Dear Angry Non-Christian friend,
I’ve been meaning to write to you for quite a while now. I’ve heard your feelings about my beliefs quite clearly – from your Facebook posts, your arguments in person, and your comments on religious articles in the newspaper, some of which have occasionally been responses to my own editorial essays and blogs.
You communicate your feelings about “people of faith” pretty clearly. And I have resisted the urge to respond to them…until now. But at the risk of sounding harsh, for the sake of clarity I think the relentless nature of your attacks on believers in general warrants a little push back now.
So to make sure I’m reading you loud and clear, what follows is a collection of what I have learned you believe about “all Christians”, followed by what many Christians wish you understood. I apologize ahead of time, as I’m quite sure you will find much of it offensive. That is not my intention, but it is hard to answer…forgive me…rather ignorant attacks without making your attacker sound ignorant. Again, I apologize.
Here’s what I have learned about Christians from your comments…
“We’re all hypocrites”
You seem to take particular glee in pointing out how imperfect we people of faith are. You mention that we don’t live up to everything we say we believe. You see this as a flaw. But I see this as actually quite noble.
It is easy not to be a hypocrite if you don’t stand for anything lofty in the first place. If you aim at nothing, you’re very likely to hit it on a consistent basis. When your goal in life is to be a scoundrel, you’ll probably never be accused of being a hypocrite. Congrats.
Most Christians would be the first person to tell you they are not perfect. The fact they are shooting for a higher goal than a base, hedonistic existence does not make them hypocrites. It simply means they want to be better than what others settle for.
I realize this may make you feel bad about yourself, that we strive for something more even though we often fail to achieve it. Sorry, but I’d rather try to be like Jesus and fail than never try at all.
“We’re dumb as rocks”
Please forgive me ahead of time for how intellectually arrogant what I’m about to say will sound, because from many of your condescending rants I know just how distasteful condescension can be. But I have come to understand that even after years in college and graduate-level studies, I still must know nothing of science, history, literature, the Arts, etc.
I suppose you think Christians spent all our time at Bible camp and have never read the opinions of those critical of our faith. Funny thing, in preparation for my ministry, I was required to read many works by Freud, Bertrand Russell, Nietzsche, and many others. And as astounding as you might find this, most ministers I know had to do the same.
Many Christians know very well what the arguments are against faith. It is not that we are ignorant of them – it is simply that we don’t think they stand up that well. I distinctly remember picking up Russell’s “Why I Am Not A Christian” with great fear and trembling, on the challenge from an atheist professor that it would utterly wreck my faith. How stunned I was to find myself giggling with delight as I finished it, realizing how very weak his arguments were. To this day, I keep the book in my library as a kind of faith trophy!
Though I know you’d like to think we believe only out of ignorance, the truth is often right the opposite. Many of us came to Christ PRECISELY BY LOOKING AT THE FACTS, not by looking away from them. That scenario is almost a cliche now, because it has been repeated in the lives of so many doubters who eventually ended up believers (C.S. Lewis comes screamingly to mind).
But I understand there is comfort found in believing you are just too smart to be a Christian. How many times have I heard you say, “I wish I could believe your religious fairy tales, but I just can’t bring myself to it”? I would pose that it’s not your intellectual honesty keeping you at bay, it is your stomach for true adventure. Because risking this whole cosmic existence on the truth of God is the ride of a lifetime!
I have heard the stories of many people who have been hurt in churches. They are legion and legend. I have been on the receiving end of some pretty painful stuff myself, and even have had my own children attacked by supposed “believers” who used them to pay back a grudge against me.
So I do not deny that this exists. But does it not exist outside the church as well? Is not your work place and beauty salon just as gossipy and judgmental, if not more so? But that’s the problem. You are expecting the church to be perfect, even though it is populated by admittedly imperfect people reaching toward a uniquely perfect God. As soon as the first human shows up, church ceases to be perfect and somebody gets hurt. Since God has never been that choosy about whom He lets in, we seem to think an “open door policy” is good for church as well.
So yes, if you come to a place populated by lots of imperfect humans, someone will eventually tick you off, hurt your feelings, step on your toes, or not kiss your boo boo. Buck up, buttercup and rejoice in this: if they made it in, there’s a good chance there’s room for one more sinner like you and me, too!
You grouse that we are unwilling to change our cherished beliefs held for over 2000 years now to fit into your current social climate. You are shocked…yes, SHOCKED that we don’t see the wisdom in (INSERT LATEST CULTURAL FAD HERE), and that we refuse to get with it and sell out everything we believe in hopes of gaining your fleeting approval…which you wouldn’t give us anyway.
Most Christians are not trying to take away your rights, but are simply standing for what they believe. When you stand for your beliefs, we do not call you “hateful”. But before you will be happy, we not only have to tolerate your beliefs, we must cry “uncle” and proclaim your beliefs are just as right as our own or else we are intolerant. This is not tolerance – it is tyranny.
Ironically, Christianity is the “genesis” of most true tolerance we know today. Jesus broke with the custom of His day and spoke to women with respect as equals. Paul argued with Philemon to set free a runaway slave who had come to Christ. He also taught in Christ, there is no Jew nor Greek, male nor female…all are one!
Without the tolerance that Christianity first taught, I doubt some of you would be able to speak your minds in these political columns and blogs without endangering your lives. You’re welcomed.
What you miss is that the beliefs which are not being tolerated today are, most often, the Judeo-Christian ones. To hold onto these is somehow seen as bigoted, hateful, and intolerant.
What is truly shocking is you do not see the brazen irony in your being “intolerant to our tolerance” and calling yourself “tolerant”. Brilliant.
“We believe fairy tales”
After what probably amounts to ten to twenty minutes of Google and Wikipedia research, you are pleased to have found several arguments against the veracity of the Bible and Christianity in general. And of course we all know anything printed on the Internet is “Gospel Truth” (pardon the expression).
What you don’t realize is that most of these arguments take a verse of Scripture, jump to an erroneous conclusion about it’s original meaning or application, and then flash said conclusion in the face of believers with a brash “whaddaya think about them apples” bravado.
Do you really think no one else in the past 2000+ years has asked those questions before? And do you really think that no one else, out of all the great minds of Christendom, has come up with a sufficient answer? If Christianity were that easy to topple, don’t you think someone would have done it by now? Seriously, how much easier it would be for us all just to believe God thinks we’re perfect just as we are, and requires no adjustments in our actions and character? Human nature is dying to believe something that juicy.
But Christianity has held up quite nicely to the honest questions of believers and doubters alike for a couple of thousand years now, thank you very much. And when you quote verses out of context or completely misrepresent their meaning, or ignore other parts of Scripture which explain or qualify the passage further, you actually betray how little you understand about history, archaeology, or textual criticism at all.
Are there valid questions? Of course, there are. Are there reasonable answers? Yes, quite reasonable ones most of the time. Just because your western civ. professor told you the Bible was junk doesn’t necessarily make it so. I know, Christians are completely biased in their beliefs, unlike professors in liberal arts universities, right? Oh, please.
And while you love to make fun of the kosher laws against pork and shellfish in the Old Testament, you ignore the fact that thousands of years before Louis Pasteur the Jews knew how to stay healthy and live sanitary lifestyles. As unscientific as you say the Bible is, it somehow managed to see the danger of germs and disease without benefit of the first microscope! It somehow saw the earth was a ball hung in space thousands of years before the first telescope!
OK, my little rant has now come to an end. I apologize if my tone has seemed snarky at times, but just consider it a verbal “eye for an eye”. After years of Bill Maher and Jon Stewart making fun of us, maybe it’s finally time the Christians had a little good-natured fun of our own!
But I hope I haven’t caused you to question any of your own cherished beliefs against God. Far be it from me to cause anyone to doubt (“snort”, “muffled chuckle”)…
Have you ever been on the receiving end of these comments?
Which of these do you believe is actually a valid critique of Christianity?