So, yesterday on Facebook, I had this little gem as my status:
“The church might do better if it stopped telling people ‘it’s not about rules, it’s about Jesus loving you,’then turning around and saying ‘here are the rules you need to follow to get Jesus to love you.’”
I admit, that may have been a bit insensitive or disrespectful to churchy (whoa, that’s actually a word!) people, but what the hell.
I was saying this out of frustration. Frustration at the church, at God, at religion, at America.
But this is what I feel like the American church and American Christianity are trying to push. It’s the idea that there is no judgment, just to get you inside, then they slam it shut and say “haha, just kidding!” It is all about judgment after all. Judgment for you as a now Christian, and judgment for the rest of the world, which we’re trying to save from itself. It’s doomed, but we want to save it so it will trust us when we tell it how doomed it really is.
Maybe that’s harsh.
In digression, I see three common views of the Christian God.
The first view of God is one of judgment. This is the view the Jews held when they wrote the majority of the Old Testament. Much of the world holds this view, as it’s been pounded into their heads by Bible-thumping Christians. There are still many Christians who hold this view on God. This seems to be what many American Christians believe, but it is in decline, especially in metropolitan areas. The Judgment God has created a book of rules, that is to be followed, to the letter. If you’re good enough, maybe God won’t send you to everlasting torment after you pass on from this miserable life. But that’s not likely.
Next, we have those who view God as loving. This movement is growing in popularity in America, but it’s still confined to a pretty small group of people. Oddly, American Christians who hold the other two views rank these people somewhere between Nazi abortionists and homosexual Communists/Socialists. They hold a wide variety of views, but regardless of what they believe about the small, things, they are generally very open-minded and accepting of everyone, even if they might have some misgivings about certain people.
Then, we have the manic, dysfunctional, flaky God view. This seems to be the view the majority of conservative Christian America holds. This group believes that God is all about unconditional love. That is, as long as you love Him back. If you don’t you’re just screwed. And even if you do, you’ve still gotta follow His rules, which if you don’t follow, you’re probably screwed. And His rules are the Bible, goshdarnit (which we say, because “real” swearing is bad news bears). And then on top of all the rules in the Bible, there are all these other rules we made up, which are the product of reading the Bible in a totally literal 2011 context.
The first two views I can understand. If God is judgmental, then His followers should be too. It totally makes sense. If God is loving, then His followers should be too. I mean, it’s simple. Jesus told us to follow His example. Since Jesus is God, we follow God’s example. Whatever we believe about God, we follow His example.
It’s the manic, dysfunctional, flaky God view that I don’t get at all. So, God loved us all enough to send His son to die to save us from our sins (apparently, He didn’t love His son very much though). He tells us that we need to love people unconditionally. But God only loves us if we love Him. Otherwise, He becomes the Judgmental God and sends us to hell. But if we love Him, then we must follow His rules, or we’re not following Him and we’re slipping away from Him. Which means we never loved Him in the first place. Mmmkay…
I’m not sure my view fits in with any of these particularly well, but shoot, here’s what I got.
To steal part of an unrelated argument of Sarah Moon’s, I think the defining characteristic of Christians should be what they do, as opposed to what they don’t or shouldn’t do.
The only people Jesus judged when He was on the earth were people who judged others. For the sake of my argument, we’re going to assume Jesus is God from here on out. Jesus’ friends were fishermen, but also tax collectors and prostitutes. Did Jesus judge hold these people in judgment? No, on the contrary, He was forgiving.
Jesus defended a prostitute Pharisees were attempting to stone to death (yeah, they’re trying to get her stoned, ha). He then told her to go and sin no more. Jesus told people not to judge others. Period..
Jesus’ message to His followers was that they were to help the weak, the downtrodden, the oppressed. He wanted them to respect others. He wanted them to love God with all their heart and love their neighbors as they loved themselves.
He didn’t really say much about what they shouldn’t do.
I think that’s because what we shouldn’t do is kind of common sense.
I think our legal system does a pretty good job of outlining the things we shouldn’t do, with a few exceptions (anything else it does, it generally fails miserably at, but that’s for another discussion). Other than that, common sense generally tells us what we shouldn’t do. Science tells us what things are bad for us or for other people. I think we pretty much have that down. People who are doing bad things generally realize they’re doing bad things. They might not be ashamed, but they usually realize what they’re doing is wrong.
Levitical law in Biblical times was THE law. It was the same as our laws today. There was no separation between religious and governing law. So, I think our current governmental law could basically replace that. We have a better understanding of the world now and I think our laws today do a pretty good job of outlining our moral values.
We don’t need a book to tell us these things. We definitely don’t need another person to tell us these things. Maybe we could come together and discuss these things from time to time in a civil manner. I think that would be good.
So we are not to judge others. Jesus judged only those who were judgmental.
Even though Paul’s message doesn’t always agree with Jesus’, even his conversion to Christianity was a plea from God to stop judging His people.
Acts 26:14: And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”
So, Paul was accused of being a goad-kicker, the worst thing you could be called in the Hebrew language. That sentence is totally untrue, I just made it up.
Actually the thing Paul was accused of was persecution. Persecution being the horrible end product of judgment. That was what caused him to change. He was judgmental, and God told Him to stop being judgmental.
So, in my opinion, salvation is not freedom from a bad afterlife or even from bad behavior on this earth.
It is freedom from guilt, selfishness and judgment upon others. It is not immediate perfection. It probably isn’t perfection in this lifetime.
It is a freedom to love and respect others without regard to race, gender, social status, sexual orientation, even religion, even “sinful” behavior. Love them whether they are Christian or not.
And never persecute. Never indulge in any form of prejudice. In other words, love and respect others.
The only ones we should judge are the ones who judge others, who persecute and hold prejudice against others. And we only judge their behavior and understand it is a result of an imperfect and selfish world. But love them even still.
And yes, everyone will make mistakes. Everyone will “sin,” if you will. But we don’t judge people by mistakes they make in the past, present or future.
And those who disagree with this, that’s totally up to you. I won’t tell you you’re wrong. I won’t judge you by your beliefs or your behavior. I will love you without judgment and without persecution. I will treat you with respect.
This is the only thing that makes sense to me. To me, this is true Christianity.