I spent the last weekend with some evangelical Christians who I like on a personal level. They all believe that they are called to “spread the word”. Despite a genuine intellectual interest from me for most of my life, they have all singularly failed to communicate a positive image of Jesus and, especially, his followers. This article explains how fundamentalist Christians could get it right, but instead get it wrong when it comes to sharing their world view.
First, everyone knows that Jesus was a guy who loved peace. Being kind to other people is all he really preached. And yet, surrounded by evangelical Christians, all I heard about people unlike themselves was hate. They laughed at a young man who had his ears pierced and called him gay, as if that were an insult. They tolerated and even colluded with the most sexist comments I have ever heard about how sinks are for women and steering wheels are for men. And in one case suggested that sexual abuse is entirely or mostly the responsibility of women who dress insufficiently. They advocated for animal mistreatment in order to make food artificially cheaper.
Joy and peace
Christians claim to have joy in their hearts, peace from knowing that they are going to live in eternal bliss, and yet they cannot help but laugh at or criticize people who don’t share their worldview. I get it – I have my own worldview and I feel pity or amusement or disappointment for people who don’t share it from time to time. But I am not trying to convert those other people to my worldview. Wouldn’t a better “witness” be to show that you care for others?
Some of the nicest fundamentalist Christians I know attended an indoor event with a person who they claim to “love as themselves” unmasked and made a fuss about wearing a mask. This would be terrible if the person they came to spend time with was not especially vulnerable during a global pandemic, but when they are vulnerable (and the “nice” people know this) it’s down-right evil. They even know people personally who are anti-vaccine and who died unnecessarily.
Where is the evil?
What’s so hard for me is that, though I do not believe in the supernatural, if I did, it would be pretty clear where the devil’s claws were embedded. And it’s not in the gay, atheist, or moderate Christian people. The evil is in the culture of laughing at others, of undisguised and vicious homophobic, sexist, and pro-rape comments, in animal cruelty to save money, and in the violent anti-mask and anti-vaccine behavior of fundamentalist Christians.
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