Why the Church is Shrinking — Part 2

It pains me greatly to have to post a Part 2 following upon yesterday’s post, but once again I have stumbled across something so unbelievable that it leaves me speechless — though I still have the ability to type!  An organization I have never before heard of, called the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission, has apparently published a list of what they call the Top 10 Anti-Christian Acts of 2009.  About a third of the list revolves around pro-life/abortion related incidents, and another third revolves around sexuality issues (apparently, the appearance of Bishop Gene Robinson to pray at an Obama pre-inauguration event constitutes one of the top 10 anti-Christian acts).   I suspect you are wondering, however, what constitutes the Number 1 Anti-Christian Act of 2009, according to this organization.  Well, here it is:  the passage of new hate crime legislation.

So, let me understand this.  In the Gospels, we find Jesus saying that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves, and we find Jesus defining our neighbors in terms of anyone who needs our help.  Yet somehow, when we pass a law protecting some of our neighbors from crimes committed out of hatred against them, this constitutes an anti-Christian act?

This brings me to another of Jesus’ teachings:  that we must love our enemies.   I wouldn’t count the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission as my enemy, exactly, although the strength of my disagreement with what they seem to stand for is probably about how I would feel toward someone who was my enemy.  Somehow, I must find a way to love them, even as I hope and pray for some kind of transformation to occur in their point of view.  Some days, following Jesus is not so easy.

All of this reminds me that, in fact, the words “Christian” and “Christianity” have become almost meaningless.  The reality is that you cannot know what someone means when they call themselves a Christian until you have them complete a rather involved questionnaire — or at least have a long conversation.  And there are many different Christianities out there, each one, I suppose, claiming to be authentic — including my own.  Yet, I have trouble finding any authenticity in the kind of Christianity that seems to lie behind the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission’s list.

My mind wanders back to something Karen Armstrong said at the end of her book about fundamentalisms in Judaism, Christianity and Islam (entitled The Battle for God).  She acknowledged that it was difficult to develop any kind of standard by which to evaluate anyone’s religion or spirituality.   But then she went on to say that if one’s spiritual path did not lead one toward greater compassion for others, then in her mind, that path needed to be questioned.  I must say that I find little compassion, and a lot of judgment, in the list put forth by these Anti-Defamation folks.

Jesus really DOES need a new publicist.  The friend whose Facebook posting led me to discover the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission’s list featured a comment by someone that simply said, “And you wonder why most people don’t attend church.”   Not a surprising comment (or reality) at all, when the public face of Christianity tends to be primarily a face of judgment, rather than a face of compassion.

Somehow, those of us who practice a Christianity of a different kind, must get the word out that there IS a different kind of Christianity from the one that seems to get most of the attention.  Our future depends on it.  More than that, our faith demands it.

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