One’s Skeptic’s Thoughts about God Series: Why isn’t Christianity compelling?
I’m not saying Christianity isn’t compelling if you look at the lives of certain individuals or groups, or if you define Christianity as the teachings of Jesus, because it is compelling on those terms. My statement is based on the overall perception by society today, its lack of belief that Christianity is good, it’s rejection of it.
The picture I chose for this post is from the recent Nathan Phillips incident at the March for Life Rally where Native American elder Nathan Phillips, after taking part in the Indigenous Peoples March at the Lincoln Memorial, is confronted by a crowd of teenagers who openly mock him. A video of the confrontation shows a smiling young man in a red Make America Great Again hat standing directly in front of Nathan Phillips, who was playing a drum and chanting. Other kids could be seen laughing, jumping around and seemingly making fun of the chants. The group of boys were there from a Roman Catholic school participating in the March for Life Rally.
The video went viral because people throughout North America and the world were appalled at the young man’s behavior. Some have tried to defend his actions, but it was pretty clear to most people what was happening. This was racism. It was ugly.
I could have selected many other recent pictures of Christians acting out in public in all sorts of ways that are far from anything reflecting love, peace, or compassion.
Christianity is a long way from being compelling. Society would be more likely to say it’s judgmental, selfish. In the U.S. they’d say Christians are more concerned with electing pro-life Supreme Court judges and the Second Amendment than they are with actually loving others. I mention the U.S. only because Christians there have the highest profile.
I’d go so far as to claim that Christianity isn’t even compelling to Christians, because for the large part they don’t live their lives according to the teachings Christianity is based on.
As a committed follower of Jesus, the person Christians are all supposed to follow, I’m assuming the right to be critical of Christianity, of my extended faith group. I’m not claiming that those who aren’t Christian can’t criticize it or other religious groups they’re not part of, I’m merely asserting that this is part of a self-evaluation, an insider’s view, not an outside view. Both are important, perhaps on certain levels the outside view is more important.
Christianity isn’t compelling because it’s not collectively living out the love it’s called to.
The teachings of Jesus are pretty straight forward. Love God, and love your neighbour.
You could even simplify it down to love your neighbour, because the best way to love God is to do what he asks of us. What does God ask of us? To love our neighbour. Jesus himself made the claim that loving our neighbour is at the core of it all.
There are two important questions to ask about loving our neighbour. One, is who is my neighbour, and the other, is what does it mean to love my neighbour.
The answers are simple.
Everyone is your neighour. Everyone. This includes your enemies, those you may not like, or those who don’t like you, those who may even hurt you. Let’s be clear, because Jesus is, loving your enemies is essential to Christianity. If we fail to attempt to do this, we’re failing.
Now that we know who are neighbours are what does it mean to love them. Let’s start with our enemies. What does it mean to love them? To quote a leading follower of Jesus, Tony Campolo,
“When Jesus said, ‘Love your enemies,’ I’m pretty sure he meant don’t kill them.”
We should be committed to non-violence, this would include not killing.
Perhaps a major part of why Christianity isn’t compelling because there aren’t nearly enough Christians who are willing to love their neighbours, including their enemies.
What should loving our neighbours look like?
It should look like doing all that we can to make sure that they have the opportunity to live with access to the essentials of life, to have food, shelter, education, to be free of persecution and injustices. It should look like creating societies that are committed to reversing the inequalities embedded in our social systems. It should look like love, not selfishness. It should look like welcoming refugees, trying to address housing and poverty issues, ending violence against women and children, violence period. It should look like love. It shouldn’t look like being obsessed with building walls.
Christianity isn’t compelling because it has a long history of violence, a long history of abuse of power, of corruption, and of being no different than the rest of society. The history of Christianity and present-day Christianity isn’t like it is because Christians are bad, it’s like it is because Christians are no different than everyone else. They’re flawed.
Christianity is flawed because human beings are flawed.
How do we solve that problem? A good start would be by acknowledging that we’re not perfect, that we have fallen short of what Jesus calls us to. By being intentional in trying to be better followers of Jesus.
I’m not naïve, so I have no expectations that Christians around the world are going to start following Jesus to the point where Christianity becomes compelling. That being said, it doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t try to live my life in a way that might be more representative of what Jesus expects of me. I believe that if I can do that I might get closer to living a life that is compelling to a few around me, and perhaps together we can make following Jesus more compelling to others.
I’m not going to give up hope that Jesus’ way of love and peace is the way just because Christianity seems to have lost its way.
I believe that a movement of people who follow Jesus can change the world.
I have a choice.
I can give up on Christianity because it seems to have failed on so many levels.
I can choose to live my life with a focus on Jesus, on what he calls me to do. I cannot control how others live, but I can control how I live.
I choose love.
For more posts from this series click here.