Monday, April 16, 2012

Would Jesus be a Christian?

What do you think? If Jesus walked into our churches today or listened to the way we pull and twist scripture to suit our needs, do you think he would approve?

I think Jesus would love us and give us grace but I am not sure he would approve of how we behave.

A survey by Trinity College in 2009 showed that 75% of Americans self-identify themselves as "Christian". That percentage was 86% in 1990. This precipitous drop does not surprise me.

We all know someone who has been hurt or scarred by a bad experience with the church or a person who was "Christian". We see the way that politicians use religion or the Bible to support their own agenda. If it leaves a bad taste in the mouth of someone who is a firm believer, what do you think it does to someone who is on the edge of belief?

When I was a seminary student I went home for the holidays and was out shopping. I struck up a conversation with the store clerk and he asked what I was studying. I told him I was in seminary to become a minister. Our light, happy conversation took an immediate nose dive. This man stopped, looked at me and almost spit as he said, "Christians. They are the only people that eat their own kind."

I was shocked speechless and paid for my purchase and slunk out of the store feeling ashamed and sad. Having half of my family be devout Christians (from Roman Catholics to Protestants)and the other half be either completely without faith or damaged by their church experience has given me an interesting persepective on Christianity in America.

It might not be fair for people to judge Christians so harshly for making mistakes: After all, we are the first (hopefully) to say that we need forgiveness. But, as a whole, I am not sure that as Christians, we live out our lives as people who know we are broken and in need of forgiveness. I think that many times we allow our pride to stiffen our necks when we would be better off bending. When we or our churches hurt people do we confess and ask for forgiveness or do we blame the person who was hurt? When we see a needy world do we turn away or do we care for it as Jesus asked us to?

Jesus asked us to take his message to the world but we can't do it if a negative reputation precedes us. If we are to do as Jesus commanded, we have to change something we are doing. Don't we want to be known as those 'great, loving people" not those "arrogant hypocrites"?

Over the next month, I would like to explore how we, as "Christians", can work to change the way non-Christian's or folks who are 'former' Christians view us and the Church.