There are times when I despair of my chosen faith. Not because I have a problem with God. Until we happen to disagree on something major of course. It’s more God’s self-appointed representatives on earth I struggle with. George Orwell, in The Road to Wigan Pier, slated both Christianity and socialism. As with the Christian religion, the worst advertisement for socialism is its adherents. I’ve ended up a Christian with socialist tendencies. And a feminist to boot. I have to tell you, George – you were right.
Now, I know Jesus didn’t go for ‘filling-churches-any-way-we-can’ evangelism. He preferred considered commitment. He didn’t sugar the pill. He didn’t pull punches. If people weren’t ready, he let them walk away. He didn’t manipulate. Or cut them a deal. Take the guy who didn’t want to part with his money (Mark 10 v 21-22). Jesus didn’t hot-foot it down the road after him. Wait a minute. Maybe we can sort this out. I was only kidding when I said give it all to the poor. How about a small donation to the building fund instead? Jesus didn’t do compromise. On the other hand, he wasn’t a fire-and-brimstone, you’re-all-going-to-hell kind of crazy preacher. No, really. He wasn’t. So far as I can tell, the only people he had a real down on were the religious establishment. The ones who thought they’d nailed it without his help.
Let’s take a quick look at the last few weeks’ news. We could start with the Polish priest who’s decided Lego is the work of the devil. Yes. I thought that was an April Fool too. Apparently he had an issue with My Little Pony once upon a time. I can sympathise with that. But Lego? Then there’s the American Christian school that slated an eight-year-old for not being ‘feminine’ enough. News of the demise of Fred Phelps drew more sympathy from the gay community than he ever had for them. In an ironic twist, he was excommunicated at the end of his life by the Westboro Baptist Church he founded. He wasn’t hard line enough for them. There’s also a preacher out there somewhere still insisting that women shouldn’t even say ‘amen’ in church.
See why I have issues? Talk about you’re-all-going-to-hell crazy. Whether it’s Lego models or same-sex marriage, why do Christians always have to be ‘against’ something? Just how does anyone justify hatred in the name of someone who said love your enemies? Endless finger-pointing on behalf of someone who said do not judge? It’s as if we become super-vigilant about everyone else’s shortcomings as soon as we set foot in a church. Conveniently forgetting that we’re far from perfect ourselves.
To be honest, I’m with George on this one. Hyper-critical hypocrisy is not a great marketing strategy. I’ve done my best to follow Jesus for the last thirty years and more. Yet I can still begin to question it all when I see some of my fellow travellers. Why would you want to make an eight-year-old worry about her individuality? Did Adam and Eve wear fig leaves in different styles? Why do we pick on a child’s clothing and remain blind to massive issues? Greed. Poverty. Injustice. Straining out gnats and swallowing camels. No wonder so many people want nothing to do with any of it.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying I’ve got it nailed. But I think I prefer Jesus’ approach. He didn’t harangue. Berate. Condemn. He met ordinary people exactly where they were. Ate with them. Talked to them. Listened. Loved. Wept for them. Never once did he lick his lips in gleeful anticipation of their eternal suffering. Anything but.
And if any of this sounds as if I’m judging anyone for being judgemental … I’m sorry … I guess nobody’s perfect. Thank God.