If I was writing a book on theology, I couldn’t just go off on a tangent and rant about whatever comes to mind. That’s the benefit of a blog. A good blog entry is almost bite sized; just enough for a mouthful in one sitting. Some of my online friends post 3 or 4 times a day. Some of them have no unpublished thoughts. I don’t often rant, but if you want to know what just burns my grits, it’s stupid Christians that make us all look bad.
To begin with, there are over 30 Protestant denominations just here in the United States, in addition to Roman Catholic, Episcopal Churches, etc. It’s worth mentioning that if there is a particular doctrine in Christianity that one doesn’t agree with, there are many different versions of our faith floating around, one should perhaps look into another church. That’s not even what I’m talking about. What has my rant up at arms is when one individual believer, regardless of what denomination he belongs to, says or does something dumb that to the unchurched population represents all of Christiandom. Let me give you one personal example.
When I was in college, Amnesty International was doing a campaign to abolish the death penalty. They staged a debate, and I was asked to argue in favor of the death penalty. We assembled a team, and debated a team of Amnesty International members who wanted the penalty done away with. At some point in the debate, during a cross-examination period, it became apparent that one of our team members was way out in extreme reactionary territory. He actual said he was in favor of raping rapists, and executing murderers in the same manner they had killed their victim. Even though we were on the same team, arguing basically the same premise (that the death penalty should not be abolished), I felt it necessary to make a distinction between the negative team and the individual member. All of us were not THAT extreme, and I wanted to save some face with our audience. When he said “Yes, we should rape rapists” I almost did one of those t.v. show spit-takes.
Every now and then in real life, as in our staged debate, there is one individual Christian who is so far off base it makes the rest of us choke a little. When Fred Phelps demonstrates at a military funeral, carrying signs that exclaim “God hates fags!” it’s hard to stand up in a crowd and say that you’re not ashamed of the gospel. Many unbelievers will use his church as an example of Christian bigotry and intolerance. A less shocking example might be Joel Osteen. Osteen is at sort of the other end of the spectrum. He could never possibly offend anyone. I think he’s a great guy. He’s a lot of fun to listen to. But he is not an evangelical Christian. Plenty of people think he is one of us. I would stop short of calling him a “preacher.” He’s more of a motivational speaker. He’s built a huge congregation and even larger national following based on his “Become a Better You” teaching philosphy. But it’s not the gospel.
Every time a Catholic priest gets charged with molestation, a church pastor goes to prison for ripping off his tithers, or a political candidate (i.e. Obama, McCain) drops a pastoral endorsement, all Christians everywhere go down a notch in the view of the American public. Servers in restaurants will tell you that a table full of church members are the worst tippers. There was a time when being a minister automatically gained a person some credibility in people’s eyes. Now when I tell people I’m a minister, it’s almost like an admission of guilt. I have to do something positive to gain back respect.
There’s an old saying that it only takes a couple of bad apples to spoil the bunch. And these days I have to admit, sometimes Christians can be a pretty rotten bunch.