I recently traveled to visit a friend and her husband. The couple is in their 60’s, very active, and is a devoted Christian. They reside in a primarily Christian community with a Christian college in the vicinity. During this trip, I learnt a few things in relation to practicing Christianity.
I broke my sabbatical and did attend church partly as a courtesy to my hosts. I had always liked the church, which was located on the school campus, so it did not take much prodding to go. I am going to list a few thing that stood out to me during my visit.
1. Practicing faith without being obnoxious. The couple was more than ‘one day’ Christians. They were always generous, ready to help, giving, and accommodating whenever possible. This is impressive because many religious people do not see the need to be Christians apart from the day they worship or during church sanctioned engagements. I like the fact that their ‘works’ were integrated in their personal lives and they did not feel the need to be at church 24-7. There are Christians so addicted to the building that they forget their Christianity exists outside of those walls and they are meant to share their knowledge with others.
2. Christian hypocrisy is so blaring we sometimes do not recognize it. According to one of the students, the Christian school was so insistent on their students not ‘touching’ alcohol to the point that they have pushed things to the extreme. The new students were taught that if the college authorities find out that they were in the presence of alcohol (not drinking) or if they were found to have used alcohol, then they can be suspended. The funny thing is the school is surrounded by many wineries. You can not ‘spit too far’ without hitting a vineyard. While I understand the school rules regarding no alcohol on campus, they should have taken this opportunity to educate these young adults on abstinence from alcohol AND drinking responsibly (off campus) while using an accountability buddy. The Christian school is setting up a false sense of security that does not exist in the real world unless you belong to the Duggar family.
3. Hypocrisy continues. I was in the company of a group of people and the topic briefly referred to homosexuals. There was a late 20’s young male who was very quick to make disparaging statements and what he would do to them. Interestingly, this young person was recently baptised but the kicker is he is a recently recovering substance addict, whose family is still addicted, and he has a child with a woman out-of-wedlock. He really missed the plank in his eye and the lesson about love. Teaching Christians the ways of God in practical sense is very important. I think he truly believed that his statements were religiously justified and sadly most believers would support his views without recognizing the hypocrisy.
4. Religion teachings need to reflect the changing times. The sermon was about showing kindness and the pastor told two stories in which Christians had failed miserably. The first was a young unwed woman who became pregnant and the pastor of her church refused to bless the baby due to the mother’s status and to add insult another ‘good Christian’ referred to her child as a ‘bastard’ in the presence of the baby and a family member. The second story was of another pastor who refused to bless a baby because his/her parents were of the same-sex.
I was so moved and impressed by the pastor when he said that the Christians in those instances had failed in exemplifying God’s teachings of kindness. As a pastor, he would rather have everyone in his church in which he can continue to preach God’s love. He pointed out that if each of our lives were opened to the public, then many ‘good Christians’ would be shamed. We (I include myself) are so quick to throw the good book at people who make mistakes or those who do not fit in a religiously perfect category but instead we need to use God as an example when he called all the sinners to Him and ignored the self-proclaimed religiously pious.
5. Ssshhhh Sex . It seems I am not able to run away from this topic :-) . During the same conversation about the Christian school’s stance on alcohol, I asked what did they say on sex. The new student said they barely even mention anything on sex. Of course, I find this funny and not surprising. I noted that during my enrollment at the school, there were two girls who were obviously pregnant and there were occasional condoms found in parking lots. I would like to clarify that the pregnancies were not virginal insemination and human males were identified as the fathers. I would also like to note that none of these girls were married. Ignorance is Christian bliss.
6. Sex is nasty even to married Christians. I was having a conversation with the married friend which was in reference to visitors to her home being respectful according to her religious beliefs. She was telling a story that she did not allow her daughter, who was engaged at the time, to be under the same roof with her fiance in order to deflect temptation to do “nasty stuff.” I chuckled to myself by her choice of word to describe sex. Even though I found it funny, it did sadden me because she perpetuated the same ‘sex is dirty’ idea that most Christians believe.
I do think that Christianity teachings need to be more applicable to the current stressors that we face. While the abstinence (from evil) message is good, that does not help those who are struggling with being faithful. I in no way am stating that we need to change the Bible to suit our needs; however, it’s a pastor/teacher’s duty to quit hiding in the dark ages and preach applicable messages.
I had the pleasure of enjoying my time with people I consider to be good solid Christians. While they are not perfect, it is nice to have a living practicing example of what good Christian character should resemble.