Saturday, December 10, 2016

The Road Less Traveled

I am sharing another story my daughter wrote for her newspaper. I am so proud, yes, proud, of the knowledge she holds of the love of Jesus.

Christians, we need to do better
            by Rebecca McKinsey, Staff Writer

December 9, 2016

We Christians love to argue about theology.

And we love to be right. Don’t we?

Our interpretation of the Bible is the best one. Our church is the best one.

During a tour stop in Carroll this week, and during a conversation with me prior to the concert, contemporary Christian musician Jason Gray offered a different perspective.

He quoted what will be, to most church-goers, a familiar scene.

“In the Bible, Jesus paints a picture for us of what it will look like when we stand before God,” Gray told me. “And it’s interesting, because God asks questions, but he doesn’t ask anything about what we believed. We aren’t asked if we believed in Scripture, the virgin birth, the resurrection, ancient baptism, anything theological. He asks, ‘When I was hungry, did you feed me? When I was thirsty, did you give me something to drink? When I was naked, did you clothe me? When I was in prison, did you visit me?’”

Gray takes those directives literally. And for years, he says, through his involvement in various organizations that serve needy, poor and sick people, he’s done what he can to help the people mentioned in those questions that are posed in the New Testament book of Matthew.

He’s addressed every area but one, until recently.

“I’ve been graced with the opportunity to serve the poor and have been grateful to know, when I stand before God, I’ll be able to answer, ‘Yes, yes, yes,’” Gray said. “Except for one. I’ve never done any work with prisoners.”

So he set out to change that. For him, he found the answer to that final question through advocacy for the organization Prison Fellowship International, started by former Nixon aide Chuck Colson, who became passionate about helping prisoners and their children after he was in prison himself.

For Jason Gray, that’s what Christianity is about. Helping people who need help.

How many of us can say the same?

While visiting from Cornerstone Church of Ames recently, Josh Moklestad posed a similar question that made me, and I hope others, think.

Arguing the Bible’s validity is important, he agreed. Being able to answer questions is important.

But don’t spend all your time talking and convincing, because for Moklestad, who works with college students, the question he hears over and over isn’t whether the Bible is true. It’s why Christians are so critical, so argumentative, so selfish — so judgmental.

He hears, “I don’t trust Christians. I don’t like the way they treat each other.”

And they don’t like how Christians treat people outside of the church.

Now, before you jump down my throat, I’m not making sweeping accusations about all Christians, all churches, all people who say they love God. I know there are Christians everywhere, including in Carroll, who are doing good, important work with people who need help.

But I can’t go in the other direction, either, and say we don’t have any problems at all. Because when people think of Christians, I don’t want them to think of naysayers, of people who judge, of an untouchable sect full of people who just don’t get it — and, worse, who don’t care.

This is where it gets a little uncomfortable.

Where is God’s love when, with our actions, we tell gay people that they’re not worthy of our time, our attention, our care, anything but our disgust?

Where is God’s love when we look at Muslims — whose very attire states publicly that their religious beliefs are different than ours — and we see terrorists?

Where is God’s love when we look at young black men in hoodies and see “thugs”?

Where is God’s love when we stand outside abortion clinics, faces red and spit flying, holding signs that weave God’s name into thinly veiled messages of hatred, and yell obscenities at the women walking in?

Compare that to the people who haven’t stepped foot in a church but who physically shield the women walking into those clinics, women who are scared for their safety and certainly have been mentally and emotionally battered by the people who scream abuse in their faces in the name of God.

Who’s showing love there?

Compare that to the people who, on Sundays, are ladling up soup at homeless shelters, rather than griping during an after-church meal at an all-you-can-eat buffet that those who don’t have enough to eat are lazy.

Who’s showing love there?

It’s simple, Moklestad said:

“The greatest defense of your faith is the way you love others.”

So let’s love.

And for the love of God, let’s stop hating.

Let’s stop hiding institutional, deep-seated aversion and, yes, hatred of people who are different than us, people who look or grew up or act or believe differently than us, behind a veil of Christianity.

If you call yourself a Christian, take a good hard look at the way you see, think of and treat people.

Not just your friends. Not just people with the same skin color as you. Not just people who can boast a bank account comparable to yours. Not just people who were born in the same city, state or country as you. Not just people who go to your church and believe the same things as you.


All people.

Look at me, for instance.

I don’t look like it, but I have Filipino blood swimming through my veins.

I’ve had days when I wasn’t sure where I was going to sleep that night.

I’ve had times when there were only pennies in my bank account. I’ve been buried in debt.

Does that make you see me differently? Would that make you less likely to greet me when we run into each other at a coffee shop?

You don’t know everyone’s story.

Stop looking at someone who is poor and automatically assuming he or she is looking for a handout.

Stop looking at someone with a different skin color than yours, someone born in a different country than you were, and automatically assuming he or she is less human than you. Less deserving than you. More dangerous than you.

How ironic, really, that the most beautiful representation of this I’ve heard recently came from a secular artist, in Alicia Keys’ new song, “Holy War.”

“Maybe we should love somebody. / Maybe we could care a little more. / Maybe we should love somebody. / Instead of polishing the bombs of holy war.”

Take a look at people who have no interest in setting foot in a church but are doing more than you to help the people in our community who have less than you — not just giving them money but reaching out to them, spending time with them, listening to them, hugging them, loving them.

Ask yourself why they’re doing that, but they don’t want to sit in your pews.

I know that I can do better — that I need to do better. I’ve found a few international organizations doing work I believe in to support, but I’m going to figure out ways to get more involved locally as well, because the antipathy coming from churches isn’t OK.

A well-known white supremacist said recently, “America belongs to white men.”

I’ve run into too many people here — sometimes in churches — who might agree.

Guess what? That belief isn’t godly.

This isn’t just a charge for white men, though. It’s for anyone who has set beliefs about people they see as “other” — and especially those who do so in God’s name.

If there’s anything I’ve found in my travels, in the time I’ve spent with many of the populations that some Christians love to hate, it’s that they’re no different than I am. When you’re sitting in the living room of a Muslim family, drinking strong Turkish coffee; when you’re holding the hands of young children with severe disabilities whose own families don’t know what to do with them; when you’re the only white person in a room — your perspective changes.

So let’s reach out. Let’s listen. Let’s remove preconceived notions and, yes, hatred, and let’s stop being hypocrites.

Let’s do better.

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