Radical Views on Faith and Why I'm Starting Over
Yes, I said Christians, and I am one of them. Aren't Christians, by definition, people who exude love? I wish, but we've screwed a lot of things up these past 2000 years and have quite a bit of apologizing and reformation to do before we will ever be famed as a group notorious for its bleeding love instead of religious rhetoric.
Most of us are not a hopeless bunch though, and if we want the world to know what we're really about, we're gonna have to start by being a lot nicer. I think it begins with making making friends, real friends, outside our clique of 'Born Agains'.
We need to have other friends beyond the church walls, with people we share common interests besides dogma. Friends are the family we get to choose so we should pick them based on how they enrich our lives, not whether they'll take our advice or affirm our philosophies. It is possible to be friends with people we like and admire who don't share the same religious views, have different morals, values, ethics and political views. As long as we are respectful and kind and agree to disagree it is possible to be great friends because that's what love does and we all are capable of loving.
I'm not talking about missionary friendships though. The Bible tells us that God, the Holy Spirit, is the one that draws men unto Him. It's not the Christian's job to convert or browbeat people into believing Gospel. We have not failed humanity or God if someone doesn't take our word for it. Where we fail is when we withhold love (as if it were a commodity) from others because they don't buy what we're selling. Just grasping the concept that God is in control and trusting that love always wins really takes the pressure of those of us who believe we're supposed to share the 'Good News'. What a relief we don't have to peddle the Bible or have an agenda to be friends with anyone, we just have to care for them. Cliche, albeit true, people just don't care what you believe unless they believe you care.
But befriending someone for the sake of beguiling them into our belief system is not very friendly or even genuine in my opinion. My father-in-law is right. Who wants to be friends with someone whose sole intent is to change them? Even Jesus didn't do that. He came to earth to say; "I love you just the way you are, follow me and I'll take care of you, I'll comfort you through the bad stuff. You might sink in your troubles but I won't let you drown. When you fall, I'll pick you up. If you break, I'll glue the pieces back together. If you get lonely I'm here and I'm listening. If you lose faith, I have faith enough for both of us. You may get sick but I can heal and when or if it's time to go, I'll take you home with me" Isn't that the attitude we all should have towards others anyway?
Some of us need to stop manipulating, stop befriending non believers for the sake of or on the condition we convert them. Cults do that. We weren't called to brainwash, we are mandated to freely love others and share where we believe that love originates from, like Jesus did. Take it up with Him if you don't believe me, His friends were thieves and prostitutes. If we love like He loved, we don't need to strong arm anyone into our brand of faith. If Christians truly believe that God IS love, then Love (God) is perfectly capable of persuading people all on Its own--as long as that love is being expressed through us daily and organically.
I wish some of the brick and mortar churches would just let God be God and stop putting its faith in marketing twelve step programs of seven methods and three formulas we can use to find the ten keys to redeem a sinner. We don't need to sell Jesus with a light show and a latte on Sundays. We don't need to tickle the ears of our audience with a rock band or a feel-good message to lure them into becoming a member of our 'church.' Loving others and telling them the truth, IS relevant enough. People are the church, you and I. Where we gather is a place for worship, fellowship, teaching and encouragement.
Now here's a funny, you can thank me later:)
I'm not opposed to making worship a fun and culturally contemporary experience, I still go to a church, but I'm disenchanted by what I see corporate greed and power and pride have made of some of our hallowed buildings.
If being a Christian is not a religion but a relationship, then it's time I started acting like it. I think God is rousing a lot of Christians from a religious coma these days. It's time we stop depending on one pastor to tell us what to do (as if God ever intended his church to be run autocratically) and start taking responsibility for our own spirituality. We are not robots and the church is not a machine. I suspect God is tired of us being run this way and frankly, so am I.
Hokay, so if you're still awake after reading this essay and wanna hear a true short story about a friend of mine that illustrates such radical parallels on faith and friendship, read on... (you can do it!)
I was with one of my bff's, Stephany, recently at a pub in downtown Vancouver. She was visiting from Hawaii for just a couple of days and this particular watering hole was a familiar hangout to gather all her peeps together for a short visit, she's pretty popular. Actually, Stephany is kinda famous among her friends and I'm sure it's because she's one of the kindest people we have ever met.
I've known her since we were 13 years old. The nice girl image she projects is not fake and the the love she exhales is not duplicitous. The light she radiates and the warmth she emits actually attracts people to her. She doesn't even have to try to get people like her and if I were a jealous person I would make her go live in a gingerbread house, wear fondant underpants and eat gumdrops the rest of her life for being so sticky sweet all the blipping time. But I'm not envious, I'm just like the rest of her friends who want to be around her. I'm not trying to paint Stephany as a deity, I mean, she is an angel most the time but when her wings fall off she flies on her broomstick and you'd best lay low. She is a normal human like everyone else, capable of the full gamut of emotions, but what makes Stephany special and sets her apart is that she's made it a conscious life goal to love people and love them unbiasedly. Pretty ambitious enterprise for a girl who doesn't subscribe to any particular religion, but she lives it.
I'd waited all week for my turn to be with Stephany and meeting her in a bar at 10pm on a Thursday night was all I got this go round. But no sooner did I find a seat than she was up flitting about the room working her friendly prowess, that's the thing with social butterflies I suppose. So I just sat there, alone, staring into my glass of lime water, listening to her cool friends Tasha and Shina croon on the open mic. Until I overheard her other cool friend, Steven, gushing over Stephany behind my back. I turned around to see him with his arm over her shoulder, staring into her eyes in the most serious platonic way (she's married to another really cool and really giant biker dude) and Steven said to her "Stephany, you are the most beautiful person I have ever met. You're not just gorgeous on the outside but your gorgeous on the inside and that's why I love you."
I can only hope at the end of my life that what Steven said to Stephany is something my friends will also say about Lisa. I want to make others feel necessary and loved and appreciated like Stephany does. Whether Stephany believes in God is irrelevant to me, I want what she and Jesus have in common, God (love) living through me, making a difference, infecting others with the kind of love that is contagious.