Rev. Yme Woensdregt
I have written two columns listing some (almost) tongue–in–cheek reasons not to be a Christian. The first four reasons: The church is full of hypocrites. The church is morally compromised. Christians aren’t always nice. Won’t you have to condemn other religions?
#5. People may make fun of you.
We are living in an increasingly secularized world. In BC, the last census showed that over 35 per cent of people claimed to have no faith … we call them the “nones”. There are many different reasons why people lose faith. Some are simply done with church and with faith generally. Others have been hurt or damaged by the church. Still others have difficulty understanding how the church can seem so backward on social issues. Another group are like the person I mentioned in my first column who told me, “You’re reasonably intelligent; so why do you bother with this crap?” It no longer makes sense to them to believe; it seems like a silly childish fantasy which they’ve outgrown. Still others have simply lost heart. There are all kinds of reasons.
As a result, those who have left may indeed make fun of us who remain people of faith. They may think of you as a fanatic, or a Jesus freak, or a Bible–thumper, or a narrow–minded fool, or as someone who is against almost everything.
Wesley So, a chess grandmaster and Christian, writes “On the small planet where elite chess players dwell, very few people worship Jesus Christ. If anyone discovers that you’re one of those ‘superstitious’, ‘narrow–minded idiots’, you’re likely to see nasty comments accumulate on your Facebook fan page. On a regular basis, I receive emails from strangers lecturing me about the dangers of following Jesus. Out of pity or disgust, they wonder how I, the world’s second–ranked chess player, can be so “weak–minded’.”
Mr. So’s experience isn’t unique. Other Christians have also experienced this kind of mockery. It seems human beings have trouble giving one another space for their own beliefs, as long as we don’t hurt one another. It seems to be difficult for us to have that kind of large heart which not only allows difference, but welcomes it.
It’s a sad commentary on the human condition.
#6. It will require sacrifices.
Yes it will. In the gospel of Mark, at the very centre of Mark’s way of telling the gospel, Jesus says to his disciples: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.”
Those of us who take the Bible seriously understand that while Jesus was directly addressing the original 12 disciples, these words are actually intended for all disciples ever since.
You can’t get any plainer than that.
There is a cost to faith. My friend Joseph once went on a job interview where he was asked if his Christian convictions meant that he would not tell a lie for the good of the company. He told them he wouldn’t. He didn’t get the job.
I know some other people who decided to work with youth on the street because of their faith. Their family warned them that if they did, their money would be stolen, and they’d catch hepatitis. They went ahead with their work anyway. What happened? Their money was stolen and they caught hepatitis. But they did amazing work.
It can even be worse than those two examples. In some parts of the world today, being a follower of Jesus is against the law. If you’re caught, you will be persecuted, imprisoned, discriminated against, and tortured. It can even cost you your life.
Here’s the surprise in all of this. Somehow, in those situations, Christian faith seems to thrive.
I think in North America we’ve lost a sense of what the original message of Jesus was. He was a poor peasant in a land run by hated conquerors. He spoke of God’s deep love and compassion for all people. He called leaders and powerful people to account.
In North America, however, we’ve turned Christianity into a club of nice, like–minded people. Many Christian leaders love to be included in the corridors of power, and hunger for prestige and popularity on their television shows. They’ve become celebrities.
But that’s not the way of Jesus.
Jesus’ way is the way of service, and love, and compassion, and inclusion, and welcome.
And when we live that way, our lives will be marked by inconvenience and hardship. We will not fit in easily with the consumerist ways of our society. We will reach out to include those who are not like us. We will seek above all else to be people of peace and grace.
And that will mean sacrifice. It will mean we can’t just go along to get along.
Rev Yme Woensdregt is Pastor at Christ Church Anglican in Cranbrook