"Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let the pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place."
-- Unknown
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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Where's the love?


I’ve been thinking about faith a lot lately – well, religion in general, I guess. I’ve noticed (with startling frequency) the number of people who have a really bad impression of Christians, and after some soul searching, I think I’ve figured out why.

A lot of people who call themselves Christians have stopped practicing the way of Christ. We’re taught that He was compassionate, loving and accepting of everyone, no matter how tarnished their reputation. Yet today, too many of us are judgmental of those who don’t fit our idea of an upstanding citizen. Some so-called Christians preach fire and brimstone, eternal damnation and the wrath of God, yet often forget to preach love, compassion and forgiveness – which, in my opinion, are some of the most wonderful aspects of the Christian faith.

Instead of leading by example, too many of us try to scare people into salvation. For example, take this verse from Corey Smith’s song “Where’s the Love”:

Young boy from a trailer park is lost and confused,
Lost faith in God after all the shit that he'd been through.
One day the preacher drops by, says "Boy, you had better change your ways,
Lord knows you're a sinner, son, and you'd burn in Hell if you died today."
Well, that news didn't sit too good with a boy who had done the best he could.
Church talk has scared him to death like his drunken father said it would.

Where's the love?
Where'd your love go, my savior?
Oh where's the love?
Where's the love that Jesus spoke of?

I don’t know – I’m not trying to get preachy here. I generally keep my religious beliefs off of my blog – but I couldn’t get this off my mind today.

What are your thoughts?

Do think some Christians take the wrong approach when talking to nonbelievers?

31 comments:

Trudy said...

Wow Heather...our hearts are definitely in the same place. I'm actually working on a full post on that right now.

Jesus most definitely calls us to "go and make disciples of all nations", furthering His kingdom. We are called to be like Christ though, so we should speak the truth with love, grace and mercy. I think it is horribly sad how some CHRISTIANS are defaming Christ or, at the very least, blinding others to His light.

Great post and I'm right with you sister!

Brigitte Dionne said...

I've seen too much of religion's bad side to think of something positive to say about it. I'm a victim of that side, myself, per say. I just find it was a bad idea to categorize (thus, separating) people based on their beliefs. Faith shouldn't have a name. Neither should Love. That's what I think.

http://lookatmybackpages.blogspot.com/

Bob Phelps said...

Hey, girl,
No I don't agree with you that some Christians take the wrong approach when talking to unbelievers (or however you said it). I think MOST of us do. Your concerns are on target for all of us who claim to follow Christ. Our job is to love with the love of Christ and trust that love to do whatever work it needs to do in the lives of those it reaches. I never made your promise to keep my religious thinking to myself, so there it is. I'm glad you're thinking about such things. Just wish you were closer, so we could do some of that thinking together.

~Thought's By Dena~ said...

Im right there with you....I think that some so-called religious people need to remember that thou shall not judge!

sherri said...

I love reading the book of Matthew, starting in chapter five where Jesus begins his public ministry. Then following his words, actions and reactions to both believers/followers, non- believers and Religious leaders. He spoke very harshly to the Pious religious leaders of the Day who were extrmemely hypocritical. He was very forgiving to those messed up "sinners" who came to Him, just the way they were, and asked for His forgiveness. He never made them feel horrible. He simply said, "You're forgiven. Go and sin no more."

scarlethue said...

I'll start by saying I am not a Christian-- I'm a secular humanist and an agnostic, meaning I don't believe or not believe in anything specific. So consider this a "non-believer's" opinion :) (although like I said, I don't consider myself a non-believer either).

I agree with you completely. I was raised in a Presbyterian church, so I know how Christians are supposed to act-- kind, loving, turn the other cheek, etc. Not the raging idiots I constantly see parading themselves around our beloved deep South, claiming that "God hates fags" and other such nonsense, or that try to force their religion down my throat by asking for ridiculous laws to be passed.

For goodness sake, if you want to convert someone, you show them the best possible aspects of your side, not force them or try to scare them into it. That's what makes me the maddest.

Honestly, their behavior is one of the main reasons I turned away from Christianity in the first place. I never wanted to be associated with that kind of hatred and judgment. Of course now I have my other reasons for not being a Christian, or anything else. Religion is corrupted and corrupts. Spirituality is the way to go, in my opinion.

Southern Dialogue said...

I definitely agree with you! The main reason I didn't get along with the witch at work was bc she preached so much about getting "into the word" but she was the most judgmental, gossiping, unhappy person I'd ever met. I distanced myself from her bc she was making me negative...and well...the story begins! ha! Thanks for posting that!!

Bethany@MyLifeinBlackandWhite said...

Good questions, Heather. I say let Jesus speak for Himself. Because people are always going to be imperfect, Christian or not, don't be surprised when we mess up the message -- either focusing too much on love or too much on wrath. That's why God came to Earth Himself, to present the real Truth.

I do believe that some so-called Christians could be too harsh, but you have to remember that even Jesus said that plenty of people who call themselves "sheep" are actually "goats."

I think sometimes people just use the point you're making as an excuse to live life the way they want to, using mean old Christians as justification for their beliefs that there's nothing to this God thing.

I've been hurt before, too, by people I thought were perfect who turned out to be flawed just like me. That's why I am a disciple of Jesus Himself, not a disciple of other people.

"Salvation" is not about going through some rituals, agreeing with other people or putting your trust in a system of merits. "Salvation" is a person -- Jesus.

Bethany@MyLifeinBlackandWhite said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bethany@MyLifeinBlackandWhite said...

Sorry to be so wordy, but I must say one more thing after re-reading your post... The reason there is a Heaven is because God is so good and His love is so strong that He wants people to go there. At the same time, the reason there is a literal place called Hell is because He is so good, He can't let sin go unpunished. He took that punishment Himself when He died on the cross, so people don't have to go to Hell. People don't like to hear it, but Jesus Himself said He is the only way to Heaven.

The "loving, compassionate Jesus" idea is not in conflict with this fact of judgment. It's because He's so loving and compassionate that He made a way. But that doesn't change His holiness. The sweet, gentle Jesus does not exist apart from His other qualities, too.

If Christians really believe in Hell and we don't warn people, are we really showing love? Jesus loved us too much not to warn us.

Lacey said...

I don't go to church, so I guess I really can't express an opinion. On the other hand, your post hits on one of the main reasons of WHY I don't go to church in the first place. Hm.

My trusty Bible is the only book I own that's consistently off the shelf, and I love listening to sermons when I do the dishes (or when I go running, which I hardly ever do anymore so I don't think that counts, haha.) But getting me into a church? Probably not happening any time soon. I'd hate to go only to be looked down for all my bad habits. I mean, I'm not a bad person, but I'm a smoking, drinking, foul-mouthed sinner who just so happens to be completely in love with Jesus, and while I'm sure I'm not the only one in my position, I don't think there's a church atmosphere that would make me feel quite comfortable enough to be myself. :-)

hebba said...

Ghandi said: "I like your Jesus. I don't like your Christians."

You could insert just about any religion in there: "I like your Mohammad, but I don't like your Muslems", etc. That's often how I feel, but not about folks who are truly, whole-heartedly trying to following His example.

Too often, organized religion is just a guise for politics or a way for some to hold power over others. Or to make money. That's the conundrum; religious organizations are made up of people and people are imperfect.

I just try to remember that no matter what label we attach to ourselves, we are all (hopefully) trying our best and we are all in this togeter.

Sally's World said...

I think this is a hard one, some so called religous people have been the least forgiving or loving people i know.

my view is that we can take whatever it is that makes us feel like we are a better person and live our lives that way.

going to church every sunday doesnt make someone a christian person, if they still go out and judge, they've missed the point.

I think its about love/peace/faith as a way of life...whatever religeon you chose.

RileyScott said...

"It's not important what you have Faith in as long as you HAVE FAITH" -Dogma

Heather, you nailed it sister. The hypocrisy in religion especially in most of Christianity is why I no longer practice it. I have my own relationship with a higher power, and that's all I need

Constantin said...

I know some people who talk to me of Jesus and salvation every time I meet them... For this reason I cannot resonate to well with them. They try too push to much this religion thing upon me.
I know other people though who I love very much for the simple reason they are well intentioned, friendly, funny. They are also Christians but they aren`t militant at all about religion. Anyway, I prefer their company and if they were in some other religion they`d have better chances of converting me just coz they are good natured people.
I am a believer but I also believe good values are intrinsic in us. We generally know what`s good or wrong. People who are being good and caring for those around them are the best Christians!
For example, in Melville`s masterpiece Moby Dick, the pagan who worshiped some dolls, can't remember his name - it started with Q, proved to be very understanding for the man in sorrow; much more than the white Christians on board!
That`s what i believe God is all about - kindness to people, not religion and churches.

Dan Felstead said...

Wow Heather...judging from the number of comments...looks like you touched a nerve here!

We sent my son to Christian Elementary and High School. This may not be the norm but I can only speak from our experience...He is 23 years old now and miles away from Christianity. He tells us the reason fro this is how he saw other Christians act while in school. He now views them as hypocrites.

I think it is so important ...unlike the politicians today...to literally practice what you preach and lead a life as Christian...your example is much more powerful than any sermon that can be preached. Just my 2 cents worth.

Dan

Felicia|DaLipstickBandit said...

AMEN!

septembermom said...

I do agree that some people take too aggressive and judgmental a stance when speaking with non-believers. Christ's message is about love and acceptance. I fear that too many people fail to follow His example when they are "preaching".

Jenners said...

First of all, love the new look! Very cute!

Second, I am turned off by a lot of the judgmental Christians that do seem to forget the basic messages. It is what drove me away from the church in the first place -- the hypocrisy and negative focus instead of putting the focus on the positive and good things.

Kim said...

It's such a touchy subject with most people. I recently went 'back' to the church so that I could introduce Deaglan and get him baptized. I agree with you that people forget the best parts of Christianity and focus on the cult-like reputation. And it's your blog and you can talk about religion if you want to!

Missy said...

LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the new look!
I think Christians make the mistake of not witnessing through everyday actions! The "lost" are watching and need to see joy of being a child of God.

Andy said...

Excellent post idea, one I could write all day about, as, although it might not seem likely, I have done a lot of studying, both of the Bible and of historical books, on Christianity and I grew up in the church, too.

In short form, I'd say the issue isn't so much how Christians talk to nonbelievers. There is going to be a cognitive dissonance in how many Christians and many nonbelievers think and evaluate religion, because of the fundamental differences in what they believe. That's why Christians often take an aggressive route in trying to "convert" nonbelievers, because of an honest, passionate, although somewhat misguided, belief they must make nonbelievers follow Christ according to the principles and guidelines of that particular evangelist; in reality, that particular nonbeliever might not need someone reminding them of their sins and need for repentance, and doing so only makes the situation worse.

On the other hand, nonbelievers are going to, by nature, be more defensive when it comes to talking about Christianity, because the principles of the doctrine show a need to repent and a need to acknowledge that some of their ways are wicked. Think about that word- wicked. There's a reason some people step in a church one day and never come back again- nobody likes to be told they are doing wicked, evil things, and especially by those who are doing the same wicked, evil things, but have earned somewhat of a "well, I'm a Christian now so at least I'm saved when I do it" card.

It's all about coming at it from two different perspectives, that dissonance, that makes it difficult to find a common ground. That's why, in many respects, I think it's as important for Christians to treat each other with a sense of respect and integrity when talking about faith. Why? There are too many examples of Christians backstabbing each other, gossiping, lying and judging each other, and that's not unnoticed by nonbelievers*.
Some of this comes back to the idea of getting the log out of your own eye before you worry about the fleck of dust in someone else's. I know my experiences with the church as a whole have been hampered by the judgments of its members almost in the same breath as they say that we should love each other.

All of which is to say, I appreciate you bringing up the subject and I like your argument... If you shoot me an e-mail, we can talk more so I don't clog up your comments section.

* Nonbelievers, in a sense, is sort of a silly thing to say when you think of it from a global sense. Christians, such as myself, are nonbelievers when it comes to Muslim or Buddhist beliefs. We're nonbelievers when it comes to atheism, for that matter.

Diane said...

Where is the love? Right here, darlin'. THIS is one of the reasons I love you. I may never be a believer but I'm so grateful for believers like you :). XO

Diane said...

PS... I love the new look!!! I've been away too long!!

pmartin3z said...

Hey Heather, your blog totally touched me because I've been in a constant battle with this issue. I was raised in a Christian home, but some of the ways in which I was brought up was a little extreme. Let me give you an example, I was kicked out of my own home just for going to Vegas! haha I've been gone for 1.5yrs now! But I still love the Lord with all my heart.

Anyway, I do believe that some Christians take the BIBLE to the extreme just like the Pharacies in the times of Jesus. They acted "Holier than Thou" but I just love when Jesus says, "Cast the first stone for those who have not sinned."John8:7 Everyone is a sinner and I think some people just need to remember that when they start judging others.

Anyway I definitely apprecitate your blog, I'm glad that I'm not the only one who has thought about this! It's balanced Christian gal like you that can open ppls eyes! :)

King of New York Hacks said...

Brilliant .....nuff said.

Margaret said...

I feel the same way. I think that the old saying of our grandmothers, "you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar" applies to our faith. YOu can beat people over the head with a bible but how will that make them feel. By being a light and an example of Christ, we show them Christ in a much more approachable way that I personally think is far more attractive. We need to walk the walk not just talk the talk.

Vrinda said...

Oh Boy! Are we thinking alike? Am a bit off with my world right now and I dont know wats wrong with some of the people i cross paths with! This pretense of goodness, the idealism in the mind - but none in action. Are there really no selfless people left in the world?

vrinda said...

Oh Boy! Are we thinking alike? Am a bit off with my world right now and I dont know wats wrong with some of the people i cross paths with! This pretense of goodness, the idealism in the mind - but none in action. Are there really no selfless people left in the world?

Momma Chae said...

whoa... I couldn't agree more. I posted on the same (kinda) thing once at : http://mommachae.blogspot.com/2008/10/warriors.html

Greener Bangalore said...

Mahatma Gandhi has taken, followed and practiced many things from bible........