Showing posts with label #Jerks. Show all posts
Showing posts with label #Jerks. Show all posts

Are Christian jerks even Christian?

by K.W. Leslie, 10 August

Bouncing back to the question my pagan friend had in my first article on Christian jerks: “So you’re the real Christians, and they aren’t?” My response is “Kinda.”

Other Christians will respond “No.” Kindness is a fruit of the Spirit, and if we’re not producing fruit as Jesus expects, these folks will point out there’s no evidence of the Spirit within us, so he may not even be within us. No fruit, no Spirit, not Christian.

And that’s a valid point.

No seriously: That’s a valid point. If we’re truly following Jesus, fruit’s gonna grow! In part because we’re gonna mimic his compassionate, kind, loving character: We see how Jesus treats people, and we treat ’em the same way. We’re not gonna project our bad attitudes on him so we can justify ourselves; we’re gonna choose to adopt his good attitude. And the other part is when the Holy Spirit pokes us in the conscience—“Hey, quit being a dick”—we’re gonna listen, instead of pretending the devil’s tempting us to stop being so zealous.

If we’re truly following Jesus, our character’s gonna transform into his. If we’re not, particularly if we’ve been self-identifying as Christians for decades, we might not even be Christian. Gotta repent and be saved.

But the reason I don’t just say Christian jerks aren’t real Christians, is because I’ve been one of ’em. And I was legitimately Christian. A sucky Christian, but still Christian. Fruit took a long time to develop, in part because instead of adopting Jesus’s character, I embraced the idea of cheap grace and took my salvation for granted: I did as I pleased, and didn’t bother growing fruit. Some grew, ’cause some always will, ’cause it’s how the Spirit marks his people. But it grew in spite of me, regardless of my poor efforts or lack of effort altogether. (I did grow in my knowledge of bible trivia, which was all the “fruit” my fellow Christian jerks cared about.) When the Spirit corrected me, or sent others to correct me, too often I’d blow him off: Didn’t God save me by his grace? He did? Well then I’m good… right?

Only good enough to be the lowest in God’s kingdom. Mt 5.19 But you realize Jesus expects more of us than that. Which is why the Spirit didn’t stop going after me till I got the point and worked on the fruit. Took me years. Takes others decades.

Some of Jesus’s first students committed some pretty serious dick moves, y’know. James and John wanting to rain fire on Samaritans. Lk 9.54 Simon Peter straight-up denied Jesus. Yet these things didn’t unsave them. I know; you mighta heard sermons which claimed otherwise. There’s a popular misinterpretation going round which claims Jesus had to restore his relationship with Peter by asking him “Do you love me?” thrice, Jn 21.15-19 to make up for Peter's three denials. Almost as if Jesus had to restore Peter’s karmic balance—which is how we know this interpretation is crap. Jesus totally foreknew Peter would fail him, Jn 13.38 and loved him anyway. Likewise he foreknew we’d fail him, as we regularly do. And no, there are no restorative incantations necessary. We won’t have to spend a thousand years in purgatory answering “Do you love me?” to make up for every boneheaded act we’ve committed.

Yes, Jesus saves jerks. Jerks like me. They’re not fake Christians, false Christians, phony Christians, lapsed Christians, heretic Christians. If they are, it’s because other things put ’em into those categories: Jerkish behavior isn’t what does it. You could totally be both a Christian and a jerk.

But please don’t.

Being a jerk: “It’s just who I am.”

by K.W. Leslie, 16 July

Many a novelty T-shirt warns you they’re coming. “I speak fluent sarcasm,” or “If you can’t handle me at my worst, you don’t deserve me at my best,” or “Back up till I’ve had my Risperdal coffee,” or “I can go from zero to [awful] in 60 seconds.” There, that counts as their necessary legal notification that they’re gonna be a jerk.

That, and pitching a hissy fit when somebody asks ’em to put on a face mask. Yeah, those folks are just a ray of sunshine whenever their faces screw up… Sorry, I’m also kinda fluent in sarcasm. But I’ll stop now.

I used to be a jerk myself. It came out as sarcasm, which is how I got away with it for so long in Christian circles: It amused and entertained people. I still have pastor friends who enjoy the fact I can say the things they can’t. Not because I’m being a dick and they have to be better than that; plenty of pastors are dicks, and Christ Jesus expects better of both them and me. No; it’s because when the things I say bug people, it’s not gonna make ’em quit my church, or try to get me fired. But back in my a--hole days, my pastor friends were jerks like me, and appreciated how much better I was at ridiculing people than they. I had more practice, I guess.

In any event, I mocked people so often I became known as “the sarcastic guy.” Which is not a badge of honor… but I wore it like one. I thought it was a compliment: “Look how clever he is.” Wasn’t just me either: When people met my family members, they immediately noticed we were all that way. Looked like it was hereditary: Mom did it, Grandpa did it; it’s our thing. So that became my excuse: It’s in my genes.

It really wasn’t. Sarcastic people are angry, the anger gets turned into angry humor, and that’s where sarcasm comes from. Grandpa was angry that Grandma treated him like crap. Mom was angry that Dad treated her like crap. I was angry with Dad too; same reason. Sarcasm was my outlet, and since I didn’t know psychology I of course misdiagnosed the problem. And since I enjoyed making fun of others, I justified the problem: It was hereditary. I was born that way.

Humanity does the very same thing with all our favorite sins: We blame ’em on anything but ourselves. It’s because we’re the products of evolution, of our environment, of the culture, that our families messed us up, that it’s a birth defect… and of course that it is a product of our birth, but it’s not a defect; it’s like mutations in the X-Men movies, which might have their down sides but ultimately grant us superpowers. We take neither credit nor blame for them; we can’t help them either way. We have no control. It’s all predetermined.

And if it’s all predetermined, if it’s all part of the design and the plan for the universe, who’s ultimately responsible? God. He put it in us. Who else?

And God is good, and God doesn’t create evil, so if he made me this way, it can’t be evil. Doesn’t take long before determinists discover this logical argument, and immediately apply it to themselves: “I may be a rotten bastard first thing in the morning, but God didn’t make me a morning person; he made me this way. So back up. Touch not the Lord’s anointed.

So yeah, this is how jerks justify a whole lot of jerkishness. We pass the buck to God.

God’s not gonna accept it though.

I didn’t put it in you.”

Yes, in the beginning God created humanity, and called us good. Then humanity sinned, and now we’re not good. We sin; we’re self-centered. God didn’t put those traits in us, and it’s wrong to credit him with ’em. Even when we like some of those traits; if we think they’re badass. God doesn’t agree.

Imagine an automobile manufacturer who puts out a really good, reliable car, then sends ’em to the dealerships. The dealer thinks they’ll sell better if she repaints them, so she does. The dealer’s mechanic thinks he knows a trick to get better mileage out of the cars, so he tinkers with the engines. The customers don’t know any of this, and when they buy the cars they assume they’re getting ’em just as the manufacturer made ’em. Well, that’s kind of humanity’s deal. We’re not as God originally made us. Sin’s tweaked us a bunch. We need a factory reset.

The stuff God actually does put into us, is the fruit of the Spirit. We just have to cooperate with the manufacturer. But we don’t; we’re kinda fond of the “customizations”—which are actually flaws.

Jerks enjoy being jerks. They don’t care to change their character and become more like Jesus; they’d far rather be jerky than fruity. They like being known as the tough guy or the bad b----; they identify with these traits and consider them essential to who they are. They don’t want the Holy Spirit to mess with “perfection.”

But he will, ’cause he’s got an entirely different idea of perfection.

I had to get over my desire to remain “the sarcastic guy.” The Holy Spirit had to convince me I need to be better than that. ’Cause as far as I was concerned, there wasn’t better. Sarcastic Guy had fans, got laughs, was fun. I had a few arguments with the Spirit about it; I wasn’t gonna win, but I didn’t know any better. I insisted this was who I am, but he countered with, “But I didn’t put it in you.” And if it didn’t come from God, it’s gotta go. True of everything.

A lot of people are avoiding this particular conversation with the Holy Spirit… ’cause deep down, they know it’s coming. He really does want us to change, to become better people, to be more like Jesus, to produce fruit. And we’d really rather not. We’re comfortable where we are. We’re having fun; why’s the Spirit anti-fun? Well he’s not, but they don’t trust him enough to accept that he knows better, and has better things in mind for us.

He’s not content to leave us where we are. We shouldn’t be content where we are either. We should always strive for self-improvement. The path to that, is through Jesus. Follow him.

Zeal’s a work of the flesh.

by K.W. Leslie, 15 July

Frequently the excuse Christians make for being jerks is… they’re just so dedicated to God. He comes first. Orthodox truth and godly standards and biblical principles come first. Your feelings, your hangups, your boundaries, your convictions, most definitely do not—nothing comes before God. They’re never gonna compromise that. It’d be idolatry.

So while they’re defending God and his favorite things (which coincidentally happen to be their favorite things, ’cause projection they’re so tight with God), if they happen to set aside kindness, patience, gentleness, forgiveness, grace, love, or any other of the Spirit’s fruit… well, that’s just gonna be a casualty of the culture war. Fruit’s important and all that, but orthodoxy? Principles? Standards? Absolute truths? We can’t compromise those things; the whole universe will fall to pieces if we do. But we can totally compromise fruit, ’cause on God’s cosmic totem pole fruit’s probably not that important.

Which only goes to show how Christian jerks don’t really know God as well as they imagine. The Spirit’s fruit is God’s character. You think his character’s not important? Not so important, he deposited God himself in us so he can teach and grow this character in us, transform our very nature, and make us like Jesus? Seems fruit’s rather high on God’s list of priorities. But not theirs. They’d rather remain the same jerks they’ve always been, but slap Christian labels on all their works of the flesh instead of do the hard work of transforming into what God wants them to become. It’s way easier. It’s hypocrisy though.

And one of the things they slap Christian labels upon, is their impatience. Which they call zeal, and claim God wants ’em to be zealous. Wasn’t Jesus zealous when he flipped those tables in temple?

John 2.12-17 KWL
12 After this, Jesus went down to Kfar Nahum with his mother, his siblings, and his students.
They stayed there—not many days; 13 it was nearly the Judeans’ Passover.
Jesus went up to Jerusalem, 14 and in temple he found cattle-, sheep-, and pigeon-sellers,
and coin-changers taking up residence.
15 Making a whip out of ropes, Jesus threw everyone, plus sheep and cattle, out of temple.
He poured out the money-changers’ coins, and flipped over the tables.
16 He told the pigeon-sellers, “Get these things out of here!
Don’t make my Father’s house a market-house!”
17 His students were reminded it’s written,
“The zeal of your house will eat me up.” Ps 69.9

Look how zealous Jesus was for his Father’s house! Shouldn’t we be just as zealous for our Father’s house?—and for all the things in it, like orthodoxy and principles and standards? Shouldn’t we be willing to whip a few people if need be?

Here’s the problem: When Paul wrote about the Spirit’s fruit in Galatians, he first stated there are a few character traits we shouldn’t see among Christians, ’cause they indicate a person who’s not following the Holy Spirit. Instead they’re following their own selfish, fleshly impulses. And he provided a list—not a comprehensive one, but it gives us the general idea—of the behaviors we’ll find in such people.

Galatians 5.19-21 KWL
19 Fleshly works are obvious in anyone who practices the following:
Promiscuity. Uncleanness. Unethical behavior.
20 Idolatry. Addiction. Hatred. Rabble-rousing.
Too much zeal. Anger. Partisanship. Separatism. Heresy.
21 Envy. Intoxication. Constant partying. And other people like these.
I warn you of them just like I warned you before:
Those who do such things won’t inherit God’s kingdom.

Now check out that item in the second line of verse 20: “Too much zeal.”

Sometimes fleshly… and sometimes not.

What’s it say in the original Greek text of Galatians? Ζῆλος/zílos. Our word comes from their word. It’s not a different word. But it certainly gets translated as other words:

  • AMPLIFIED, CSB, ESV, GNT, ISV, MEV, NASB, NET, NIV, NLT, NRSV, TLV, VOICE: Jealousy.
  • CEB: Obsession.
  • GENEVA, KJV: Emulations.
  • WYCLIFFE: Indignations.

Jealousy, y’notice, is the most popular translation. Because people don’t wanna translate zílos as zeal.

In part because of that quote from John, which is a quote from Psalms, “The zeal of your house will eat me up.” Jn 2.17, Ps 69.9 If Jesus was zealous, and zeal is fleshly, we can’t say Jesus was being fleshly. The Spirit’s fruit is his character and nature; fleshly works are antithetical to Jesus’s very nature!

Likewise Paul wrote it’s okay to be zealous in certain situations—and in the very same letter to the Galatians; in just the chapter before.

Galatians 4.17-18 KWL
17 The legalists are zealous for you. Not for your good:
Instead they want to isolate you, so you can be zealous for them.
18 Being zealous is good—when it’s for every good thing,
and not only when I’m present with you.

He used the verb-form of zeal, ζηλόω/ziló. Means the same thing. And stated zealousness is good—when we’re zealous for good things. When we’re zealous for God, for trusting and following Jesus, for loving our neighbors, for the scriptures… and yes, even for orthodoxy, principles, and standards.

Yet Paul still called zeal a work of the flesh. Because, when misplaced or taken to extremes, it can go very, very wrong.

Same with jealousy. Y’notice those other bible translations turn zílos into “jealousy,” figuring zeal’s fine but jealousy’s not. Well, sometimes jealousy is fine. God is jealous. Straight-up calls himself jealous. Ex 20.5, 34.14 Which means he doesn’t want us worshiping anyone but him, and he’s right to feel that way; worshiping anything else will ruin us, and not because God does the ruining. And when humans get jealous, it’s likewise because we want someone’s exclusive devotion. Sometimes rightly so! You don’t want your spouse lusting after other people; you likewise don’t want our fellow Christians trying to borrow contradictory ideas from other religions, just because they prefer what the Buddha taught to what Jesus teaches.

Now. When I point this fact out to certain Christians, it freaks them out. Because they like their lists of dos and don’ts to be absolute: Always do this; never do that. Makes it simple. Means you don’t have to think too hard. Means you don’t have to practice wisdom—and there’s the real issue, right there. They’d rather not think! Or they’re a bit legalistic, and would prefer that other Christians not think; just act. They don’t want such things as situational truths, to exist. Some of ’em insist there are no such things; that everything’s a black-and-white issue; that this is how loopholes and relativism and sin happen.

But the reality is the bible was written for wise people. And if you lack wisdom, go get some; the Holy Spirit’s giving it out for free. Jm 1.5 He’ll tell you where and how to apply it. He’ll tell you whether you’re practicing proper zeal for God’s house… or improper zeal, which rightly alienates Christians and pagans alike.

Improper zeal.

And of course improper zeal demonstrates most of the other works of the flesh. It’s unethical. Hate-filled. Rabble-rousing. Angry. Partisan. Separatist. Heretic. Envious. And when it’s hopped up on caffeine, sugar, alcohol, adrenalin, or (less likely, but it happens!) liquor and cocaine, yep it’s intoxicated.

Improper zeal ditches the Spirit’s fruit because that stuff gets in its way. It doesn’t bother to be patient and kind. It claims it’s acting in tough love, or harsh love, or “love” modified by all sorts of adjectives which take all the actual love out of it. It’s not about winning people over, but about winning—we gotta defeat our opponents in the debate, or purge sinners instead of rehabilitate them. It’s not about growing closer to Jesus, but about achieving personal goals in knowledge, power, or prestige. It’s not about love of God; it loves his stuff or his perqs, like miraculous power or New Jerusalem—and God himself is secondary, and sometimes we can even take or leave him.

Proper zeal exhibits good fruit: More love, more patience, more grace. Those who demonstrate proper zeal are never gonna get called jerks by the people they interact with—or even the people who oppose them. Even their opponents will appreciate their zeal. They might totally think it’s misplaced—“Y’know, all that effort she puts into her ministry would make her far more money in the private sector”—but they’ll still appreciate it, and recognize she’s a good person regardless of their feelings about her ministry.

Improper zeal? Just the opposite. Their opponents don’t appreciate their enthusiasm; to them it just demonstrates how they’re dicks through-and-through. Any good which might’ve come from it, is wholly squandered.

So yeah, when the subject of zeal comes up, we gotta use our noggins. What kind of zeal are we talking about?—the good kind, or the evil kind? What kind of fruit is it producing? Pay attention. And be cautious, ’cause human nature means it’s more likely to go wrong than not.

“But Jesus was a jerk sometimes.”

by K.W. Leslie, 14 July

Probably the Christian jerk’s favorite excuse for their awful behavior is Jesus himself: He’s a bit of a jerk sometimes, they’ll argue. Therefore sometimes (although it’s way more often than sometimes) it’s all right if they get a little bit jerkish.

Since when is Jesus ever a jerk? Well, they got proof texts.

Let me preemptively say they really don’t. They’ve got Jesus stories where yes, he can be accused of rude, harsh, thoughtless, dickish behavior. But this interpretation is entirely based on the presumption Jesus had a bad attitude: People pissed him off, so he was clapping back at them. Despite having God’s very nature, he decided to act entirely unlike himself, and be fruitless instead of fruity.

Why do they presume Jesus had a bad attitude? ’Cause they have a bad attitude. ’Cause they’re projecting their own bad attitudes upon Jesus. The gospels don’t remind us of his motives and character in every single story; the authors figured we oughta know Jesus already, or at least we oughta hear the stories from someone who does. They didn’t take into account all the selfish people who spin Jesus wrong in order to justify their own fruitless behavior.

And that’s what we have in all the Jesus stories they use to defend themselves: Misinterpretations. Every last one of ’em.

If you truly follow Jesus, you know what he’s like. He’s loving, patient, kind, generous. He’s thoughtful, not reckless. He’s self-controlled, not impulsive; especially not angrily impulsive; he gets ahold of himself so that love, not anger, is his driving force. Really love’s his only driving force.

If your interpretation of Jesus has him acting with any other motives, you don’t know him. Get to know him.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!”

Every Christian jerk’s favorite proof text is Matthew 23, where according to popular interpretation, Jesus has absolutely had it with the Pharisee and their scribes, and tears ’em a new one. This is the “woe to you” chapter, and the way people like to imagine Jesus, he’s just livid with rage and bile. Here’s a few pull quotes.

Matthew 23.13 NIV
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.”
 
Matthew 23.27-28 NIV
27 ““Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”
 
Matthew 23.33 NIV
“You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?”

Pretty much every translation from the King James onward has thrown in a number of exclamation points, ’cause they wanna give you the idea Jesus was yelling his head off at them. That’s how popular Christian culture has chosen to interpret Matthew 23, and far be it from them to disagree. To most, Jesus is cursing the Pharisees, calling down woes upon them in condemnation of their hypocritical behavior.

That’s not accurate. The bit the NIV renders “Woe to you” is οὐαὶ ὑμῖν/ue ymín. The ue is actually a Greek transliteration of the Hebrew word אוֹי/oy. We have that word in English, ’cause Yiddish-speakers used it so often: “Oy vey,” meaning “woe to me.” No, those who say “oy vey” aren’t cursing themselves; they’re expressing their own misery. Life is rough, and they’re lamenting this.

The Good News Translation puts it a little better:

Matthew 23.33 GNT
25 “How terrible for you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees! You hypocrites! You clean the outside of your cup and plate, while the inside is full of what you have gotten by violence and selfishness. 26 Blind Pharisee! Clean what is inside the cup first, and then the outside will be clean too!”

I mean it is terrible for them that their hypocrisy blinds ’em to the fact they’re not as good as they imagine. But again, Christians have traditionally read our own bad attitudes into Jesus’s statements, and assume he’s lecturing them. In reality he’s diagnosing them. This is what’s wrong with too many Pharisees: They focus on looking outwardly devout, but they’re not any more fruitful than before. Christian jerks are exactly the same.

Those who claim Jesus is raging at Pharisees, really don’t understand what he’s doing. He’s lamenting too. He’s weeping in dismay and frustration. As is obvious from how he ends his rant:

Matthew 23.37 GNT
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem! You kill the prophets and stone the messengers God has sent you! How many times I wanted to put my arms around all your people, just as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you would not let me!”

He’s a spurned father, not an angry crank. Anybody who thinks otherwise is projecting.

And anyone who knows what Jesus is actually doing, but doesn’t care because it doesn’t let ’em get away with being a Christian jerk, is just as much a hypocrite.

Flipping tables, cursing trees, rude names, dead pigs, and the poor.

Moving along, we got Jesus flipping tables in temple. This one’s real popular with jerks who like to pick fights: Jesus got to whip people, so why not they? But double-check that story: Jesus doesn’t appear to whip anyone. Nor does anyone arrest him, or object that he shouldn’t do as he just did. They wanna know who gave him authority to act, Jn 2.18 but they never object and say he did wrong. Because those who ran the concessions legitimately weren’t supposed to be where Jesus found ’em. Jesus simply did the temple cops’ job for them.

There’s where Jesus was annoyed, so he killed a fig tree. Mk 11.12-14 Which strikes me as a little strange when people comment, “Aww, the poor tree.” Jesus used to be a carpenter; he had to get wood from somewhere, so this can’t possibly be the only tree he ever killed! But I think it’s the fact Jesus killed it with words alone which make people pay attention. Words can hurt as well as heal, and in this story Jesus demonstrates this profoundly—and that’s the point. Mk 11.20-24 People miss this point, assume Jesus killed the tree for petty reasons, figure that permits them to be petty… and no, that’s not the point either.

There’s the story of Jesus and the Syrian Greek woman who wanted Jesus to cure her daughter, and Jesus called her a dog. Mt 15.22-28 Most Christians realize Jesus wasn’t really being racist; he was testing whether her pride would get in her own way. It didn’t.

There’s Jesus calling Antipas Herod a fox, Lk 13.32 which is kinda like how we nowadays call somebody a weasel: It’s a sneaky, thieving, ignoble animal. Doesn’t show a lot of respect for his king. (To be fair, Jesus is the proper king, and Herod was a weasely, murderous politician.) I should point out “fox” is as bad as Jesus gets in his descriptions of others, whereas Christian jerks say far, far worse. And we often slander our political opponents, just ’cause they’re on the wrong team. Calling a weasel a weasel was at least honest of Jesus; jerks can’t even do that.

Lastly I’ll point out Jesus letting demons kill a few thousand pigs. This one, jerks tend to skip ’cause they never realize how useful it can be to justify serious property damage. It can’t have gone over well with the Syrian Greeks who owned those pigs; it implies some thoughtlessness on Jesus’s part, ’cause he should’ve known the evil spirits would’ve slaughtered them. But we actually don’t know whether the evil spirits killed themselves… or whether the pigs chose to kill themselves rather than be possessed. Bible doesn’t say. And Jesus might not have known what the consequence would be; all he cared about at the time was the poor demoniac in front of him, and people take priority. Putting people first, and wealth second, is the correct move y’know.

Lastly Jesus’s comment about “the poor you will always have with you,” which materialists like to use to justify doing nothing for the needy. That one’s clearly not Jesus being a jerk; it’s purely taken out of context. There are many verses where Jesus obviously isn’t being selfish or jerklike at all, but Christian jerks misuse ’em to defend their behavior, ’cause any excuse will do.

Jesus is nobody’s excuse.

But I hope I’ve made it clear Jesus is not at all a valid excuse for Christians to behave badly.

Oh, they’re still gonna use him. And think they’re entirely right to. The human mind is wonderfully creative, and can psyche itself into believing anything that’ll let it get away with anything. Nobody likes to think of themselves as evil (well, unless they wanna terrify others, or have totally sold themselves out to evil), so they’ll bend, fold, spindle, mutilate, and outright deny any facts which say otherwise. They wanna claim Jesus, so they’ll go out of their way to distort him first.

And in so doing, convince pagans maybe Jesus is a jerk too. That, in many ways, is a far greater problem than the predominance of Christian jerks.

Christian jerks.

by K.W. Leslie, 13 July
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 religious.”
ME. “I beg to differ. I’m extremely religious. If I weren’t, I’d be a massive jerk. Now explain how I’m ‘the worst’.”

You can tell my pagan friend recently had a bad experience with a Christian, and wanted to vent. Wanted to complain how religious Christians are bigoted, narrow-minded, and judgmental.

I could start ranting about her own religious prejudices here—as many of my fellow Christians immediately would. But not today. ’Cause there’s good reason for this negative stereotype she claims for all Christians. You’ve seen it too: The Christian jerk. The person who claims they follow Jesus, but are just awful to other people. Sometimes to pagans and fellow Christians alike; sometimes just to pagans. With all the bigotry, narrow-mindedness, and judgmentalism my friend objects to… and thinks all of us are like.

I wanted to burst this stereotype, which is why I challenged her to define me by it. But she just figured I’m an exception to the rule—I’m “one of the good ones.” She’s still pretty sure religious people are the worst.

Way too many of us Christians are totally bigoted, narrow-minded, and judgmental. I don’t know the percentage of Christians who are like this; Jesus does, but he’s not told me. I will say it sometimes feels like a lot. I’ve visited churches where they’re all jerks. I’ve also visited churches where none of ’em are… at least, not that I could see; I don’t know how they behave when they’re on Reddit hiding under their screen names. In any event it’s too many, and they give antichrists a legitimate reason to despise Christians.

How do these people justify such fruitless behavior? Any way they can. Any excuse will do. Usually by preemptively condemning the people they wanna be terrible to: They’re sinners; they have it coming. God’s gonna smite them, so they’re just warning the sinners of this… or in all sorts of little ways, they’re making contributions to the smiting.

I used to be one of ’em.

No, I’m not exaggerating some minor unloving misbehaviors. I was a real a--hole, and I didn’t discriminate between pagans and Christians either. Think Ann Coulter with more swearing.

I’m definitely not that way anymore, which is why I could actually tell my friend, “How am I ‘the worst’?” and she could actually consider me “one of the good ones.” Means I must be succeeding, more or less. Yea me.

Plenty of my fellow Christians are also trying to resist such fleshly, unloving behavior. And like I said, it’s because we’re religious. We’re trying to perform the good works God laid out for us. Ep 2.10 We’re trying to love our neighbors. Lv 19.18 Trying to be fruity; trying to be kind.

Pagans have a pretty good idea Jesus teaches such things, but they also figure Christians are giant hypocrites whose “religion” is to affiliate with Christ but not really follow. You know, Christianism. Religion and irreligion is all the same to them, so of course they blame religion.

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

Kinda.

Not that Jesus won’t save them; we’re saved by grace not good works. But a Christian follows Jesus, and if we legitimately follow him we’re gonna produce fruit! The Spirit’s gonna transform our character to resemble Jesus’s. We’re gonna be patient, gracious, gentle, kind, forgiving, like Jesus: We’re not gonna be jerks.

The Christian jerk doesn’t reflect Jesus’s character at all. Oh they might, in private; various people are quick to defend prominent jerkish Christians by pointing out their acts of charity, or how kind and loving they are to their family, friends, and pets. (Big deal, Jesus once pointed out; pagans do this too, so how’re we any better?) Thing is, this argument is used to dismiss how, when it really matters—when it’s vital a Christian be Christ to people who need Christ at a critical moment—they blow it. Not just the one time; even the best of us stumble once in a while. I’m talking consistently. I write of Christians who simply aren’t christlike. And they aren’t getting any better. We got too many.

Taking pride in one’s jerkishness.

When I call people out for their jerklike behavior and call it fruitless, most of ’em don’t know how to respond to me. Because nobody’s ever done this before.

Let me write that again, in italics. Nobody’s ever done this before.

A third time, in caps. NOBODYS EVER DONE THIS BEFORE.

I’m not saying nobody in the world ever rebukes fruitless behavior. My mom absolutely did with me. “Is that how a Christian’s supposed to behave?” And I had to admit it’s really not. And Mom’s hardly alone; plenty of Christian parents and mentors correct their children and disciples when they forget themselves and get jerklike. They expect better of us, and remind us Jesus likewise expects better of us.

But if your parents are sucky Christians, or your Christian mentors and “elders” aren’t all that spiritually mature… well y’might not have anyone in your life who’d even think to correct you when you get fruitless and unloving. Because they get fruitless and unloving on a regular basis—and make all the typical excuses for it.

Back when I was a young zealous Christian jerk, I was in the newspaper business. I’d write sarcastic opinion pieces for the newspaper about various issues, mocking my political opponents, trying to be funny while I slammed all the things which annoyed me. And the people of my church cheered me on. Encouraged me to keep it up. One of the associate pastors actually told me I was doing the Lord’s work.

No, they didn’t know any better. Nobody ever taught ’em better! Or did, like Mom (and the Holy Spirit), but like me, they ignored ’em as no fun, or not zealous enough. ’Cause it’s fun to be a jerk. Bullies wouldn’t bother if it didn’t feel good to smack other people around.

Popular pagan culture isn’t any better. Sometimes they rebuke jerks, like when outraged parents try to put a stop to online bullying. (Although y’notice they don’t really make a fuss till they or their kids are getting bullied.) More often we watch these jerks’ shows, or make them the protagonists of sitcoms, or elect ’em president.

Sometimes jerks even lead churches, and the church members cheer ’em on for slamming all the things they hate too. God forbid the members ever find themselves on the receiving end of their bullying pastor's ire; it's a lousy place to be, as any legalistic cult’s survivor can tell you.

How’d I snap out of this behavior? God’s grace. He put up with me long enough for me to realize the value in seriously following Jesus. As I investigated what following Jesus means, I noticed good fruit’s kinda important. So I sought that… and the Spirit purged the jerkishness out of me. Not all at once; it’s a process. It’s not entirely gone yet. Still working on it.

But at least I now know better than to revel in my awful behavior… as you’ll still see among Chriatians who warn you, “I speak fluent sarcasm,” or “This is who I am; deal with it,” or “I have zero tolerance for you bulls---,” or the various other red-flag T-shirt slogans they tweet. All of which mean, “I’m deficient in the Spirit’s fruit and proud of it.”

And a lot of people are proud of it. They sell T-shirts with these slogans on ’em, you know. They sell rather well. Christians wear ’em too. They take pride in being ornery, impatient, hostile, even shooty. They figure they’re right to be immediately angry at whatever pisses them off; it’s a righteous anger; impatience is a virtue.

It’s all over the culture, and all over Christendom. And like I said, many a Christian indulges in this behavior, and nobody rebukes ’em for it. Because they’re doing it too.

Call them on it!

Jerks aren’t gonna change unless they realize they need to. And they’re not gonna realize they need to, not gonna even think they need to, unless they’re first called out for their bad behavior.

Like most people, their self-preservation instinct is gonna kick in: “I’m not the problem; you are. You’re too sensitive. You lack a sense of humor; you can’t take a joke. You snowflake.” Whatever turns things around so they’re the good guy and we’re the uptight jerks who wanna take away all their evil fun.

Too many people fear confrontation. It makes ’em profoundly uncomfortable, so they avoid it like crazy. It’s why jerks can go for years, if not their whole lives, without any pushback: People avoid them instead of telling them to their face, “Don’t.”

But I find it works. And works really well.

If you fear confrontation, fine; try the easiest form of it, which’d be on social media. Instead of blocking or unfriending someone who’s awful to you, simply tell them they’re being awful to you. Watch what happens.

Yeah, frequently they get self-defensive and accuse us of stuff, and adopt the attitude of “F--- you if you can’t take a joke.” Doesn’t help if we’ve been a little unfruitful ourselves. But if that’s true—if you have been a little less-than-Christian in your online behavior—own it. “Yes that was wrong of me. I admit that. And this was wrong of you.” Kick the excuse of “Everybody does it, so it’s okay” right out from under them. We’re all wrong.

I’m a member of a few social media discussion groups. I like to joke discussion groups are really debate clubs, ’cause they quickly turn into argument clinics. Some people join ’em because they’re truly interested in the topics… and some already have their mind made up, and wanna pick a fight so they can defend their side. I don’t mind disagreement, but I do mind when fruitless people’s inner jerk comes out. In those cases I put the discussion on pause: We need to deal with the bad behavior.

Well they don’t wanna deal with the bad behavior. They wanna keep debating. They actually look at my objections to their behavior as a debate tactic: “You’re not dealing with the real issue.” No; I’m dealing with the more important issue: Their lack of self-control. I’m not indulging their immaturity.

Some discussion group leaders think the very same way. Others don’t moderate their groups at all… at least not until someone does something which offends them personally. Social media has all sorts. But either way, I’m not gonna wait till a moderator steps in: I’m gonna speak up. As should we all. “Your behavior isn’t appropriate. Stop or I’m leaving.”

This is much easier to do on social media, than in real-life situations. When you’ve got a jerk in the workplace, at school, at home, at church, it’s not always so easy to step away. Sometimes we do need to call in a moderator. Sometimes there isn’t one; if your boss, the pastor, or your parents are the jerks, what’re you gonna do? (In these cases, of course stepping away isn’t easy. But you gotta. Start making arrangements.)

Jerks aren’t gonna change their behavior until they get enough pushback. Until it’s no longer amusing: “Ha-ha, look what an uncompromising jerk I am.” And for Christians, enough of it might be what finally gets ’em to listen to the Holy Spirit and repent.

As for your own behavior: You know better. Don’t be a dick. Don’t give pagans any more ammunition to complain, “Religious people are the worst.” Be better than that. Be like Jesus.

Being a member of the jerk club.

by K.W. Leslie, 22 June

One of the neighbors, out on a power walk, decided to pause for a moment and strike up a conversation with me as I was doing some yardwork. Once he found out how old I am, he realized I was the same age as his son. “Do you know Cloelius?” he asked.

No, Cloelius isn’t his son’s actual name. I don’t care to give his name, and you’ll see why. It took me a few seconds to recall him. “Yes,” I told him, “I know of him. We weren’t in the same circles.”

There’s actually a bigger story behind this. One I didn’t care to tell Colelius’s dad, ’cause I don’t think he’d have been happy to hear it. But to be fair, we were kids then.

The summer before my freshman year of high school, my family moved into a new neighborhood. Across the street lived a boy whom I’ll call Azad. And for no reason I could figure, Azad decided I was his sworn enemy.

No, I still don’t know why. Knowing myself, it’s possibly for the very same reason I irritated frat boys in college: I was mouthy and opinionated. I probably said something which rubbed Azad the wrong way. It’s also possible Azad was just looking for someone to bully. Either way he declared eternal hostility against me.

There were about a dozen kids in the neighborhood who went to my high school at the time. Mostly boys. Azad knew them all, having lived in the neighborhood way longer than I had. As we waited for the school bus in the mornings, most of the boys waited in a garage across the street, Azad among them. Because I didn’t care to interact with Azad, I’d just stand at the bus stop. Azad would get bored every so often, so he’d try to provoke me, and try to get the other boys in his clique to join in. I wouldn’t take the bait, so I wasn’t much fun.

Cloelius was a year behind me in school. When he started high school, he joined Azad’s bus-stop clique. So that’s how we knew one another.

Humility, and the “cage-stage” Christian.

by K.W. Leslie, 05 December

The first principle of theology is humility—knowing who and what you are, and not claiming you’re anything more. Or, as we so often see in false humility, less.

That means we’re fully aware we’re wrong, and Jesus is right. The purpose of theology isn’t to believe we’ve “arrived,” and defend our newly-acquired high ground. It’s to correct our beliefs, poor character, and bad attitudes. Because they’re misbegotten and wayward. We may be redeemed, but they’re not. Bearing this in mind, with the Holy Spirit’s help and power, the goal is to get those traits to match Jesus’s.

The problem? A lot of Christians have utterly skipped that first theology lesson. Or weren’t paying attention, ’cause they were too busy staring at the syllabus. Or promptly forgot all about it, ’cause all their new knowledge puffed ’em up. However it happened.

Hence they imagine theology’s first principle is, “I was wrong—but now I’m not. Jesus fixed me.” When he gave us new life, supposedly he gave us a new nature—his nature—so now we have the mind of Christ. 1Co 2.16 We think like Jesus does… or he thinks like we do; it’s all the same. We have arrived.


As Calvinist cartoonist Adam Ford depicts it. They don’t always foam at the mouth though. Adam 4d

I run into Christians with this mindset all the time. They’d be the folks who email me to explain, patiently or not, why I’m completely wrong. Or who show up on discussion boards to loudly, angrily correct everybody who varies ever so slightly with their infallible doctrines. Back when they were pagan, they’d get this way about plenty of other subjects, like politics and Star Wars. Now they do it with doctrine. Or apologetics.

There’s a term the Calvinists use when their young, overzealous theologians get like this—when they’re so enthusiastic about “the doctrines of grace,” they forget to be gracious altogether. Calvinists call it “the cage stage.”

The cage-stager is as eager to defend their theological territory as a junkyard dog. They’ll fight anyone. Even friends: You might believe precisely the same as they, but if (God forbid) you misstate the slightest idea, the cage-stager will tear your throat out. Best to lock ’em in a cage till they calm the heck down. Hence “cage stage”: Lots of knowledge, very little love.

Calvinists may have coined the term, and may be notorious for the behavior. But lemme tell ya, by no means do they have a monopoly on it. I’ve met cage-stage Fundamentalists, Catholics, people in my own denomination, people in heretic denominations. I’ve encountered cage-stage Jews and Muslims too. The phenomenon’s all over Christendom.

It’s a pitfall many Christians (myself included) fall right into during our early days of following Jesus. The devil’d love every Christian to fall into it, ’cause it nullifies much of the work we do for God’s kingdom. We’re too busy denouncing ideas, sins, and people we hate, to ever get round to loving people, and winning them to Jesus through our kindness and love. ’Cause screw kindness and love; there are doctrines to defend!