Saturday, August 25, 2012

On Christians

I don't know about you, but by and large, I have generally positive experiences with Christians. I've been invited to forum discussions with Christians and found them both kind and polite. I've visited many beautiful churches, all of which have been welcoming places tended to by welcoming people. 

Here are two prime examples of such churches, if you'll allow me to share. 

The first is from the town of Hythe in Kent, England. They get quite a few visitors as the church is exceedingly old, and at the door hangs this message:

One positively weeps at the inclusion of others, the desire to share, and the welcome they provide to everyone. Motherfucking St Leonard's representing for Christ, yo.

 The second is a church in Edinburgh, I believe an Anglican church. When I entered, the priest was having a great time playing the organ, either in practice or just for enjoyment. Either way his pleasure was infectious. At the back of the church was an area for small children to play quietly, and up the front, near the altar:

This, dear reader, is a collection of tenets from a variety of religions that are similar in some way to the "Golden Rule", all lined up together and lit from within. (I mean yes the Rede isn't representative of Paganism as a whole but I am willing to overlook that because of the inclusive beauty of the thing itself. They meant well.) The church, by the way, was beautiful, and I recommend visiting. St John's Episcopal Church. Check out those stained glass windows. Spectacular.

These churches, and others like them, are my predominant impression of Christianity. (Or at least, Christianity outside of the United States. There are only so many Bishop Gene Robinsons to Pat Robertsons. But by and large I choose to dismiss the United States as being a bit behind the times.) It was therefore a surprise, when invited to join in discussion with Christians as I mentioned above, to see them making comments that were insulting and offensive.

They didn't mean to make them, mind you. Not maliciously. That is to say, they didn't mean to offend. But that's part of the problem; they don't understand why the comments offended. They don't practise empathy with non-Christians. Perhaps they think they do. One of them painted his Pagan friends as people who felt they had been "abandoned" by his god, and hurt, and talked about how much he wanted to show them his god's love. Yet I'd wager those Pagan friends of his do not consider themselves the lost souls he imagines them to be. Another described all non-Christians as being unable to properly engage in a religious dialogue because they had no understanding of a spiritual life. I countered this, and explained why it might be offensive to make this sort of comment. His reply? He "knew the truth" and had no need therefore to research into other people's religious practice. His reading of the bible had told him that only Christians were spiritual people, and that's all he needed to know; he believed that, he knew the truth, and therefore anything else must be untrue. 

This outright dismissal of non-Christians genuinely surprised me, because as you see above, I've been conditioned to expect Christians to be kind, welcoming people. These comments were not only unwelcoming, they deliberately shut out of dialogue any non-Christian and dismissed their opinions on the basis of a... I want to say "misunderstanding" but that term seems too polite. The idea that a person thinks ignorance is righteous disgusts me. And I don't consider it representative of their god's supposed love. Be nice to other people, and listen, and help others without expectation for conversion, or I'll consider you a shitty excuse for a Christian because I've seen how good Christians can be. I've seen how Christians can reach out to non-Christians and respect their faiths enough to learn about them, and find in those faiths something to celebrate, and fucking dialogue with people without disrespecting them or their beliefs or their gods. Those Christians show me what is good in Christianity by their actions and while I'm fairly sure I don't believe in the divinity of Christ, frankly I don't think that it's too important when it comes to respecting those who choose to follow his example. 

So get your shit together, unspecified number of Christians. Other Christians are making you look like super-shitty people. 


  1. I think it's wonderful that you have been conditioned to expect a pleasant experience when conversing with Christians. I do think location plays a large part in that. I can't speak for most of the U.S. but I can speak for one living in the "Bible Belt" of the U.S. which, right says a lot does it not? Lol.

    Over all, while there is a frightening large number of more radical Christian believers in my little neck of the woods, I can overlook that and understand the message most decent people would like to share about their faith. Unfortunately, even the radicals aside the number of those who have a poor attitudes and misconceptions towards anyone who is not at least some sort of Christian is staggering.

    Like you mentioned, the majority of Christians around here don't mean to be really rude I'd say, some even attempt to be fairly nice when telling you how your 'wrong' :-/ but there's always, always such a condescending attitude and demeanor. One of, "Oh, some day they'll see the truth." (I can't even tell you how many times both my husband and I have been told that exact thing.)

    It's disheartening but I know or at least try to remember that not all Christians are like this. I did actually have a rather pleasant experience with one of my suitors in colleges. Very devout Christian, understood I was very devout, but we got along splendidly in the spiritual department. I even attended a couple Sunday services with him and he was fascinated with how I would pray and what not. In the end we didn't work out but it was for completely different reasons other than religion.

    So, there is some proof for me haha that I can get along with a Christian. It's just.. well I'll be honest. Even for someone who's felt the sting of judgment from others based on labels and their differences it is sometimes hard for me to remember or rather, not assume that if religion is being brought up at the dinner table so to speak and I am among a majority of Christians (and around here that is almost always the case) that it's best just to not add to the conversation as it will end badly. Which is rather pessimistic and presumptuous but I'm afraid it stems from past experiences and proves to be the turn out more often than not.

    You know me though, I can get along and play nice with just about anyone. However, needless to say online in usually more civilized conversations is about the only place I feel able to openly talk about religion. Excluding a select few real life friends I have of course. It does sometimes bother me that I've come to feel that I should hold my tongue when it comes to religion in my everyday life around the majority of people. I think it can mostly just chalked up to what I said before; location, location, location. ;-)

    1. I feel most comfortable discussing religion online too, possibly because religion makes so many people here a bit uncomfortable or annoyed. It can be a volatile subject and it's just easier to discuss when anyone involved can just leave the conversation whenever they like, and people aren't forced into a discussion they don't really want to have.

      It's interesting: tonight parliament voted on the first reading of a bill for same-sex marriage (it passed, though it's a long way off from being law). Some of the people who spoke as to their reasons for voting the way they did were Christians and gave Christian-oriented reasons (and shitty reasons they were too), but it was sort of interesting because some of them were all "I'm a Christian (one of them was actually once a Presbyterian minister) and I am voting yes because of blah blah". Around 50-60% of people here identify as Christian but only 10% attend church with any sort of regularity.

      So I can totally agree with you, it's absolutely a location thing. I think when you're surrounded by people who share your faith and are able to speak about it openly and easily, and have your ideas reflected back at you, you're in more of a place of religious privilege so to speak... and you might be more likely not to really understand why your words may offend.

      The UK is pretty interesting because they technically DON'T have a separation between church and state, what with the head of the latter being the head of the former, but religion is so much less of an issue in their politics than in the US. The C of E is very sort of peculiar... they've been pushing the "it's a metaphor!" thing for hundreds of years after all, and I know I shouldn't take "Yes, Minister" too seriously but I do sometimes wonder how many Bishops are actually devout Christians and how many are sort of cultural curators.

      I love how your relationship with your ex worked! I find Christianity fascinating on some levels, particularly aspects of ritualised prayer, so I can see in him the contrariwise version of myself ;)