They are dorks. What’s wrong with them? These people grab onto the idea of God and come to church because they want to be accepted. Great. Good. But why, then, do they become the loudest, most obnoxious, scariest ones? They turn me off, and I’m already in the “club.”
That’s what Christianity turns in to: a club. A club is not something that excites me. Clubs, by their very nature, imply exclusion. Clubs must be defended. They have meetings. Membership dues. Late fees. Clubs are never much fun. A club encourages ignorant trust. ((Should there be trust? Maybe, maybe not, depends on the club. But what about ignorance is ever desirable?)) People become passionate about their club. It freaks non-club members (and some cynical club members) out.
I heard a conversation in the lounge the other day. On the one hand was an “official,” an elder of sorts (whose name is withheld for their own sake) and a student stood on the receiving end. The topic was dating – specifically a love interest. The quotation went something like this: “Is she a Christian? Okay, no missionary dating now!” Pause for her laughter. Missionary dating is a reference to some strange symbolic club handshake – not a raunchy sexual suggestion. Oddly enough, that wouldn’t bother me nearly as much. ((I guess I’m a bad club member)) What bothered me about the conversation was that it limited the consideration of the worth of another person to whether or not they have Christian spirituality.
But what does that mean?
I concede that scripture does tell us that we should not yoke ourselves to those who aren’t with Christ. But who decides what it means to be with Christ? Should we ask the Catholics? Or the Lutherans? Ha, maybe the Baptists? My point is that we all disagree on what it means to be a “true Christian”. The club is divided. When searching for a “Christian” to date, is a particular brand of Christianity the most important thing? Christians differ on interpretations of scripture and how to live it out – in that case it is possible that there are other interpretations out there. It would be silly to think the current book listing of denominations has all the possibilities.
I’m not drawn to rules. I don’t want to find someone who agrees with me that A,B, and D are right; also C is wrong. Who cares if they agree or disagree? I want to find someone who desires to find the truth behind A-D. It’s not about a set of truths or falsities, it’s about the drive. What drives this other person? In other words, “Is she spiritual?” See, when we stop asking questions like “Is she a Christian?” or “Are you a democrat?” we’re forced to actually learn about the person. Go and ask someone if they are spiritual. Silly, isn’t it? It makes more sense to ask other, more contextual questions.
What do you get up in the morning for?
What makes you happiest?
What could you live your life doing without any regrets?
Questions quickly become personal. ((Of course, this should be the case with questions. Questions should be an intense act of humility, one where we submit ourselves to the knowledge of another person. It seems like we tend to use questions for our own satisfaction, though. We want our own feelings confirmed; we want to be comforted.)) The conversation turns complex and takes up more of your day. When we ask if someone is a Christian or not we don’t really care about them. We want to place a tally on a board somewhere. We want to subject them to what we think they are. We want to feel good.
It has to do with a larger problem, one I see as prevalent within the Christian community. And it does relate to Christian institutions.
I am enrolled at a Christian “Liberal Arts” University. This institution requires students and faculty to agree to (read: sign) an agreement in which the student doesn’t do a laundry list of “bad” things. While the list doesn’t really interest me (both for the sake of this argument and in regards to living here) what does interest me is the idea behind the list. Whether justified in requiring certain things of us or not, what the list does, realistically, is turn students against one another. Students are on guard, watching to “catch you” committing awful crimes against the oh-so-holy community life agreement. Day in and day out, students must be on guard so as not to find themselves in a “forbidden” situation. This may include the door sliding closed while a woman is (gasp!) in your room. This may include leaning a little too close to your sweetheart in any public place. Shame on you. Of course, since you aren’t to have them in your room this leaves you with nowhere to be, naturally, with your significant other. You immediately feel like an outcast in a large crowd, instantly ashamed of yourself. Why?
Not all of the rules pertain to relationships. Some put stipulations on (read: forbid) things like smoking, drinking, and (brace yourself) dancing. Now, as I said, I couldn’t give two shits about most of their rules. It doesn’t matter to me what they think I should not do. In most of the cases I have no desire to do what they don’t want me to do. Call it a happy coincidence. But the very principle is what pisses me off. If I were concerned with being a “good Christian” in the eyes of the institution (as many around here are) I would obsess over the list of forbiddances. I would live by the rules. I would feel proud of myself when I did well, and feel bad when I didn’t. When others didn’t do well, I would think less of them. I may even rat them out – why should they get away with those things when I can’t?
See where I’m going with this yet?
Christian institutions such as Huntington University breed fundamentalist attitudes. When students go through college – a place where, if they haven’t already formed their habits and beliefs, they will – at these places they begin a habit of living according to rules, to stipulations, and judging themselves accordingly. When the students grow up and become working class citizens – members of congregations – they keep hold of this fundamentalist attitude. Everything is viewed from a modernist, boundary-filled worldview. They read the Bible with the same ideals, the same practices, and they find all kinds of rules for the way Christians “should” be.
See how it all comes full circle?
Christian clubs beget Christian clubs. And Christianity is in no way meant to be a club. Clubs exclude; Christianity includes. Clubs require; Christianity accepts. Clubs scorn and judge; Christianity forgives and loves. And of course by Christianity I mean one who follows Jesus. But wait, have I contradicted myself? Have I restricted my view of Christianity to be one of following Christ? Is that really restricting the natural boundaries of Christianity?
I am reminded of a scene from one of Lewis’s Narnia books. In it a disciple of a king other than Aslan is nervous that his loyalties to his prior lord would leave him in bad standing with Aslan, who he now recognizes as his lord. One tells him, though, that he was serving Aslan, even when he didn’t know it. The disciple is confused. He is told that there is no true good that is done that is not done for Aslan. If he was serving his lord with a true heart, seeking out truth, he was really serving Aslan.
All truth is God’s truth.
So the importance is not in following my Christ or that woman’s Christ. The importance is found in seeking the truth. God, rather Christ, is the way, the truth, and the life. Many there be that go that way, and few find it. If you claim to have found Christ, have you really found it? Do you have a stranglehold on the truth of Christ – is it your way more than it is His way? Maybe few find it because they believe that theirs is the only way. Maybe they don’t spend enough time seeking, knocking, or asking questions. And maybe they could benefit by reexamining the very way they see God in this world.
But that’s a whole other discussion, best saved for another day.