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Do You Like Christians?

Gandhi - like your Christ

“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Mahatma Gandhi

From time to time I hear people saying such things as being a member of the church is counter-cultural. Well is it…? Really? Always? The impression given is that our culture is self-centered, focused on money, hedonist, violent,… and, so the preacher stresses, we Christians are counter-cultural, going against the values of “the world”…

Well in my experience, that is not the case. Sure, some of the nicest people I know are Christians. But often I also meet Christians who are arrogant, absolutely certain of their own position (“The Bible says”, “God says”, “I prayed about it and”,…), bullies, using people for their own ends (another soul “saved” as a notch on their belt, another young person into their pew statistics,…), obsessed with sex (other people’s), conniving, manipulative, …

And some of the most delightful people are atheists, or honest agnostics, generous, living each day as fully as possible, trying to help others have a good time (this being the only life they are sure of), caring for the planet (it being all we’ve got), humble, funny, with no bait-and-switch motivation for friendship,…

The words of Jesus ring down the centuries:

Woe to you! For you cross sea and land to make a single convert, and you make the new convert twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.

I uphold the doctrine that all that is good is sourced in God. Through love and goodness, truth and beauty, there is union with God. God doesn’t need people ticking a mental box, or praying the relatively new “sinners prayer”, for God to be present and active. And God is big enough not to need our incessant twisting of every event and conversation to be about “God”.

There is bad in church and culture. And good in church and culture. Jesus calls us to be salt – curbing the bad, pointing to and enhancing the good.

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14 Responses to Do You Like Christians?

  1. I haven’t noticed any greater or lesser virtue of those inside the church than out of it. I have noticed people who like to “put on” piety to impress others with their holiness, and that makes me sick; in the secular world there is more than enough hypocrisy and vice to go around. Since the BS is found in all the world religions, and in the secular world as well why don’t we all focus on improving ourselves? It is very easy to see the fault in others. Jesus called out the Pharisees, yes (and other holier-than-thou clowns), but he was Jesus! As soon as I say that I realize I spend half my mental energy finding the speck in my brother’s eye (I’m RC, so I don’t know the exact quote! haha) . We all do it!

  2. Nicely put Bosco, I couldn’t agree more. the problem is that the church does not know it’s culture anymore. As often happens with minority groups, we have become protective and insular. That does’t discount that there are thousands of hard working, generous, loving people in the church, it’s just that we often think we are the only ones.

    As the former Episcopal Bishop of Edinburgh Richard Hooker said “Religion gives you permission to perform these discourtesy’s”.

  3. I didn’t know that Hooker was a member of the Scottish Episcopal Church – even a bishop therein! However, if he was, he would have made a good’un to be sure! (That’s if TEC was yet invented.)

    As for the former Bishop of Edinburgh, Richard Holloway, he got very tired of Christians who declaimed their ‘faith’ in ways that denied the veracity of others who thought differently from them about the extent of the love and mercy of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    I met him at a charismatic conference at the time of the 1998 Lambeth Conference, when we joyous Christians were gathered on the University campus at Canterbury, UK, just prior to the Lambeth Bishops taking up residence for their own special Conference.

    We both attended a session where a white Bishop of Karachi was pleased to call all Muslims ‘agents of the devil’. Bp. Richard and I, with several others, walked out of the conference hall and fumed together about the lack of Christian charity evident in the Karachi bishop’s statement. I realised then, that Bishop Holloway was heading for a split with the official Church if it continued in this war-like direction.

    As Jordan says, ‘Religion gives you permission to perform these discourtesies.’ Shame on us all!

  4. Church definitely isn’t a minority group in Texas, but it can be a difficult place to be that’s for sure, people seem to fall over themselves to exclude or denounce certain people…focusing on the reason as ‘sin’, when it might be better for the individual and as example to the world as a place for setting aside differences, since there are no perfect people.

    I myself find I am a lot kinder and calmer if I don’t get too involved in organized religion…though many Christians in these parts would tell me that kindness is not the goal of Christians, since nothing I can do will lead to redemption, only belief. A rather one-sided interpretation of Matthew 25, and believe in what exactly one might ask…

    After a few years it all gets very wearing- maybe that’s what faith is?!

  5. Lots of Christian congregations are a scandal to the world. This is why our churches are empty. Atheists and secularists pioneer on every level, while few Christians do.

    Sometimes, espacially in vegan and LGBT circles, I feel shame to be a Christian.

  6. I once nursed a very elderly deaconess who was having an argument with another woman. An equally elderly retired bishop intervened and said, “Now, now, M… Remember what Jesus said …” “Yes, I, know that!” snapped the deaconess. “but I disagree!”
    ‘Twas ever thus. Lucky we have a forgiving God.

  7. I am glad to see you challenge the refrain in of being counter cultural. As you say, culture is complex. So it begs the question of what part of our cultures. Also I have seen far more kindness and charity from secular groups I belong to than from the church. Especially to strangers. It saddens me.

  8. People wake up and smell the coffee. Bla Bla Bla .. Christian are what is wrong with this world. This is what all who oppose Christianity want us to believe. In so doing the acheive their goal in rendering us impotent. Yes, Ghandi was right that Christians did not and still do not act as Christ did. However, Jesus and the small group of followers who knew him for 3 1/2 years were COUNTER CULTURAL. They stood against the incredulous, money hungry, power seeking, pious clones in the pharisees and the sadducees. Is piety then wrong? No, because Jesus demands obedience from those who follow him and his cause? Piety is the outworking of Christ in person life. What Jesus despised is that Jews such as the pharisees and sadducees used their piety to exclude people, to manipulate and justify their existence. He still called people to holiness. From Leviticus we get God’s command, “Be holy [set apart from sin and for my purpose] as I am Holy].” God calls us to imitate him. If God is without sin, then our aim is to be like that. But we can’t because we are not God. So we need a saviour to do it for us. The problem today is that many Christians reject the call to be holy because we have been conditioned by society to feel bad about judging others and acting as though we are better. Of course we only really hear about Christians are act poorly and I would say do not represent God’s kingdom because they fail to understand what God calls them to. It is Christians that have failed, YES, but not Christianity. We need to distinguish between they two. The reason people don’t fill our churches is that the world has worked to paint a picture of who they think we are. We have heard it so long, and being sick of hearing it we now believe it.

    READ these Scriptures before you tell me what you think:

    1 John 2:15, “Do not love the world or the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in them”

    Romans 12:1-2, “Do not be conformed to the patterns of the world [be couter cultural to the world], but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what it is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

    2 Corinthians 1:12-13, “For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not be earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you.”

    1 John 4:3-6, “… and every spirit that does confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you if greater that he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

    Blessings In Chist’s mercy.

    • Thanks, Andy. The “not loving the world” of 1 John 2:15 stands in interesting dialogue with “loving the world” of John 3:16 in the same tradition, doesn’t it? Blessings.

      • Yes it does. I guess that this is the juxtaposition we are in. The question would be [and it has been a while since I looked at this] what does John refer to when he uses the word cosmos that we translate world? God loving the world therefore sending his Son I don’t believe is an ecological question but speaks to humanity. People of the world are his prize possession [Gen 1:26-27]. 1 John it seems John is referring to the evil systems in control of the world. This is where we find greed, corruption, violence etc.

        • Thanks, Andy. So we are back to the point of my post: the line separating greed, corruption, violence etc does not neatly run around the good church people, separating it from those bad non-church people. The line runs right down inside each one of us – both church and non-church people. Blessings.

  9. Father Ron Smith, you are correct! I meant Holloway. Obviously my brain wasn’t working at the time. It would be rather interesting to know what the eminent Hooker would have thought though! Cheers

  10. Perhaps. Gandhi should’ve been corrected, that Christ by virtue of being the Creator was in everyone. Furthermore, it was wrong of him to refer to the British as Christians, or Britain as a Christian country.

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