Monday, January 05, 2009

They'll Know We Are Christians...

(First published on on 11/06/08. I'm playing catch-up.)

[Note: I am not a Christian. I was raised in the Lutheran Church, but I left because I came to have different beliefs. I didn't leave because of the situation described below; I have a great deal of respect for Christianity and for many of the people who follow it. I'm also involved in Biblical Studies; I read Koine Greek, Biblical Hebrew, and Aramaic, and often do my own translations when working on a passage. Somewhere in the next 10 years I'll probably publish a paper on Paul, whose writings intrigue me. In any case, the following wasn't written in anger or spite, but out of concern.]

The other night I watched the DVD of Rent. The next night I watched Godspell. I needed both because I needed a dose of love in the face of all the hatred in the name of Christ that I've been enduring lately. Rent looks at unconditional love among the disenfranchised of society, and Godspell tells the story of the man who told the world they needed to love all, and especially the disenfranchised.

Jesus' words, as reported in the Gospels, are all about love - for God, for one another, and for ourselves. Unconditional love, love without strings attached. He talks about the worth of the least important, the greatness of the small, and the smallness of the great. He talks of God's unconditional love for the least, and tells his followers that they must love as God loves.

And yet there are those who call themselves Christians, followers of Jesus, who contradict those teachings. They teach hate - for homosexuals, for the black and brown peoples of the world, for those who believe differently than they, for anything and anyone different from themselves. Somehow they've convinced themselves that Jesus tells them to do this in the Bible. Their writings are hard to read, and facing them in person is even worse - faces screwed up in hatred, spitting as they spew their hateful words. You've stumbled upon their blogs, you've come across their websites, and you've seen them on TV and on YouTube. They are unapologetic in their hatred, convinced that their God sanctions their hatred.

This isn't the Christianity I was raised in. I was raised to believe that Jesus was all about love. In Vacation Bible School we used to sing: "And they'll know we are Christians by our love, by our love/ Yes they'll know we are Christians by our love." Somehow that just doesn't seem to jibe with the current situation!

Since they call themselves Christians, I thought I'd point out how drastically they diverge from the actual teachings of the man they claim to follow. Follow along while we explore.

The poor, the sick, the disenfranchised are exalted, comforted, and cared for.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
- Matthew 5: 3 - 10

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me. Then the righteous will answer him, saying, Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you? And the King will answer them, Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.
- Matthew 25: 35 - 40

Approach all with love; carry no hatred in your heart and approach enemies as if they were friends. Treat others as you would have them treat you.

But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.
- Luke 6: 27 - 31

Don't condemn, don't judge; the one you judge is no different from you.

Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.
- Luke 6: 37 & 38

The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say? This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her. And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you? She said, No one, Lord. And Jesus said, Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.
- John 8: 3 - 11

Love is the rule, the ultimate Law.

And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, Which commandment is the most important of all? Jesus answered, The most important is, Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.
- Mark 12: 28 - 31

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
- John 13: 34 & 35

Paul of Tarsus, the man who did the most to explain Jesus and what he taught the world, defines love. It's unconditional, it has no strings attached, it's a force unto its own and we should embrace it.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
- 1 Corinthians 13: 1 - 13

So how do people justify running a website called (they also have a website called with the above passages? How do people who say they hate in the name of their God - whether it be for race, sexual orientation, religious belief (and all those people who railed at Barack Obama under the mistaken belief that he was a Muslim fall into this category, because they all say outright that God hates Muslims). political belief (and yes, several of the people associated with groups like Focus on the Family have claimed publicly that God hates liberals), or even the suspicion of any of the above - reconcile their hatred with the words of the man they claim to believe in?

They can't. The only conclusion I can come to is that these people aren't really Christians. Their words, compared to Jesus' words, only prove the point.

© 2008 by A. Roy Hilbinger

1 comment:

  1. I was raised by loving literal Bible parents who taught me that poverty, charity, and love of one's fellow man were the way of Christ. Though I was never able to accept the Bible as truth, the lessons of what a Christian should be - of right and wrong - were learned well.

    Living in the deep South for the past 19 years, I've first hand knowledge of the hypocrisy of so much of "Christiandom".

    Though I am a non-believer, I am often amazed at the immorality of those who wield religion both as a sword to intimidate - and a shield behind which to hide their hatred, bias and shortcomings.