The audacity of being an American Christian   Leave a comment

Let’s be honest: These days, being a Christian isn’t exactly a popular thing in this country.

No place is this more clear than the internet. Look at what happened when I typed in “Christianity Is” On Google:

In case you’re wondering the same suggested results will show in the US version of Google too. Google may be a evil company but their search engine is used by billions of people worldwide. What you see is what people think of when they think of Christianity in regards to Google.

It’s not all that different from how it was in the beginning when you think about it. When I say beginning I mean back when Christianity was born. In the years immediately following Christ’s Crucifixion, Resurrection and Ascention to Heaven, all of his disciples except John (who was banished to Patmos Island) were hunted down and executed as enemies of state. In Roman Coliseums across the empire, Christians were killed for the entertainment of others. Most viewed Christianity as a cult or movement that would die off as quickly as it began.

Today we know that isn’t the case.

Today, maybe not in America but in many parts of the world, Christians are given a choice: Denounce their faith or go to prison. In some countries, Christians caught sharing their faith with others are put to death or in some cases, used as political bargaining chips.

Before the internet and social media, such open hostility toward Christianity and later religion as a whole was unheard of. As I said about another group of people and the Internet earlier this year, some of it IS just the perceived anonmity that comes with using the internet. The rest–which shouldn’t be taken lightly–comes from people who have been wronged Christians, a Church or a Christian denomination. And you know what? They have a right to be angry at the way Christians in America view the world around them.

Notice I said Christians in America and not Christian America. That’s because there are MANY Christian Americas. The circle I hail from is the Seventh Day Adventist Church, whose mission is the prepare the world for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Dr. Dwight K. Nelson, the Senior Pastor of Pioneer Memorial Church said something interesting during the sermon that aired on Hope TV yesterday: People fear rejection. Jesus feared rejection (John 6:67). It is one of the absolute worst feelings a person can go through yet it is the feeling I am most familiar with.

The two groups of people closest to me rejected me very early on: My Family and My Church Family. Most who’ve been rejected by the latter will tell you it feels worse than being rejected by your own flesh and blood. A bit of wisdom: When your rejection is made clear to you, you leave under your own power. This was a lesson I  had to learn the hard way with some of the online communites I recently severed my ties to.

Getting back to the main point of this blog post, it’s not exactly popular to be a Christian in America. Some of it comes from the fact there are so many denominations compared to Islam (which has two branches, Sunni and Shi’ite) and Judaism (which also has two branches, Orthodox and Unorthodox) but the majority comes Christianity’s universal stance on Homosexuality.

That stance is rooted in the fact there are SEVEN passages in the Bible that explicitly states Homosexuality is an abomination. The Old Testament passages can be argued as being necessary for the time. After all, at the time the people of Israel were God’s Chosen People on Earth and God literally needed to spell out what the Israelites were forbidden from doing. If you read the entire chapter the Old Testament texts come from you will see incest and beastiality are also forbidden under penality of death.

As for the New Testament passages, Paul was giving a recap of the Old Testament law in Romans (1:26-27 and 1:32) and why. The passages in Timothy 1 (1:8-10) and Corinthians (6:9-11) do not specifically mention Homosexuallity though it is assumed to be included. Perhaps the most inflamatory piece of evidence is what The Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) is known for:

Yes, this is a real church and yes their membership (and like-minded groups) routinely holds demonstrations at military funerals across the country. They have the support of both the Supreme Court and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to continue doing what they do. The WBC has also demonstated at the funerals connected to the Sandy Hook and Aurora Movie Theater shootings and the Boston Marathon Bombings. In the months since the SJC ruling in favor of WBC, The White House has been moving to get WBC classified as a hate group and the benefits they enjoy as a church revoked.

They are an independent church (for the time being anyway) after being cut off by their denomination. As one church member said, “They’re doing what Christian Americans should be doing.” They’ve clearly demonstrated they are not remorseful of the unuiversal anger their protests generate and as I mentioned in the above paragraph, the law is on their side.

The WBC’s demonstrations is one of the main sticking points of why there is such a pointed hatred toward many things “Christian”. The other is the perceived hypocrisy commited by self-professed Christians who are politicians: Former Boston City Councilor Chuck Turner, Anthony Weiner and Bill Clinton (when he was president) to name a few.

What The Bible have to say about all this?

Before he ascended to heaven, Jesus did say those who follow him will suffer because of their faith. This is fact.  Before he left, someone asked Jesus gave this commandment: ““A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” (John 13:34) In the next verse Jesis said “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35).

Earlier in his ministry, Jesis told the parable of The Good Samaratain. Those who know their history know the Israelites and the Samaratains didn’t like each other very much. Everyone knows the story: A man is beaten, robbed and left on the side of the road. A Priest and a Tax Collector pass by the man without a second glance. The third–the Samaratain–administers first aid. He takes the man to an inn and gives the innkeepers some money to cover the man’s bills, promising to cover any further expenses when he returns from his journey. After telling the parable, Jesus said we should do the same.

All the petty biases and hatreds so prevalent in mankind mean nothing to God. Yes I said petty because they ARE petty. I’ll tell you something I’ve never shared before because I think it drives home the point I’m trying to make.

Before I did the City Year program 10 years ago, I didn’t know what Homosexuality was. I’d never even heard of it. It wasn’t until I went through basic training at the beginning of my first year I realized how blind I was to the hatreds of the general public on this subject. As it happened to turn out, half my team that first year was openly Gay or Bisexual. I’m not saying who they are for the same reason I’m not sharing a picture of my team here. I don’t want to accidently start another internet witch hunt. Anyway, in talking to them and getting to know them and they getting to know me, I came to this conclusion: Everything I thought I knew about my beliefs was only from one perspective.

In order to properly understand the other side of an arguement, you need to familiarize yourself with their side of the debate or in other words, be willing to play devil’s advocate. American Christians in general have demonstrated time and time again an unwillingness to do this. It is this kind of mindset that helped me come to an understanding of why I felt I’d been rejected by my peers at Church.

Of course, a few years later I learned I was actually wrong and it was a complete misunderstanding on my part. Church politics and the mechnanisms used to fill pews (“evangelize, baptize and cut loose”) are the reasons I no longer attend church. In a sense I like to think that in one way I am following Jesus’ example. I’m what you’d call socially ostracized in every circle I’m a part of. The same can be said of Jesus and every circle you’d expect the Messaiah to be a part of. He was rejected by his own people and his closest friends abandoned him the night he was arrested. He died the death of a common criminal by the order of his own people.

With so much darkness and evil around me, I’m mostly unscathed. The Enemy–Satan, Lucifer, The Devil–whatever you want to call him, they’re really one in the same and always have been–has been able to get me to renounce my faith in Christ so he’s targeted the people closest to me instead. He’s hoping to get me to blaspheme even if it’s on a technicality. That or commit The Unpardonable Sin. I will never do either.

Now what IS the Unpardonable Sin? Easy: Tell God to leave you alone. Believe it or not God respects free will. We all have a choice. That’s what faith is in a nutshell. You choose to believe or choose not to. Be warned that in telling God to leave you alone, you forefeit God’s protection against the supernatural, too.

The supernatural…another topic non-believers dismiss as “fairy tales” along with the existence of God and The Devil. The second-greatest deception the devil ever pulled was proving he doesn’t exist. The first was convincing Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. This despite the fact more and more members of the scientic community have accepted the fact there are many things that will always be beyond human understanding.

My very existence is one such example.

I’ve told most of you about my medical history. For all intents and purposes, the fact that I lived to be 10 is a miracle. I found out recently some of what I’d undergone during those regular hospital visits in preparation for open heart surgery was chemotherapy. Before the surgery I experienced shortness of breath even when I wasn’t moving. That was caused by the muscle bundles squeezing my heart, forcing my heart to work harder to circulate blood. If I didn’t have the surgery I’d be dead by age 12 so…yeah.

Like it or not Christianity is here and for the time being in America, it’s here to stay. Some might wonder why an America historically and primarily founded with Christian values in mind “tolerates” other religions. It’s in the Bill of Rights first and foremost: Freedom of RELIGION, not freedom of Christianity. The freedom to believe in God, Allah, Jesus or nothing at all. Like it or not this is the best system a country could have in regards to religion.

Is there a push by Conservative Christians to make Christianity the official religion of America? Yes there is. Is it a good idea? No it isn’t. Proof of this can be found in Theocratical towns across the country and other countries that have a state-backed religion. They only have one demographic in mind and do not take those who are in the “other” category into consideration.

Albert Einstein had a saying: You don’t know enough about a subject if you can’t explain it simply. I don’t claim to know everything on this subject as I’ve made it very clear this narrative is from my perspective. I could be wrong on many points and if I am I’m fine with that.

Did a man named Jesus once exist? Historical records say yes. The Shroud of Turin, which is the cloth Jesus was embalmed in after his death is on display in a museum in Europe. In regards to weather or not Jesus was the Son of God, that depends on weather you actually believe he was. If you believe he was a prophet, you would not be wrong in that belief. He is, after all the way, the truth and the life. Scholars who lived at the time noticed several prophecies concerning the Messaiah were fullfilled during and after Jesus’ crucifixion.

Why did Jewish authorities reject Jesus? Pride. Their pride and traditions. Jesus said he was the Messaiah when asked the night before he died. He also said that he had the authority on earth to forgive sins before healing a man lame from birth. Then he demonstrated his authority to do so by healing the man of his affliction. He didn’t come to prop up the establishment as many hoped. He made that clear. Yes, the Jews were under Roman occupation but he reminded them of why that was in the first place. If you turn your back on those in need around you, you should be surprised with what happenes to you. Yes the Jews were God’s chosen people (emphasis on WERE) but in refusing to share their blessings with their fellow men, God stopped blessing them and gave it to the very people they looked down upon.

That’s the kind of approach I can identify with. It’s not enough to just say why you believe what you do. You should show it in your everyday actions. That’s what I consider the audacity of being a Christian in America.

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