Sometimes I feel ashamed to call myself a Christian. I’m not ashamed of Jesus. I’m not ashamed that I feel a deep, true connection to him and that I believe the Bible. I’m not ashamed to tell people how the love of Christ changed my life, but the word ‘Christian’ has been so abused, exploited and distorted that I’m often uncomfortable with it. The word is used as a weapon- a gun to win the war or venom to poison an enemy, except our enemies always turn out to be one another, the very same people that Jesus said he loved. That’s not how it’s supposed to be.
You don’t have to look any further than the “Duck Dynasty” debacle that took place a few weeks ago to understand what I mean. Here you have a man who identifies himself publicly as a Christian. He and his family say that they love Jesus and that they want others to know Christ’s love as well. And in his interview with GQ magazine, he made several statements that initiated a public outcry.
Let me first say that I wholeheartedly disagree with Phil Robertson’s stance on nearly everything. I don’t like guns. I believe that black people suffered serious pain and injustice before and during the civil rights movement, some of which continues today. And, I like gay people. In fact, I believe gay people are just people like everyone else. They have the same hopes and fears, problems and challenges as the rest of us. I don’t think I should have to refer to them as “them” and “us,” and I think people who are gay are (just like the rest of us) dearly loved by Jesus and deserve respect.
I disagree with Phil Robertson, but I don’t think he is the real problem. The real problem is that Christians thrive on divisiveness and hurtful words to establish their own identity. The problem is each and every Christian who feels the need to showcase their “Christian-ness” by liking an “I support Phil Robertson” Facebook page. The problem is every Christian who thinks they have a monopoly on Jesus and that they get to dictate how Jesus is received by the world. The problem is when Christianity is used as sword to hurt and maim the people that he came to save.
Christianity is not a club. It is not an agenda or a political party. It’s not a finite, wholly definable set of ideas owned by one particular group. Why do we Christians let the words of Phil Robertson speak for us instead of letting Jesus? Are we so desperate for a false god, one whose culture we can align with and whose club we can join? And why do we worship the idol of being right?
I don’t think that Jesus ever asked us to speak for him. He asked us to speak of him. I don’t think he asked us to fight battles for him. He asked us to join him in his battle for the hearts and minds of those he loves. And he loves every single person on this earth.
It doesn’t matter what you’ve done, who you’re sleeping with or who you voted for- we are all sinners and need a savior. When did we Christians decide that it was our job to judge the sanctification of others? It’s not. It’s our job to love one another and show the love of Christ. Sanctification is a personal journey between every person and God alone.
And when did we as a church decide to stratify sins based on our own cultural interpretation? Who decided that being gay is the one sin that has to be fixed before a person can come through the doors of the church? And how can we say we love our neighbor if we can’t accept them? Isn’t hatred at its core a refusal to accept someone just as they are? Isn’t hatred centered around the idea that we are not all fundamentally the same?
I believe that as people we are all the same. We are messed up, hurt, trying to do the best we can in the world. We don’t need to throw the weapons of hurtful words, accusations and dividing lines at one another. And in the end, I think it’s okay to admit that we don’t know everything about God. It’s okay that he encompasses more than I can fathom. If he were completely understandable and definable to me, then I would be God, not him.
I believe that Christianity isn’t a set of ideas that we all must agree on and subscribe to. I think it’s a relationship with Jesus Christ. That’s it. And the only way that we can help others find a relationship with Jesus is by developing a relationship with them, a human version of what Jesus offers to us. We don’t have to section out those whom we think don’t belong or don’t deserve Jesus. We don’t have to hurt others to feel better about ourselves. Acceptance belongs to each of us. It’s our right as a child of God.