Friday, October 27, 2006

The World's Worst Christian

I am the World's Worst Christian. All the stuff that the Bible and the Church says I should be doing if I want to be a good Christian, I'm not doing. I drink, I cuss, I listen to rock and roll, I will not watch Christian TV nor listen to Christian music. I watch movies that have car crashes, guns being used in all sorts of ways never intended by their makers and more nekkid people than the last party at Hef's mansion.

I am a member of the Episcopal Church which allows a wide range of theological beliefs, some of which are just a hair shy of denial of even the most basic Christian tenets, ordains gay clergy, and is wrestling big time with its more conservative bretheren about gay marriage/civil unions, and other things that strain the seams of the big tent. I still believe that the Bible is the Word of God, but unlike most evango-fundies, I no longer believe it is inerrant. The Church says I have to share my faith, but hell if I'm going to stand out on the streets handing out Chick Tracts and screaming at the top of my lungs that everyone's going to hell. I'm just not into all that. If someone wants to know what I believe, they only have to ask. I'll be more than willing to tell them about what I believe the Bible says and what Jesus Christ means to me. And then I leave them alone to stew over what I told them. If they want to know more, I'll tell them. If after much thought discussion, they want to take the plunge, I'll lead them in the " sinner's prayer", and help them find a church. But I don't shove Bibles don't people's throats, or scare Jesus into them with fire and brimstone sermons and I don't go out of my way to reach some heavenly quota to try and save at least one soul for the Church every day. Don't get me wrong, I love the Lord and try(unsuccessfully, most of the time) to be a good Christian, but sometimes I see His Church doing so many unchristian things, and engaging in behavior that clearly is NOT found in the Bible, that I get dispondent, and discouraged. It's not Jesus that's the problem, it's his disciples.

I can't stomach what passes for Christian media. The local Cornerstone TV station in Pittsburgh, when it's not doing one of its interminable fund raising drives to wring the last dollar out of its audience, is shoveling out a constant stream on televangelists dispensing Jesus to anyone who will dole out the shekels for their latest DVD, book, or whatever. Or some news program slanted to the right of Attila the Hun that looks to take every little story that pops up and tries to fit it into their interpretation of the Book of Revelation as to when Jesus is coming back. Have you ever gone to a Christian bookstore and seen which topic commands the most shelf space? I'll give you three guesses and the first two don't count. I'll give you a few seconds. Hmmm-hmm, la,la,la dee,dee,dee scratch, scratch, wibble, wibble. Can't get it?, it's the section that prognosticates, analyzes, calculates, and otherwise speculates when Jesus will make his triumphant return. There are any number of authors who have taken it upon themselves to try and figure out when events of the Book of Revelation are going to jump off, and how what's going on today has any bearing on such events. The stock market goes too high, that means that Revelation 3:23 is about to come true. If President Bush farts during a press conference about global warming, that means that the bowl judgements are not far behind. If Britney Spears releases another album, well, it's too late, the Antichrist has taken over and the Mark of the Beast has already started appearing on unbeliever's foreheads and hands. People are spending all this time trying to figure out God's calendar for when his grand plan will go down, but according to scripture, God the father hasn't even let his Son Jesus in on all the details. If He won't even share his calendar with his own beloved Son, what makes you think he's gonna tell some schmuck in Nashville, who's looking to cash in on the prophecy phenomenon? I'd like to think that God speaks to me every day. Most of the time, I'm too much into listening to Brian Setzer on my iPod to hear him, so He sometimes has to resort to more drastic measures, but I know for a fact the Lord hasn't made me privy to his eternal to-do list.

Back in the day I used to listen to a lot of Christian music. Hell, I even threw away my prized ELO cassettes because I was convinced by some TV preacher that Jeff Lynne and the boys were paving my own personal road to Hell. I listened to more Contemporary Christian Music in the '80s than any sane person should ever be subjected to. Some of it, like Petra and Steve Taylor was pretty good, a lot of it was quite bad. Rock and roll is supposed to have attitude, edge, it's supposed to be a bit rough, and piss off the authority figures. Adding Jesus to the mix took a lot of that out of the music leaving it more palatable for suburban white kids who got saved in their 5,000 member superchurch, and still wanted to rock, but not irritate the parents. That was pretty sappy saccharine sweet stuff back in the '80s, which was an era that was not known for the best in music either spiritual or secular. Even then there were all sort of TV preachers railing against CCM because they thought that Christianity and rock and roll were the Devil's way of ensnaring the sheep. Of course, they would be more than willing to tell you all the facts in their DVD, or latest book which you can at Family Bookstores for $24.99. I never had a problem with Christians using any kind of music to reach young people with the Gospel because, dragging young iPod wearing kiddies to church and hitting them with A Mighty Fortress is Our God on a 30,000 pipe eight manual organ which uses a 427 Chevy Rat Motor to run the blowers will go over about as well as trying to sell the Devil space heaters. One of the things Jesus did was that he met people where they were. He didn't raise people to His level, he came down to theirs in an effort to bring them up.

Then there's all this craziness about trying to mix religion and politics. There are all these concerned Christians that love to expound that if the government would allow prayer back in schools and acknowledge God's role in government publicly, all would be fine. These are the same folks who about this time of year lament that they can't have a Nativity scene in the lobby of the City-County Building during the year end holidays. They want America to become a Chrstian Nation. I hate to tell them that the Founding Fathers, while they did acknowledge God in their personal beliefs tended to be Deists, not necessarily Christians. Deists, for those who are uninitiated believe that God created the universe and the earth, but once He got the ball rolling, He basically then said: "Ok, y'all are on your own, I'm out of here. " Essentially, once God got it all started, he bugged out and no longer has control over what's going on. Besides, do you really want to see America as a "Christian nation?", to the extent that Christianity becomes the major source of governmental doctrine? Before you say yes to that, consider such garden spots like Saudi Arabia, Iran, most of the Middle East. Places where religion and government are entwined and inseperable. Maybe its ok if you are part of the majority religious coalition in power, but look out if you aren't one of God's chosen within the faith or an outsider. And don't think that only Muslims can be assholes when they run a theocracy, what makes you think Christians will be any better. Power corrupts, no matter who or what the affiliation, whether religion is involved or not. There are those who are predisposed to lead and those who are predisposed to follow. And don't think that those who are atheist or agnostic are any better, I submit to you the former Soviet Union that preached atheism as its official doctrine, closed and destroyed churches, and killed who knows how many clergy, and anybody else that criticized their totalitarian rule, a fine bunch of guys those Commies were.

Suffice it to say, that the desire to gain, hold and wield power over other human beings is not the exclusive franchise of one people, religion, ethnic group, or tribe, but is a human trait that is hard wired into our brains. We all think we have all the right answers and we all want to think that if we cream those answers to anyone who stands still long enough to listen, they'll be converted to our side. I don't like to sell things, and when we get right down to it, isn't that what evangelism really is?, selling your faith to people who may or may not be interested in buying? I can see if a person who is struggling with their religion because it's not answering their questions, that telling them about your faith and how it helps you, is a good thing. But once that's done, back off and give that person some space so they can crunch the data you gave them. If they are truly interested in what you have to say, they'll come back for more. But if they aren't, so be it, and let them know that you'll be there for them should they reconsider.

I've been working on this particular piece for going on two months now. Talk about blog rot, but then again, this is no ordinary blog. I just wish we'd just leave each other alone, and not try to pound our version of God down everybody's throats. I know I'm not the best Christian, matter of fact, I'll go on the record as saying that I suck at it. I'm always screwing up, but God in His infinite wisdom and patience keeps me around, most likely as a source of laughs. He loves me, He sent Jesus his son to die for me. The Book says I'm going to Heaven when I die, and that's what I believe. When I get to the Pearly Gates, my home will most likely be in the low rent section where all the other screwballs and nominal Christians like me will be hanging out listening to Brian Setzer on heaven's version of the iPod. And I'll be happy with that because the low rent district of Heaven is infinitely better than the richest gated ghetto in this country.
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