the entrance to my desert retreat house
Yesterday I was browsing through a "religious discussion" forum on the web, and I came across a ludicrous posting of a video in which a young man (more like a boy) is featured. He is vehemently judging and condemning atheists, warning that they will burn forever in hell unless they accept Jesus Christ. The two minute video was one of the most perfect examples of "hate speech" I have ever seen.
The video was heinous enough, but the conversation about the video was what really drove me wild. In the online forum, a question was asked about that boy's message: "Is this how most Christians feel? And, for the most part, the people in the discussion said, "yes."
In comment after comment, the opinion was that "most Christians" are bigoted, intolerant, uninformed, and judgmental. I tried to offer an antidote to the conversation by responding - "Jesus never condemned anyone, and Christians follow the path of Jesus." (I was basically ignored).
The whole incident left me feeling frustrated and upset. The thing that upset me most is that those harsh opinions about "most Christians" are attitudes commonly held by many people in the general public today.
After all, think about how "most Christians" are portrayed today in the public forum. Every day we hear stories about the bigotry of religious people.
We recently heard about the Russian church condemning Gay people. The Catholic and Evangelical churches have been vehement in condemning same gender marriage. Whenever a disaster strikes, you can be sure that some preacher in some pulpit somewhere will be sure to pronounce that this was God's judgment - "God sent planes into the Twin Towers on 9/11 to punish a sinful nation,"(remember that one?).
As I see it, the opinions about "most Christians" expressed in that online forum are the perceptions that many people have today (especially if you are not religious and have no church association) because the negative voices of condemnation are the only religious voices that many people ever hear.
I think an alternative voice needs to be heard today, and an alternative message proclaimed - not only within the guarded walls of church buildings, but out in the everyday world. If churches and religious people want to be taken seriously, we must boldly stand up in the public forum, and over and over again announce a message of grace and compassion - all are welcome, no one condemned, a place at the table for everyone - THIS is what most Christians believe.
In his letter to the Romans, Saint Paul says,
How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.
I think it's time for religious people to go out into the world and show off their beautiful feet.