Girly Thoughts

January 9, 2009

Memo to well-meaning Christians

Filed under: Uncategorized — judgesnineteen @ 3:09 am

I’m not being sarcastic this time.  I just thought you should know, because I wish I had known when I was doing this.  Sometimes Christians preach to each other about how to evangelize, in the sense of both telling other people about Jesus and about getting people to follow him, by telling Christians to live in such a way that other people will notice that there’s something special going on in their lives.  There’s this idea that you can see the effects of following Jesus in the way a person lives and acts, and that those effects cannot be explained by anything else.  They’re mysteriously, counter-culturally good, loving in the face of hate, self-denying beyond normal human ability.

It took me a few times of having weird encounters with Christians while discussing religious issues to realize that the people I was dealing with were probably trying to do that.  If I’m right, and those people were acting the way they were acting in order to show me the love of Christ by example, I have to tell you, it’s not working.  And although this blog does tend to show my hard side to a disproportionate degree, I assure you it’s not because I’m a cold-hearted bitch.  It was because it came off as noticeably fake.  And the kindness was misplaced.  They would only let themselves be extravagantly loving in certain ways, not in others, the “others” being the ones that would include not toeing the line of their respective dogmas.  Instead of dealing with a question I had raised, they would take pains to speak in very calm and caring ways to me…about irrelevant or even inappropriate things.  Instead of respecting my feelings, they would try to cover them up with bottled compassion about how they hope I feel better and they’re so glad I brought this up (even though they’re never going to do anything about it).

I’m not proving anything here.  It’s just one person’s perception, and I don’t even know if what they were thinking at those moments was “I’ll win her over with my eerie resemblance to Christ!”  But I know it made me embarrassed for the way I used to try to be like that, and I know it made me realize that my focus on kindness as a Christian was often a focus on superficial kindness, the type that’s easier to monitor (no cussing, check; no gossip, check; give them a blessing, check) and less meaningful.  Just thought you might want to know.  I mean, there could really be a God and you just might want to realize that trying to fake being like him/her/it probably doesn’t work very well.  I suppose if it’s possible to actually do that, it would have to come in a less forced way.

And of course, I have had plenty of encounters with Christians where they were genuinely kind and everything was great.  It just didn’t come across as “oh my gosh the love of God is flowing through them I need that!” probably because I had encountered the same treatment from non-Christians as well and considered it normal human kindness.

There really are people who are counter-cultural for reasons unrelated to religion.  There are people who are deeply, inexplicably happy for reasons unrelated to religion.  There really are people who are almost confusingly good for reasons unrelated to religion.  I know someone like that – he’s an atheist (and a feminist!) and, among other amazing things, he supports his father, who abandoned him and his mother when this guy was young and then showed up again when he (the father) got sick.  I don’t understand that.  But he does it, and not because he thinks a god is telling him to.  So even if you do manage to be mind-blowingly loving, it won’t be absolute proof that there must be a god, and it won’t convince me that your religion is the right one.  Just FYI.

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2 Comments »

  1. Yes, but while you make a good point, you forgot the biggest point. If there is no God, then we Christians are a bunch of big idiots. Thank you for being as kind as you can to us.

    If there is a God, then it’s not my job to convince you. You are on your own voyage through life. You will die. So will I. How you handle that issue, is finally, up to you. Yes, we Christians are aware of that fact.

    However, because we feel towards you a certain degree of magnanimity, we wish only the best for you. Therefore, you might excuse our clumsy efforts to share with you. If we did not, it would indicate that we dislike you, or perhaps that we want you to go to hell, which we do not.

    Perhaps you could try for a little empathy, too, while you ask for that from others.

    Warren

    Comment by Warren — January 14, 2009 @ 9:33 pm | Reply

  2. I think it’s clear from your reaction post that you came to it with preconceived ideas about what I would be writing about Christians, either from what you know about this blog or from ideas you have about non-Christians.

    You say that Christians are idiots if they’re wrong about God, implying that I think Christians are idiots. That’s incorrect, since I don’t think it’s possible to prove pretty much anything and therefore being incorrect is not necessarily about being dumb. You say I should excuse Christians for this “clumsy” effort, but I never said I was mad at them for their clumsiness in the first place; rather, I said I “just thought you might want to know” all of this – that is, that I’m writing it not because I’m angry but because it would benefit both Christians and non-Christians if those Christians who make this mistake stopped making it, and also because I am embarrassed at the way I used to act and I would like to spare other people that embarrassment. You say if Christians didn’t try to convert people it would mean that they wanted us to go to hell, but I never said Christians should stop trying to convert people; rather, I said “I suppose if it’s possible to actually do that, it would have to come in a less forced way” – that is, I criticized the manner in which they may be trying to convert, not the fact that they’re trying.

    I could make this same argument even if I were still a Christian, and if I were, I have to wonder if your response would have been totally different. I can easily imagine one of my old prayer group meetings having a topic like: “Do you try to make yourself good instead of letting God do good through you? We have to be humble enough to acknowledge that we can’t be truly good on our own, and sometimes when we try to show others the love of God, we’re really just showing them what we think it should look like. It can seem easier to do it that way, because you can show kindness outwardly without changing your heart and really caring about the other person. But it doesn’t really work, because people can tell when you’re just trying to be good for the sake of showing them how good you are. You have to go deeper.”

    Comment by judgesnineteen — January 15, 2009 @ 1:01 am | Reply


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