>> Saturday, October 6, 2012
There's an interesting conversation going on in the comments on Gather (not something I say often, by the way). Oddly enough, I'm involved in it. Now I don't want to recreate it here, but it got the part of my brain, the opinionated part, working enough to make me want to write something here in my blog. I'm sure Relax Max will be thrilled.
The article has to do with and example of intolerance in the Boy Scouts driven by Christian organizations (in this case, against gays). I noted with confusion the tendency, in largely public positions, of focusing on the importance Christ's divinity so extremely as to fail to follow Christ's teachings. Someone noted that intolerance of Christians was just as bad and another made a point that there is no inherent dichotomy between seeing Christ as divine and following his teachings.
I agree on both points; unfortunately, that's not what I was saying. And it's not that simple, as is true of so much of reality. Since people have interpreted what I say far differently than the actual words or my intent enough times that I feel compelled to explain, noting that, by explaining, I take the chance on it happening again.
To address the second point, although I absolutely agree that believing Christ divine and living his teachings are not mutually exclusive, I do think doing hateful divisive things, manipulating other for power or monetary gain, singling out groups of people to be spurned if not misused, all in the name of Christ vs. living his teachings IS inherently contradictory. Ironically, though I "see" Christians doing so in the news and organizations doing so, I do not actually believe most Christians knowingly do so. Admittedly, I'm naive.
Then, there is the assertion (not for the first time) that I am prejudiced against Christians. I'm not. I have always admired the teachings attributed to Christ (there is debate among the far more scholarly than myself regarding whether he ever existed - I like to think he did since his teachings and behaviors were so much nicer than the behavior of his disciples who went out and passed those teachings about that it seems odd the disciples came up with it). I have never heard anything directly attributed to Christ in word or deed that I found even the slightest bit offensive. In most cases, he seemed even more pacifist, tolerant, understanding, forgiving, kind, non-judgemental, etc. than I am at my best. Divinity notwithstanding, his wisdom is sufficient to draw my admiration and wish to emulate.
It is because of this that I have been told, by every Christian I've discussed this with, that I am not a Christian, because to me, it is entirely irrelevant if he were divine or not, or even whether he existed. Because I do not accept as an absolute that Christ was divine, I am, apparently, not a Christian, even if my behavior is closer to Christ than, say, nine of ten Christians one is likely to see on TV (though I'll be the first to admit they are unlikely to be good representative of the Christian faith). I'm not saying this because I'm exceptionally good, but more because 9 out of 10 Christians promoting his faith on TV is a megalomaniacal ass. I would not be surprised if the same were true of the individuals we see footage of from other religions, like, say, Muslims. I believe that being better than TV Christians is probably also true of the vast majority of real Christians, too. I'll touch on this later.
The lessons are fantastic and I believe in them. Here's the kicker, though. Using exactly the same beliefs (basically a color-blind golden rule), I would be just at home in the Buddhist religion (which is really more a philosophy than a religion), Judaism, Islam, Hindi, Wiccan, and most pagan religions. Oh there are cultural and geographic variations, but that same Golden rule lies at the heart of the original teachings of all the big ones I know of. Interestingly enough, I'd find myself at home among agnostics and atheists, too, at least all the ones I know (who, ironically, seems to become agnostic or atheistic because of a crisis of conscience, not the other way around).
So, no, I don't object to Christians. What I object to are hateful things done in Jesus' name, or in fact, at all. It's just so ironic to me (in a bad way) to find Jesus associated with so many opinions completely counter to what he lived and preached. I hate organizations using the power of their followers and the name of their religion (and Christianity doesn't corner the market on this, nor, in fact, religious organizations) to do hateful things to others. And the acts and attitudes are what I object to, not individual people (unless, perhaps, the masterminds).Are there great things done by these or similar organizations? You bet and more power to them, but that doesn't give anyone a pass on doing something heinous. Sorry.
If a group of former rapists wanted to set up a fund to help victims of violent crime, I'd applaud it, even if I'd be careful how it was administered to preclude making more victims as a by product. If a group provides free healthcare to the poor but promotes misogyny or pickets dead soldiers with an anti-gay agenda, I can deplore one action but still appreciate the other. I'm like that.
Going back to the point that I don't think most Christians really support the more egregious intolerant or hateful stances taken by some (yes, not all) Christian organizations, if I'm railing against religious organizations that, through donations or direct propaganda, have promoted an anti-gay agenda (for example) but your church, or just you personally, don't support that thinking, rest assured, I'm not talking about you. I don't hate you.I don't even hate them so much as I hate what they're doing.
But I don't feel sorry for you either, getting lumped in with the crazies. It is, to an extent, because the more moderate and understanding voices in the Christian church are frequently silent on these controversial topics that the fringe and fanatical become the de facto representatives of their faith. I know you don't all agree with the extremes frequently taken, but a profound enough silence becomes an affirmation to any outsider who doesn't know whether all "Christians" really feel that way or not. Does being silent while others do horrible things make you a monster? No. But ask a really old German: you get branded just the same.
By the way, I could have replaced "Christians" with the names of a number of other groups or religions that have a vocal fanatic fringe.