Tuesday, 21 June 2016

"Christians Are Intolerant Bigots"

Now that I've got your attention, let me ask you how that title made you feel? Are you angry? Do you feel like hitting out at me? Do you want to blast me to hell in the comments section for saying something so outrageous? Well before you completely write me off, please listen to what I have to share...

Because for as long as I can remember, the church has targeted one group or another as being the very exemplar of the anti-christ. Hippies, musicians, new-agers, feminists, gays... the list goes on and on. Even the growing number of those leaving the institutional church are coming under fire from the gatekeepers of religious morality.

The trick is take a bunch of people who have something vaguely in common, speculate wildly on their motivations and then make outrageous generalisations about them. Pretty soon you've convinced yourself (and all those who also live in fear) that the end of the world is nigh and that you are the only true defenders of the faith!

Whatever the group, christians seem to have a knack of creating a solid conspiracy (often, out of very little at all) to defend against to their dying breath. Gays: well they're obviously all out to pervert our children. Feminists: they all want to emasculate men. New-agers: they're all hell bent of subverting every religious icon we have.

We seldom ask questions, and we almost never stop to listen to or engage with the 'other' because we're so busy 'knowing' how evil, nasty, and otherwise threatening this group is, and how detrimental to our way of life is their 'agenda'.

These are not individual people we are talking about, each created bearing the very image of God. No! They are part of an amorphous, malevolent perversion of God's word!

And any person who even comes near to associating with the feared group is automatically viewed as a minion of some vast and terrible attack on "everything we hold dear".

The problem with this is, of course, that we are doing to others exactly what we vociferously reject when it is done to us.

Just the other day, I had an online conversation with a woman who was very quick to defend herself and let me know she was not like her "American Christian friends".

Another guy was equally vocal about disassociating himself from "those type of christians".

And of course, I'll never forget the time I was berated by my boss (as my sister lay dying!) when he assumed I was making bitter generalisations about "all christians".

These are not isolated incidents, but regular occurrences. Stand in any group of christians and use the term "all christians", or talk about the "christian agenda", and you'll soon have a taste of it.

But is it appropriate to do to others what we hate being done to us? More specifically, is it loving and Christ-like to invalidate and dismiss a whole people group just because they are different - or worse, because we have judged them to be 'sinful'?

The truth is that nobody likes to be de-humanised and condemned by other human beings. Nobody appreciates being judged "guilty by association". We are individuals with our own unique ways of seeing the world and our own motivations for doing or believing the things we do. The last thing we want is to have others assume things about us based on what company we keep (or even who we choose to defend against injustice).

So here's a suggestion, let's stop judging and assuming the worst about 'the other' and actually engage with people instead. Let's follow Jesus's example and take time to sit with the 'outcasts'. Let's listen to those who see things differently. Let's stop labelling and demonising, and unmask and disarm our own fear.

2 comments:

  1. Self-justification has kind of been my theme of late. There is a love of grouping some perceived set of sinners together, looking down on them, and declaring that "at least I'm not wicked like them". We love to point fingers, and say "you're what's wrong with the world". It's good to remember GK CHesterton's answer the wuestion of "what's wrong with the world".

    He said, "I am."

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    1. Absolutely! Maybe it would be good if we spent more time addressing our own crap... and more time loving others without agenda :)

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