Saturday, July 16, 2011

Pardon My Religion

Date Written: July 16, 2011

This is an actual exchange between me and Buck (that's her nickname anyway), an internet friend of mine I met several years ago on a site called “Wondir” which no longer exists:

Them: “I really hate Christians. They're always forcing their religion on other people or talking about how great God is. Or taking things and making them their own. Or seeing religion in songs which aren't religious at all!”

Me: “I know what you mean”

Buck: “Are you athiest?. I am”

Me: “No. I'm a Christian”

Buck: “I'm sorry?”

Me: “I'm not”

Buck: “No, I mean: how can you be a Christian!?. You're so... normal”

Buck: “I mean nice!”

Buck: “I mean... I don't know what I mean”

Me: “I do. And it's fine. I know the kind of people you're talking about. They annoy me too. I just don't happen to be one of them”

Buck and I stayed in contact and talked a lot. After awhile, she met some other Christians, both online and in real life, who she didn't find annoying.
Then one day, I saw this quote on her profile on another site we were both on:

“Give thanks because you are grateful, not because it is expected. It is the only way to be honest with yourself, those around you, and God” ~Buck

When I asked her about it, she said that she now believed in God. But she wasn't sure what to do now. She didn't fully agree with the Catholic Church or Baptist or any of the others either.
She felt that, because of this, she could not truly be a Christian.
I explained to her that I'm not Catholic or Baptist or any of those either, but I'm Christian.
I just believe what I believe. I believe in God and what the Bible says.
I believe Jesus died on the cross to pay for my sins and that God answers all prayers, though not always in the way that we expect.
Buck was startled by this revelation and wanted to know more about how I be what she calls “A Free Christian”. I wasn't sure how to answer her question.
What, exactly, did I do?. I mean, I've always been Christian. I don't know how not to be.
It's very similar to a child who has always been public schooled asking one who has always been homeschooled what it's like. There's no frame of reference.
In Star Trek: The Voyage Home Dr. McCoy asks Spock what it was like to be dead.
Spock refuses to answer on the grounds that there was no frame of reference.
McCoy would have to be dead before he could understand it.
What could I say?. Her questions made me think about what it is that I believe. And why.
Some Christians believe in evolution, some don't. Some pray every day (religiously, if you will), others hardly ever. Some go to church every Sunday and believe you can't be a proper Christian if you don't.
What was I to tell Buck?.
Finally I told her this:

“Well, I read the Bible sometimes, but not as often as I should. I pray when I feel like I need to, and think about God's work and promises when my thoughts go that way. I listen to Christian music, of which there is a wide variety, not just Hymns. I don't go to Church, mainly because I've never found one I really, truly agree with in my heart. Faith is just a part of everything I do. It's so much a part of who I am, that it's hard to explain”

Buck is now a fully fledged Christian, quite probably stronger in her faith than I. Her favorite artist is Jeremy Camp and she is currently reading a King James Bible, though she does read others, to see what the differences and similarities are in them.
She's come a long way from that person who, years ago, told me she hated Christians.
She actually regularly reminds me of my religion, and that I should look to God for answers, not myself or the people around me.
But I have something I want to say.
Christians, what we're doing is wrong.
Now before you beat me to death with your Bibles, hear me out.

The reason Buck hated Christians and God (though she claimed not to believe in Him) was because of us. As Christians, we want to share our faith, convert people and try to get them to see things the way that we do. And, as humans, we want everyone to agree with us. Sorry guys, that's how it is.
But to non-Christians, this behavior generally comes across as obnoxious and insane.
To them, we might as well be a bunch of chimps waving bananas at them and chattering.
The people who changed Buck were not those people. They were people like me.
People who believe in God and aren't afraid to say it, but don't feel the need to slap someone with scripture until they agree with us.
Faith is in every part of my life. Before doing anything potentially life-changing, I stop and pray, asking God if that's what I should do. But I do have other subjects.
I can talk to Atheists about things because I don't feel like I need to make them believe.
Surely, I would love it if they did what Buck has. But I can accept that they have their own view, and nothing I can say will change that.
I don't hide my religion from them, but I don't beat them to death with it either.
And Churches aren't really helping that much either.
Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with HAVING churches, going to Church or even thinking that you MUST go to Church to be a proper Christian.
What is wrong is trying to force everyone ELSE to do that too.
Nearly every time I've gone to Church, it feels almost like I'm watching an advertisement for being Christian. Like they're actually trying to talk to non-Christians.
But they sound so.... (if you'll excuse my pun) preachy. I feel repelled by it.
Each kind of Christianity has its own particular habits and beliefs on the fine points.
But shouldn't we all just be happy with the fact that others believe like we do, if not exactly the way that we do?. After all, no two people see the world exactly alike.
Take this vase for example:
My Grandmother believes that it is burgundy red, my mother is convinced that it is brown and I think it looks more purple than anything.
We can all see it, hold it, turn it and look at it in different lights. Yet we see three different colors.
This is the way that people view the world too.
We see things alike, but never exactly the same, even if it seems like we do.
Why should our beliefs be any different?.
God has not called us all to the same purpose, so perhaps those other Christians aren't “wrong” and neither are we. Since we can't truly know everything, we must make leaps of faith.
Because of this, who are we to say that another's leap of faith is wrong?.

Who are we to say “no, you can't believe that” or “you must do this”.
I'm not against trying to convince others to come to God. That would be neither Christian nor human.
But I am against trying to FORCE others to believe.
All we, as Christians, can really do is stand up as an example and offer others the opportunity to learn more about our beliefs. After that, it is between them and God. No one can MAKE another become Christian. And by trying, we drive Buck and others like her ever further from Christ.
I don't claim to know the answers. I only believe what I believe.
And I can only live by my own beliefs.
It isn't my place to tell others what to believe or do, because maybe God called them to a different purpose than mine. Maybe they see a blue vase where I see green.
And who am I to say that's wrong?.

Buck's name and story were used with her permission.

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