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


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

Does this inspire?


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.[efn_note]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.[/efn_note]

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.[efn_note]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![/efn_note]

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. 

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.

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A Salted Faith
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