Christian jerks.

SHE. “Ugh, religious people are the worst.”
ME. “Hey. I’m a religious person. How am I ‘the worst’?”
SHE. “Oh, you’re not that religous.”
ME. “I beg to differ. I’m extremely religious. If I weren’t, I’d be even more of a jerk. Now explain how I’m ‘the worst’.”

The gist of my pagan friend’s complaint was how Christians are bigoted, narrow-minded, and judgmental—although she tried to make it very clear she didn’t include me.

Which is a fair comment. Plenty of us Christians are totally bigoted, narrow-minded, and judgmental. I certainly used to be. I try not to be; I’m trying to overcome all that fleshly behavior. I’d like to think I’m succeeding more often than not, which is why I could object to my friend: “How am I ‘the worst’?” The fact she agreed I’m an exception means I must be succeeding, sorta. Yea me.

And plenty of my fellow Christians also try to overcome such fleshly behavior. Like I said, it’s ’cause we’re religious. We’re trying to do the good works God laid out for us. Ep 2.10 Trying to love our neighbors. Lv 19.18 Trying to be kind.

So it’s not “religious people” who are the problem. It’s irreligious people, who are using Christianity as an excuse to be jerks. It’s unkind people, practicing Christianism.

“So you’re the real Christians, and they aren’t?” she half-seriously said.

Kinda. Some of ’em do have an actual saving relationship with Christ Jesus, so they are Christians too. Some of ’em don’t: Their utter lack of fruit means their Christianity is dead faith.

In both cases—unlike our Lord, who came to save the world instead of condemn it Jn 3.17 —they figure their first duty is to angrily denounce everything in the world which rubs ’em the wrong way. Loudly, just in case anyone didn’t hear ’em, or doubts their authority and sincerity. Since God is anti-sin, they figure they must be just as anti-sin. Problem is, God is kind. They’re most definitely not.

And when we’re trying to share Jesus with people, they’re the ones making our job all the harder.

And when I call ’em out on their bad behavior, they turn on me. ’Cause they’re convinced I should be on their side, joining their campaign, taking up the anti-sin banner… and hammer. If I don’t, “he who’s not for us is against us,” Lk 11.23 so I must’ve compromised the faith, and joined the devil’s side.

Besides, I preach a Christ they’re wholly unfamiliar with. He’s too kind, forgiving, gracious, and compassionate. Probably doesn’t want anybody to go to hell. 2Pe 3.9 Way too compromising for them.

…Yeah, there’s a really good case to be made for the idea they’re not real Christians. But then again, Christ Jesus is forgiving and gracious. Even to them.

Grace or consequences?

Pick your least favorite sin. Why’s it your least favorite? Could be all sorts of reasons.

Let’s say it’s adultery. Why might you hate adultery?

  • Your spouse cheated on you. Or, someone you love was cheated on.
  • One of your parents cheated on the other. The damaged relationship, whether it ended up in divorce or not, wrecked your childhood. Family functions are still a big mess.
  • You’ve seen the havoc adultery wreaks on your friends’ lives.
  • Cheating of any sort offends your sense of honor.
  • You equate it with promiscuity, ’cause certain promiscuous people put such a low priority on fidelity. And promiscuous people are just plain creepy. Note how they treat everyone as a potential sexual conquest, including you. Eww. (Because I grew up Fundamentalist, I was also raised to think of such people as riddled with STDs, whether they truly are or not. Adds to the yuck factor.)
  • You’re kinda tempted to cheat on your spouse. So to help strengthen your convictions, you preach all the more against it. (Gotta warn you though: This doesn’t help as much as you imagine in does. Confession and accountability works way better.)
  • You already do cheat on your spouse. The anti-adultery persona is an act so nobody suspects you.

Regardless your reasons, there are two ways you can deal with any least-favorite sin: Fight it any way you can, or preach Christ Jesus forgives it.

The reason Christians assume their first duty is to denounce sin, is because it’s the path of least resistance. They already hate sin. Doesn’t matter how much they claim people secretly love to sin (’cause human depravity): People may love all sorts of sins, but some sins go beyond the pale for them. Bigots can hate theft; thieves can hate murder; murderers can hate pedophilia.

In the case of judgmental Christians, they hate sin. But they love hating sin. And people, Mt 5.21-22 which they disguise as hating sin.

When other Christians won’t hop on their bandwagon of hate, they’ll quickly accuse us of not taking sin seriously. Not as seriously as they do. Not as seriously as they figure God does. We’re even accused of believing these things aren’t sin.

True, there are those Christians who figure sin was abolished by the New Testament. But the rest of us aren’t denying sin; we’re forgiving sin. We’ve chosen to practice grace, to forgive like God does. Jesus atoned for every sin, 1Jn 2.2 and that’s good news! So that’s what we preach.

It’s not that sin isn’t sin anymore. Of course it’s sin. But we emphasize grace. We dwell on what’s good, Pp 4.8 not on what outrages or upsets us, or drives us to despair. Dwelling too much on sin means we spend too much of our lives contemplating sin instead of meditating on God. It doesn’t produce good fruit. Just the opposite.

Adultery is sin. Ex 20.14, Dt 5.18, Mt 5.27, Mk 10.19, Jm 2.11 Nothing wrong with saying so. But if all we do is rail against adultery and adulterers, we’re not proclaiming good news—that God can forgive adulterers. If we refuse to befriend adulterers, lest we imagine it looks like we’re endorsing their sin, we’re not imitating Jesus, who hung out with sinners regardless of how it looked to others. Mk 2.15-17 If Jesus has any hangups about sinners, he obviously sets them aside, and shares God’s grace with them. What makes us think our “endorsement” counts better than Jesus’s? Who are we to deny them his grace?

Religion’s not our excuse to be jerks.

The only reason any so-called “Christian” rejects and denounces sinners instead of sharing God’s grace with them, has nothing to do with Jesus or religion. It has to do with our hangups.

Let’s say I have an acquaintance—we’ll call him Ennis—who’s an utter slut. Ennis cheats on his girlfriend with anyone who’s willing. Nothing but sex on the brain.

Let’s say I told Ennis, “I’m sorry. I can’t be your friend or have anything to do with you. Y’see, my mom doesn’t approve of your lifestyle. She says it’s wicked and you’re going to hell. So I can’t be around you anymore.”

Two conclusions he’s gonna reasonably come to:

  • “Your mom doesn’t approve of me? What, you gotta do whatever your mommy tells you? Where’s your backbone? Why can’t you make up your own mind?”
  • “This ‘my mom doesn’t approve’ deal: It’s crap. You’re the one with the problem. You’re the one who thinks I’m wicked and going to hell. Don’t put this on your mom; she’s probably a lovely woman. You decided to be this way.”

Both conclusions are absolutely correct.

Obviously this is an analogy. Go ahead and replace “mom” with God now.

And the conclusions are still true. We should be able to make up our own minds as to whether we’re gonna follow God or not; and if we’ve decided to reject people because “God says so,” it’s actually not because God says so, but because we have a problem with ’em.

We’re the ones who condemned ’em. Not God.

Now some sinners, thanks to awful Christian behavior, do actually believe God is as awful as they describe; that he is bigoted, narrow-minded, and judgmental, just like they are. Hence they figure religious people, and their God, are just the worst. He’s not good news; he’s bad. He’s not the light of the world; he’s darkness.

Wrong gospel. It’s why we’re not so sure about their Christianity.

Either we choose to deny ourselves and follow Jesus, Mt 16.24 or we choose to project our hangups upon Jesus and claim we’re following him when we’re really not. Either we choose to treat sinners with grace like our Lord does, or not ’cause we’ve reinvented God as a being of outrage, upset, and despair—just like us.

Don’t do that. Jesus hung out with sinners. Mt 11.19 Not to compromise his values whatsoever, but to lead ’em to eternal life. Go and do likewise. Don’t make God your excuse to be a dick.