Lorraine Devon Wilke wrote an article for the Huffington Post's religion section recently. In it she pleads with self identified Christians who dwell at our religion's center to please speak up, to raise our hands, to just let folks know we exist.
I'm not sure when Christianity became a religion of extremism in this country, but it has. Ask most non churchgoing Americans about Christianity and the first thing out of their mouth won't be about Jesus. It will probably contain the words "hate," "extremist," or "hypocrite." Sadly, much of the Christianity that dominates the airwaves today is at least one of those things.
So how did it happen, how did the followers of a peace loving, leper healing, poor feeding, dead raising, rich condemning, sex-ignoring, wealth redistributing, judgement refusing, sins forgiving preacher with nothing but the clothes on his back who died for his refusal to stop being all those things; turn into what non-Christians see today?
Let me say first, we're not all the same. Just like Muslims, Jews, Hindus and the rest; not all Christians are the same. That isn't surprising, that's called being human. We will never all agree on anything, ever; even the fact that we'll never agree!
But how did one particular group of very loud angry people become the identifier for the whole faith. After all, if I had a nickel for every time someone has said to me that they like Jesus, but they simply can't live with "Christians" (many folks use air quotes at this point) I'd be a very wealthy woman. OK, maybe not wealthy, but I wouldn't be using a six year old laptop to type this!
Part of the issue is, of course, the morphing of the "news" from just that, to entertainment. What gets on the air today is controversy. Which is likely to cause more viewers to tune in: a ranting preacher on Fox News shouting warnings that two men being allowed to make a legal union will end society and religion as we know it; or a young woman in a clerical collar calmly pointing out that legal marriage is not the same as holy matrimony and that we're supposed to have a separation of church and state, and not everyone has a religion that forbids two men (or women) to marry. OK, that's too easy. Of course the first. Because anytime you can whip up emotion, any time you can create a boogieman, anytime you can convince people that the very things they hold sacred are under attack; you've just sold a whole lot more product.
Shysters and conmen have known that long before Jesus of Nazareth walked the Earth. They tended to be the false prophets the ancient Hebrews were so keen on not falling prey to. And the truth is, the vast majority of Christians have very little time for whipping people into a frenzy. We're too busy doing the work. We're busy writing sermons (which reminds me...), stocking food pantries, answering domestic abuse hotlines, filling gas tanks for a stranded family, visiting the hospitalized and imprisoned, assuring a distraught young man that God loves him and God made him a good creation. We're busy crafting liturgy that lifts people up out of the darkness of this world and shows them the hope of what can be. We're busy reading and discussing, and studying, and praying over our living scriptures that have had a word of good news for every prior generation and still speak words of hope to us today.
We're here. We're just not loud, and we're not obnoxious, and we'll never get on Fox News, or some other "entertainment news" program because we don't want to scare you. We would rather point out that the thing God says more than anything else in the whole Bible is: "Do not be afraid." Over and over again, do not be afraid. Each time life breaks upon the people of our sacred stories, each time change threatens, God is there at the tip of that change pushing the scales over toward something new and calling out "Don't be afraid." The whole of scripture adds in silent echo: "open your eyes, stop clenching your fists in terror, get up and help me give this old world a push, because what comes next is going to amaze you!"
We're out here, we're just not loud. We're busy, we're not afraid. We're not threatened by the different choices others make, we're not threatened by the ways we disagree with one another, we're not threatened by those who believe as we do not. We're not afraid that a post-Christian nation (because we are folks, get over it) will mean the end of our faith, or the end of civilization. Rather, we rest sure in the knowledge that God loves us so incredibly that he was willing to live and die with us; in order to raise us to something greater than the fear and violence that has infected our world.
We're out here Lorraine, we've just got our hands full, come give us a hand. Maybe we can get a beer after and talk a little bit about God, and love, and this broken, beautiful, amazing world.