dartboard with a couple of darts stuck in it, but not in the bullseye

Missing the Point

Con­tent warn­ing: This post con­tains a pho­to­graph from a West­boro Bap­tist protest which is used as an exam­ple of what not to do. It con­tains lan­guage which is offensive.

Over a decade ago, while I yet called myself a Chris­t­ian, I was onto some­thing good: a real­iza­tion that homo­pho­bic protests and oth­er­wise aggres­sive “evan­ge­lism” were no way to prop­er­ly show forth the pow­er, love, and, frankly, appeal of Jesus Christ to the world around me.

Borne out of hon­est and open read­ings of the Gospels, I came to under­stand bet­ter what Jesus want­ed out of his fol­low­ers, and what I saw did­n’t look much like the reli­gion which I had been taught, despite the best inten­tions of my church lead­ers and friends.

Take Matthew 5:13–16, for example:

You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt los­es its fla­vor, how shall it be sea­soned? It is then good for noth­ing but to be thrown out and tram­pled under­foot by men. 14You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill can­not be hid­den. 15Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a bas­ket, but on a lamp­stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glo­ri­fy your Father in heaven.

New King James Version

I used to real­ly enjoy when I’d read the Bible and have new mean­ing stick out to me, mak­ing pas­sages I had long been famil­iar with fresh again. This pas­sage, when it was taught or preached to me, was typ­i­cal­ly used to encour­age evan­ge­lism — to let our light so shine before man was to go out, knock on doors, hand out tracts, invite strangers to church, and so forth — or the “good fight” against “the world,” such as by protest­ing gay mar­riage or shov­ing cre­ation­ism into schools.

But the pas­sage has Jesus say­ing some­thing else about our light, some­thing far more gen­er­al: What­ev­er a Chris­t­ian is sup­posed to be doing, they are meant to be doing it before the eyes of human­i­ty. That’s the who.

As to the what, the pas­sage says that what­ev­er the Chris­tians do, it’s going to inspire peo­ple to praise their God.

Think about that for a moment. The “Gospel truth” of Chris­t­ian liv­ing says that Chris­tians have a respon­si­bil­i­ty to salt the Earth and to shine upon it in ways that will inspire people.

What Not to Do

So…

rear view of a protester holding signs which say "Fags Doom Nations" and "America Is Doomed"

Does this inspire?

No.

Not even a little.

The war on the LGBTQ+ com­mu­ni­ty, the war on wom­en’s rights, the end­less sup­port for sense­less wars, the antag­o­nism toward racial jus­tice move­ments, and so much more are issues which too many Chris­tians (or “Chris­tians” if you pre­fer) are wast­ing their time.

Their actions, how­ev­er, are not the sort which are going to encour­age those out­side their groups to start prais­ing their God. They are lit­tle more self-con­grat­u­la­to­ry, self-right­eous actions done by peo­ple who strive to remain with­in an echo cham­ber, ful­ly insu­lat­ed from oppos­ing view­points.1

If you spend your time exer­cis­ing hate toward oth­ers, you are nev­er going to con­vince them to praise your God, at least not gen­uine­ly, til the truth of why that God is being praised is lost after a cou­ple gen­er­a­tions.2

Laying Down a Fresh Beat(itude)

The words of Jesus in the pas­sage above are, as you might sus­pect, part of a larg­er con­text. Specif­i­cal­ly, it is part of Jesus’ first big les­son to his fol­low­ers: the Ser­mon on the Mount.

It’s fash­ion­able now for Chris­tians to push a “God wants you to be hap­py” mes­sage — from the ridicu­lous pros­per­i­ty gospels of tel­e­van­ge­lists to Chris­t­ian young adults who mis­take nor­mal joy for reli­gious bliss. But Jesus’ most impor­tant les­son gives a clear run­down of who is “blessed” or hap­py when fol­low­ing Jesus.

Being peace­mak­ers (v. 9), mer­ci­ful to oth­ers (v. 7), pure (v. 8), meek (v.4), poor in spir­it (v. 3), etc. These sim­ple state­ments are how Chris­tians are to show their light to others.

Indeed, Chris­tians are at their salti­est when they engage the world with love and com­pas­sion, not when they assault, slan­der, and tear down those around them because their choic­es offend them. Chris­tians should­n’t have the time for being offend­ed by the world — no mat­ter how crazy it gets out there, it’ll always match what the Bible describes as a fall­en world. But it’s that fall­en world which Chris­tians are charged with tend­ing to with empa­thy, com­pas­sion, gen­eros­i­ty, and care.

When I was a Chris­t­ian, and even now as an athe­ist, it breaks my heart that so very many have missed the point.

Of Jesus’ words.

Of what it means to be a Christian.

Of being a bea­con of hope to those who need it most.

Imag­ine the pow­er of a Chris­tian­i­ty more con­cerned with doing good for the sake of doing good rather than busy­ing itself with shal­low gospel mes­sages and polit­i­cal activism. 

  1. This is true of any group which puts hate above com­pas­sion, includ­ing athe­ists who take pride in piss­ing off Chris­tians just for the sake of piss­ing them off.
  2. There’s a real and depress­ing rea­son why there are his­tor­i­cal­ly black church­es in Amer­i­ca, and it’s not because Chris­tians let their light shine in Africa!

7 thoughts on “Missing the Point”

  1. “We as Chris­tians are at our salti­est when we engage the world in love and com­pas­sion, not when we leap head­long into assault­ing the world of unbelievers.”

    No, chris­tians are at their salti­est when they shut up. Mil­lenia of his­to­ry shows excel­lent­ly how well your “love and com­pas­sion” has done. The crime against human­i­ty com­mit­ted by your filthy reli­gion is sim­ply unforgivable.

Leave a Reply to Steve Cancel Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Use your Gravatar-enabled email address while commenting to automatically enhance your comment with some of Gravatar's open profile data.

Comments must be made in accordance with the comment policy. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam; learn how your comment data is processed.

You may use Markdown to format your comments; additionally, these HTML tags and attributes may be used: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Rick Beckman