Lately, I’ve found myself not wanting to be associated with christians. Not Christianity – nothing’s wrong with Christianity or Christ for that matter – but christians. I’ve just been disappointed with so-called “people of the way”, who have recently shown that their way and mine are markedly different, even though we say the way begins and ends at the same place – Christ.
Christians doing unChristian like things in the name of Christianity is nothing new, however. From the Christian Crusades to the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 in Great Britain; and the Tripura rebellion, the religious violence in Odisha, and the National Socialist Council of Nagaland and their religious cleansing in Manipur – all in India; to the sectarian violence against Muslim civilians by Anti-balaka Christian militants in Central African Republic and Maronite Christian militias in Lebanon, or the Orange Volunteers in Northern Ireland; and The Lord’s Resistance Army led by infamous Joseph Kony in Uganda, to the Ku Klux Klan in the U. S. whose early goals included reestablishing protestant christian values in America “by any means possible;” the list of christians historically being unChristian-like goes on and on.
But that’s what makes us christians, right? Our brokenness; our fallibility – generally understood to be a result of our separation from Christ. And it’s my separation from these historical events and actors in Christianity that allows me personal comfort in my present day faith. They are not me. I am not them. Every thing that is good today was not necessarily good yesterday. “This is not Christianity today,” I tell myself.
Until Dylann Roof walks into a christian church and murders, in cold blood, other christians who welcomed him. And not only is he christian, but a Lutheran, baptized and confirmed just like me. So was Dylan Klebold, 1 of 2 of the Columbine killers, and James Eagan Holmes, the Aurora, Colorado theater shooter, and Dennis Rader, the BTK serial killer – who was even church council president.
I’m 4th generation Lutheran.
And while I’m not sure what any of this means exactly, I have been examining my faith a lot lately as it relates to other people who claim to believe what I believe, who were taught what I was taught by the church. Is this Christianity today? My Christianity?
I feel guilty by association.
Particularly in the wake of the last 1.5 years of politics and subsequent election of Donald J. Trump as president, thanks to a heavy lift from 81% of white evangelical “born again” christians. People who I am not that separated from. People who I am very connected to whom I share the gospel with. Was it you? Or was it you??
I feel guilty by association.
While my personal faith is in no way dependent upon other people, I find myself not wanting to be associated with people whom I allegedly share the same God with, who are capable of committing such unGodly acts, or capable of committing to such an unGodly candidate.
I just wonder which part of the gospel, or which message of God’s grace they heard over their lifetimes that was different from what I’ve heard and internalized over mine? I’m questioning everything and everyone these days. I thought we left THOSE christians in the past with history – in some far away land, even further away from God.
But we are right here. You are right here. History repeats itself.
Then I look in the mirror.
Can I, a black man in a Lutheran church of 1% African Descent trust you, the 96% of white Lutherans whom I’ve called brothers and sisters in Christ for all of my life despite our church’s failure to live up to its promise to diversify? Can I, a black man in America trust you, the 81% of white evangelical “born again” christians whom I’ve embraced as my brothers and sisters in Christ for the better part of the last decade, despite our very different interpretations of what it means to be “evangelical”? Can I?
White people, I have no problem with. Racist white people I can deal with. But christian white people who have weaponized their faith to other the other instead of loving the other – I’m terrified of.
Can I trust you not to kill me when I welcome you into my safe space unlike Dylann Roof?
Can I trust you not to hurt me, or the women I love, or the Muslims I share tea with, or the disabled I care for, or the LGBTQ I advocate for, or the foreigner I welcome into my home unlike the presidential candidate and cabinet we just elected to office?
Can I trust you?
God didn’t. God didn’t trust us to love our neighbors as ourselves because God understood that some of us didn’t even love ourselves, so God sent Christ to give us a new covenant to love our neighbors as God first loved us. And in Jesus’ very first sermon on the mount, he affirms me, and the poor, and the mournful, and the meek, and the merciful, and the pure of heart, and the persecuted, and #blacklivesmatter.
For that, I still trust Christ. But christians? Lately I find myself not wanting to be associated with christians, especially the white kind. And while I’m not sure what that means exactly, I have been examining my faith a lot as it relates to other people who claim to believe what I believe, who were taught what I was taught by the church; yet who are capable of committing such unGodly acts, or capable of committing to such an unGodly candidate – and I’m having a hard time trusting anyone down here these days.
So do me a favor christians: this holiday season, let us worry less about putting “Christ” back in Christmas, and more about putting Christ back in christians. Amen?