It’s been awhile since I’ve read anything truly thought provoking and then… I came across an article, written by a guy named Chris Kratzer, entitled:
“Why modern Christianity makes people vomit”.
I knew I wanted to read the article, but I waited until this morning because I wanted to give myself time to honestly evaluate whether it offered anything of value or challenged me in any way. I guess I found it engaging because I’ve written something of a response to it. One of the things I found most notable about the article were the comments. One person “Matthew” offered his very “real” and direct life experience at the hands of what this article calls out. (Matthew’s comment is below)
I found both very thought provoking to say the least. I’ve been where Chris describes a number of times and I’ve also been surrounded by a “grace first” church congregation (and still am). I’ve also spent a good deal of time during the last 4 years of my life as a single man hoping to find a relationship with someone who shares my faith. During my search, I encountered in the online “Christian” world much of what Chris describes in his article.
I was raised by two very loving and kind parents (unlike Matthew) who were heavily indentured into “religion”. That’s not to say they both didn’t love Jesus… but it is to say that they allowed ritualism to blend into their faith, which then they tried to “have” me follow in too.
Long ago, I decided for myself that religion itself can be truly manipulative in nature (this is not restricted to Christianity alone), but in the same statement, I also acknowledge that’s not what Jesus came to teach or model, nor is it what many people of faith view as the basis for their life in faith. That said, this was not my take away from the article.
You see (and I agree with a lot of things Matthew mentions in his comments), the one thing the article does not speak to is self-reflection and personal accountability. The article goes a long way in exposing the underbelly of religious Christianity. How it is rife with legalism and judgementalism, but it does not directly talk about the root of both of those labels which is based in a lack of choice and personal accountability. “Matthew” in his comments, appears to have taken a very sober inventory of his life and has made a decision based on what he’s learned in the face of what he’s been taught and seen demonstrated in his life (sadly… he had, what by his account seems like an awful example and teaching). Matthew’s taken the time to reflect on himself and his experience instead of blaming others as his mother modeled. Some would call her actions “blind faith”. I call it deliberate ignorance because it requires no personal accountability or action, just blind, unconfirmed or acknowledged obedience. A very good friend (who also happens to be a pastor) once said to me “if you don’t question your faith, your faith is questionable”. Damn straight! Why do you believe what you believe and what do you stand for?
Unfortunately, there is much of modern Christianity that appears to the world as Chris’s article describes… it’s easier to label someone as horrible or sinful (insert your descriptor of choice here) to make yourself feel better about your own crap! It’s easier to point a finger than it is to look at yourself. The sad part though is that this behaviour is not held exclusive to religious behaviour, though the hypocrisy is far more common and prevalent.
Chris (the author), seemingly in frustration, appears to label the people he alludes to rather than simply handing them a mirror. What they choose to do with that mirror is up to them, just as it was Matthew’s choice to turn away from God (my words), or deny His existence altogether. Matthew evaluated for himself and made a choice.
It’s no secret that religion has been used as a tool or weapon of manipulation throughout history and my words or the words in Chris’s article are not likely to change that.
Jesus died for us to bring us freedom and yet, we still cling to and deal with chains! I know that Christ was one tough Hombre when he needed to be, but in all things He taught and lived, He simply presented and modeled truth. The rest is up to us to weigh and decide. God leaves the choice to us.
Sadly, there are many who hide behind or twist God’s message to us to make their own crap seem more justifiable by manipulating or quoting scripture out of context to suit their means or worse… to whip and torture people with guilt and shame. In the end though, they’re rationalizations and nothing more. The result however, is that children and people who just need someone to be human and walk with them are judged as sinful and are scorned for their vulnerability and honesty. They wind up being chastised for being honest and reaching out for help. I suppose you could say that they too are being handed a mirror, but that mirror comes with a context of disdain and judgment rather than being offered in humility and love.
I have no idea of what it was like for “Matthew” to live what he has, but I do know what it was like to live what I have and that’s what I can own and more importantly, reflect and share. I can offer to sit with someone like Matthew and reflect what I see when I look in my own mirror in the face of my life experience. Hopefully, I will be honest with myself about what I see and Matthew will see the sincerity and integrity in my account, through my humility and humanity.
Chris’s article mentions (please read the article to get the whole context):
“Nothing enflames the passion of your cause more than to discover a new enemy. If you can’t find a real one, you simply string one together—homosexuality, liberality, wars against Christianity, prayer in schools, transgender equality—always some ax to grind. Nothing takes the wind out of your sails than to be absent of sin-targets for which to take your self-righteous aim— those who sin differently than you, your favorite sitting duck.”
While this seems an accurate account, it doesn’t mention the downside of identifying this without offering some personal experience or testimony. It winds up achieving the very thing you’re upset about. To be honest… I agree with nearly everything Chris writes in his article, but the article only identifies the behaviour so many have come to suffer from or revile. It doesn’t challenge the reader or the subject of his text (religious, judgemental people) to take a look at themselves before looking for something or someone else to blame so their living is easier to bear or justify.
As someone who leads in worship, I was a little startled by these words:
“Where are the choruses, “My life sucks right now, and so does God?” I know, that would be too raw and real to where many are truly at I guess— doesn’t fit a starch-ironed, pleated theology, or look good on LED-shaded projection screens.”
Worship is a lot more than lights and music… it’s a willingness to sit with someone or welcome them in their pain or joy and share your shoulder and honest experience too. It’s also about being vulnerable when singing “Lord, I need you, Oh, how I need you”, because you honestly find yourself doing that whether you’re crying in a pew, singing from the stage or all alone in your bedroom at night. Gratefully, I “live” in a church where humanity, humility and grace come first. Where everyone is aware that someone walking through the doors may have used what seems like their last bit of strength to be there and the last thing they need is to have their ass kicked by “religion”. I also want to add… not all songs sung in church are about feel good praise and worship. Many dig deep and say… life hurts, but there is a flip side…
Thanks J.J. … this is a personal favourite… and then there’s
Which has seen me wondering this on more than one occasion.
Modern Christianity itself doesn’t make people vomit, it’s some of the people practicing it that makes them ill! When people find out that I’m a “Jesus follower”, they immediately say “oh, you’re religious”, to which I reply… “No, my faith is in Christ because He meets me where I live! My life isn’t about rules, it’s about choice.” The article misses something very important. The “Christians” it mentions are using the Bible as a hammer, rather than a mirror.
I used to get “sick” myself and on some occasions, I even allowed myself to be hurt or angered by much of the rhetoric and judgmental garbage the article identifies. Then I realized that the very people who are pointing their fingers and looking down their noses are also in pain. They too need grace and forgiveness… they just don’t realize it because they’ve been taught to and find it easier, even convenient to judge, hate and fear rather than be humble, vulnerable and self-reflective enough to ask for help and receive love.
I apologize for the long winded response, but if there’s a part 2 to the article, I think it’s what I mentioned in my response to “Joe” who asks about a “next steps” proposition.
The next steps are simple… take an honest inventory of your life and be prepared to be completely honest with yourself about what you see. Be honest with yourself about the good and the bad and then, be willing to own it. The rest may be hard because, if you don’t like what you honestly see, it probably requires action and accountability. The steps are simple, I didn’t say the work would be. It isn’t for me!
This article itself points a finger, but doesn’t propose a solution (though I think it’s implied). The solution is to ask yourself with no one else around… Who are you really? What do you honestly believe if there’s no one there to judge you? Do you like who you are, your convictions and how you’re living? Do you like the choices you make for yourself?
Now, with that in mind, act based on your answers about yourself and if that seems overwhelming… ask for help and be prepared to be honest and vulnerable. Hopefully you’ll find someone just as flawed as you are to help and encourage you… just like I did.
A good friend of mine sent this to me yesterday… the timing seems a little uncanny, but maybe this will help you when it comes time to finding that honest someone…