You’ll note from my bio that I have not been a Christian for very long.
Before I converted, I had a long-lived grudge against Christians. I was convinced that most serious Christians were bigoted, arrogant people, who had decided they would rather swallow a mythology than think rationally and responsibly about the world. And, they’d regurgitate their mythology in irritating ways, and it pissed me off. The most memorable examples have always been extremists like Fred Phelps or Pat Buchanan. Honorable mention also goes to the kids in middle school who told me I was going to hell because Jews (like me) killed Jesus. Or my favorite, the pretty girl in college who told me she couldn’t date me because I wasn’t a believer, and then proceeded to flirt with more guys and later made a habit of posting drunk party pics on Facebook, in a flagrant show of hypocrisy. This kind of thing enraged me, and it smeared the name of Jesus with distaste and revulsion.
… but of course later I became a Christian, yada yada. It’s all in my bio.
However, like many in my generation, I have a hard time using the word Christian to describe myself, even now five years later. This is because I find the word is burdened with myriad negative associations and stereotypes that I simply don’t want to be responsible for rebutting — such as the examples given above. I’m so sick of answering for the offenses of other Christians that I just want to skip the vocab word altogether and say “I believe Jesus was more than a man, and probly some other weird things, and if you want to talk about any of it sometime, that sounds great”, the end. The word is scary, and not without good reason.
Okay, so today I’m going to go out on a limb, and see if I might debug the relationship between Christians and “normal” people, a bit. I’m a bit hamstrung because I’m writing to a mixed audience, but let’s see what happens. This could get awkward.
Normal people dislike Christians because they can appear to be uninterested in rational discourse, and would rather simply export their opinions in a one-way transaction. Normal people are suspicious of Christians because they seem to be trying to sell something. Normal people ridicule Christians because their belief system supposedly dictates that they must categorically dismiss centuries of scientific scholarship. Normal people are wary around Christians because, given all this, they might honestly be a little crazy.
I get this. I remember this. Sometimes I still think like this … because I still sometimes meet Christians that I think are crazy. Or ones that I want to punch.
But here I have to be careful. My instinct is to say lots of Christians are this way, but I am not. Everyone wants to say that. But it’s not really true. Sometimes I am arrogant and smug about what I believe. Sometimes I am narrow-minded and obstinate. Sometimes I don’t want to listen to you talk about why Jesus doesn’t make sense, because I’ve already been there before, and I did more research than you, and to be honest I think I’m smarter than you. In fact sometimes I want to slap you, because I think you’re caught in a cycle of depression and you don’t know what you’re really living for, and I’ve been there before too; and by the way I think I’ve found the true source of life and joy and purpose in this world, but you don’t get it, and you don’t care. And that pisses me off too, to be honest, sometimes.
At times I am the kind of Christian that gives me a bad name. And I wish I could be more sensitive. I wish I could care better, I wish I could be smarter, more genuine, more humble or at least not so damn self-righteous. I wish I was better at tolerating your examination of the weird things I believe, but sometimes I bristle.
The truth is, I am just a man. I suffer from a similar density of shortcomings as the next man. I believe something that isn’t normal, but I’m trying to relate to a world that is full of normal. E.g. you are normal. That makes this awkward sometimes. I’m serious.
I believe that because of Jesus, I am being transformed into something new, something with a heart that beats harder, draws deeper breath, and is more alive. I believe that I am actually becoming less arrogant and more wise, and becoming less like the Fred Phelpses and Pat Buchanans and hypocritical college girl Christians of this world. I think the Spirit of God is transforming me, and teaching me how to love, more and more everyday.
But you don’t believe that. You think I’m silly. And I can’t blame you.
In truth I try to think responsibly and systematically about most things in my life. There is logic in most of the decisions I make, and I am a tremendous fan of all kinds of science. But, there is a central axiom I hold — Jesus — on which I truly have no empirical basis. True, there are a lot of Christians that have developed various proofs to demonstrate the rationality of God, or even the integrity of the Creationist cosmology. I think these are mostly garbage (sorry), the former mostly mind games, and the latter really bad science. Moreover, I don’t think these proofs impress anyone or move them to faith — they didn’t with me, at least.
If you ask me why I believe in this Jesus thing … I will stumble. The truth is, I have no vocabulary that will sufficiently communicate the basis for this keystone truth of my life … and I’m not sure that anyone really does. It is by faith alone, and faith is not a thing that will ever respond usefully to cross-examination.
This blog was about to be a letter to non-Christians, but mostly it is a confession. Yes, I believe in something you might deem nonsense. No, I am not a naive unthinking robot. Yes, sometimes I am a dick. No, this isn’t how I think I’m supposed to act, it’s just my mistake. Sorry about that. Can we still be friends?