leave us away, Maybe he's busy, I don't know. What's more strange is that i feel this strange emptiness in my heart... and I don't know how to fill it.
I don't expect ypu to answer back. No one's do.