Thursday, June 27, 2013

Why do Christians Do That?

I was driving down the freeway, minding my own business, going the speed limit and maybe a mile or two over when this car pulls out from behind me, zooms past me and cuts in front of me -- only to dive onto the off ramp. He got there approximately 30 seconds faster than he would have had he just kept behind me for the next 100 feet or so. Once I got over my annoyance, I thought  about all the times things like that have happened, more often than I'd care to remember. Then my thought hit on the question "Why do people do that?"  Is their time really so important and valuable that thirty seconds and a little patience is too much to ask for?  Again I ask myself, "Why do people do that?"

I hadn't gone a mile when I had another thought or two.

I ran into an old friend some years ago that I hadn't seen in some time. Instead of saying, "Hi, how are you?" or "Gee, it's good to see you," I was asked, "I have to ask you, how is your relationship with Jesus?"  Now why would a Christian do that to a fellow Christian?  She'd known me since about the time of my baptism at the age of eight. Then, when I'm 45+ she wants to know how my relationship is with Jesus?  Why would a Christian do that? (And Jesus and I are just fine, thank you.)

One thing I've liked about being Episcopalian is that I don't get beaten over the head with verse after verse, sermon after sermon, on what a lousy sinner I am. I know I am; I have never denied that. What I don't need is to be reminded fifteen times in the course of an hour. Episcopalians do hear the words "sin" and "sinner" several times over the course of a usual church service -- in the Gloria, the Creed, the General Confession, the Absolution, the Eucharistic Prayer (all of them, I think), and at least one version of the Our Father, so it's not like we ignore a word we don't like. But there are some Christians who insist on repeating the word like if they say it often enough they'll get points for each time of something.  Why do Christians do that?

With the Supreme Court decision striking down the Defense of Marriage Act (why did it need defense? Was it that weak an institution?), the rhetoric has reached a new decibel level. Why are heterosexuals so threatened by two people of the same gender who love each other and want to have the same rights and benefits as their heterosexual counterparts?  Not Biblical?  Well, neither is concubinage (of which there is plenty of evidence in the Bible), abandoned spouses (check the disciples -- they left home for years!) or multiple wives (some of the patriarchs, among others).  Jesus was not, to the best of our knowledge, married but he didn't require that everyone who followed him to follow suit. Even Paul noted that not all were given the gift of celibacy, so why are there those who are demanding that because they believe they are the only "right-thinking" Christians that everybody else has to follow their belief system?  God didn't make cookie-cutter people; he didn't even make a cookie-cutter world. There's plenty of diversity and room for more all the time, so why are Christians so uptight about commitments they seem to want to corner for themselves (when they want it, but we won't talk about the divorce rate!) and deny to other people. Why do Christians do that? 

Jesus spoke a lot about taking care of widows, the sick, the dying, the poor and kids. With so much repetition of the ancient Jewish formulas regarding those same groups, why are so many Christians so determined to slash the programs that will help keep these folks from hunger, homelessness, going without education or medical help, even premature death?  The most vulnerable, those Jesus spoke of with the utmost care and tenderness, are the ones bearing the brunt of sequestration cuts in programs that are their only safety nets. Yet the Christians boast of their Christian-hood as if it were a badge for them to be proud of. Why do Christians do that? 

One other thing: a lot of people claim to be pro-life Christians -- when it comes to someone else's reproductive organs. They don't want abortions to be legal; it would be so much better if they were unnecessary but that's not likely to happen as long as women are made to take the blame for rape, incest, abuse and, on occasion, poor judgment. The ones who yell loudest about being pro-life Christians are the ones who fight so hard for the unborn but then vote for programs to harm the already born (see the previous paragraph) and, yes, folks, they usually favor the death penalty. How can you be pro-life up to the moment of birth and then pro-death penalty afterwards?  Why do Christians do that?

Not all Christians are like this, though. There are plenty of pro-life, pro-equality, pro-taking-care-of-others Christians who take Jesus' words and teachings very seriously. They volunteer at food banks, schools, hospitals, nursing homes, hospices, churches, community outreach programs and even circulate and sign petitions for causes that would make life better for someone (or a group of someones) who seemingly have no other voice. They don't just sit in the pews on Sunday, they actually go out in the community (or even visit communities far, far away) to do things that need doing, build things that need building, teach things that need to be taught and doing it all without getting paid for it. They follow Jesus -- seriously. They read the Bible seriously. They take their baptismal vows seriously and they show their faith seriously although with smiles, laughter and expressions of hope, happiness and joy. My question then becomes not "Why do Christians do that?" but rather, "Why don't Christians do that?"

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