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With Hope, Faith, and Perseverance

Not the Scary Kind of Christian

17 Comments

Coexist-bumpersticker by Patrick Byrne via wmc

Image by Patrick Byrne via Wikimedia Commons

 

 “I love Christ. It’s just that so many of you Christians are so unlike Christ.”             _____Mahatma Gandhi

I found this version of the Gandhi quote at  Skeptics Stack Exchange,  where they seem to have done a some research. I can understand why Gandhi might have said this.

I am a Christian.  An open-minded, progressive, tree-hugging Christian.

I’m writing this because I want you to know we exist.

Sometimes I wonder if I should even call myself a Christian because of what that label has come to mean to so many. The media likes to celebrate controversial, often negative, people who call themselves Christians, (and maybe they are – it’s not for me to say) people who are not open-minded, not progressive, and certainly not tree-huggers. They are the kind of people who scared the Christianity out of me and drove me to fierce agnosticism when I was in my twenties.

I don’t want to be one of the scary Christians.

It wasn’t until after I became a parent, working in a challenging, bureaucratic  social service agency, that I took a chance on a church, because I knew I needed something more than my agnostic, nature loving philosophies with a side of sci-fi.

I was skeptical. But the little Episcopal church welcomed me with open minded intelligence and introduced me to their “three-legged stool” of scripture, tradition and reason. My questions and doubts were accepted without condemnation. They loved me. This love and acceptance allowed me to become open to learning more about Jesus. The more I learned, the more I wanted to learn about him.

This past Sunday, one of my church friends, a young college student (younger than me anyway) shared that most of his friends are atheists, and he is trying to show them that all Christians aren’t like the conservatives they see in the news.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I know that it’s anyone’s right to be a conservative Christian if they want to. I have beloved friends and family members who are conservative Christians. To tell the truth, I’m becoming more conservative, in my  behavior as I get older. But I’m still liberal and open minded in my beliefs. Maybe that’s why I have beloved friends and family members who are Buddhists, pagans, agnostics, atheists, new agers and eclectics.

I believe in the love of the Jesus who hung out with the poor and the prostitutes and loved them, the revolutionary Jesus who raised women and children up as people to be cared for and listened to instead of property.  I love the Good Shepherd who seeks his lost sheep, not with condemnation, but with love .

GS close up

Open minded, progressive Christians don’t make the news much, but we’re out here.

Oh, and I still like a side of sci-fi, now and then.

 

 

 

 

Author: JoAnna

An open minded, tree-hugging Christian, former counselor, and life-long lover of animals, I'm returning to my creative roots and have published my first book: Trust the Timing, A Memoir of Finding Love Again, available at amazon.com.

17 thoughts on “Not the Scary Kind of Christian

  1. Thank you, for the re-blog, Osh! Blessings to you 🙂

  2. I like that quote. Nice post about religious tolerance. 🙂

  3. I am with you in being “an open-minded, progressive, tree-hugging Christian.” There are many of us! I think that the tree-hugging segment in particular is becoming more visible due to Pope Francis’s encyclical and the coming climate talks in Paris. Christians and other people of faith are joining with secular environmentalists to protect the climate.

  4. Yes! Many of us have been here all along. The affirming support from Pope Francis and this coming together gives me hope. Thank you for that perspective.

  5. I must confess, here in England, the stereotypical American Christian does not enjoy a good reputation, largely of course, due to the sensationalists making the news over the quiet, intelligent adherents, such as yourself. I am pleased to meet you JoAnna, and look forward to reading your thoughts.

    • Thank you for your honesty, Hariod. I suspected as much about the reputation of Christians. I’m curious if Christians in England are more open minded, or if it’s the news coverage that reinforces the stereotype and reputation of American Christians. Either way, that’s why I decided to write this post. I’m looking forward to reading more of your thoughts, too!

      • Thank you JoAnna. As with your country, then Christians are far from being a homogeneous grouping here in England. My own inclinations are perhaps best described as free-floating Buddhistic, yet not in any religious sense; and notwithstanding this, then I do frequently attend evensong at nearby Wells Cathedral. Those Christians that I have met there over the years are indistinguishable from those Buddhists I meet at the end of retreats, or in lectures – broadly speaking they are sensitive, humble, intelligent, reflective, knowledgeable and unstintingly kind-hearted. What distinguishes one’s choice of faith (if I may call it that) from another, can very often be virtually indiscernible, perhaps accidental even. I don’t know if you might agree with that statement? And of course, many will jump ship at some point in their life, only to adopt another faith or exploratory path perhaps.

        So yes, to answer your question, it is the mainstream media that creates these stereotypes, or at least presents the same as somehow representative of the whole. The fact that religion is interwoven into your country’s politics is significant too I feel, as in this country it is rare for politicians to discuss their faith, if indeed they have any. The march of Neo-Atheism – Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens, Harris et al – largely went un-noticed here, and seemed very much directed at America, and perhaps in particular at the teaching of Creationism in public schools. So, it is the institutions that are to blame for this reputation I feel – the MSM, the educational system, the admix of religion and politics. The overall impression might be characterised as right-wing (conservative), proselytising, confrontational, and arrogant. It is terribly unfair on the many well-meaning Christians, but there we have it I’m afraid.

  6. Thank you for your thoughts, Hariod, which lead me to take a closer look at my relative perspective and relationships. When I read that religion is interwoven into our politics, I think about how it’s not supposed to be like that. People talk about the “separation of church and state,” but then many Christian politicians talk freely about God. A few talk about Jesus. If there are political/government officials who have other religious beliefs, we don’t hear much about it. But I bet they exist, they’re just quiet about it. I’m not comfortable with that theory.
    I’m glad you’ve had the experience of the people you meet at evensong having those qualities. It reminds me of people who appreciate meditative Taize chants who would be likely to have those qualities too. As far as discernability (if that’s a word) I have often had good interactions with Christians who I was surprised to find out later hold much more conservative beliefs than I’m comfortable with. Sometimes we can continue to have a casual friendship if we don’t try to push our beliefs on each other and respect each other. My friends in social media vary greatly in there beliefs/faiths/religions.I enjoy the diversity. This makes me think about common threads. I like to believe we all have common threads regardless of our religion. Maybe it’s a love of a particular kind of music, hobbies, or movies/TV shows. Maybe it’s being a parent or having a love of animals or nature. Interesting ideas to consider. Thanks again for your comment!

  7. I couldn’t agree more. Thanks for writing this and to Hariod for his comments.
    I’m also a UK Christian and am sometimes surprised at some right wing type US Christian assumptions I’ve heard about. ( Of course, as stated, this might be a lot to do with media portrayals.)
    I find the political mix particularly hard to swallow, as for me it was Jesus inherent socialism, even dare I say (true) communism! (Acts 2:44 – 45) that first attracted me to Him. After that it was His association with harlots, tax collectors and the poor and less than respectable elements of society a true enactment of love that convinced me. I feel Christianity is more radical than conservative. After all what could be more radical than quitting your job, leaving your family and living as a traveler to follow an itinerant carpenter who was finally imprisoned, suffering a humiliating, torturous and half naked public execution. Having said that I have known wonderful Christians, of whom even Gandi may have approved, from many nations and walks of life.
    Like you I feel God’s love is not exclusive to Christians (He weeps for all that suffer whatever their religion and will meet with them in whatever way He can.)

  8. I love your open minded embracing so many people of different faiths. The people I care about have a love for people, try daily to give thanks and show their faith. I was raised Episcopalian, but became a Presbyterian during the 80’s. Thank you for listening and also, sharing your faith and love of the Lord.

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