I Refuse to be a Christian. . .

christian-love

Peter R. Scholtes wrote the hymn “They’ll Know We Are Christians By Our Love” while he was a parish priest at Saint Brendan’s Church on the South Side of Chicago in 1968. The hymn was inspired by John 13:35 (“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”) At the time, Scholtes was leading a youth choir out of the church basement and was looking for an appropriate song for a series of ecumenical, interracial events. When he could not find such a song, he wrote the now-famous hymn in a single day. In case you are not familiar with it, the hymn goes like this:

We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord And we pray that all unity may one day be restored And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love They will know we are Christians by our love

We will work with each other, we will work side by side We will work with each other, we will work side by side And we’ll guard each one’s dignity and save each one’s pride And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love They will know we are Christians by our love

By our love, by our love

And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love They will know we are Christians by our love

We will walk with each other, we will walk hand in hand We will walk with each other, we will walk hand in hand And together we’ll spread the news that God is in our land And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love They will know we are Christians by our love

By our love, by our love

And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love They will know we are Christians by our love

Well, I, like most Christians, would like to be known by my love.

Actually, it would be more accurate lately to say that I am still a Christian, though it has become increasingly harder for me to say that on a daily basis.

Looking around at much of what represents Christians today – particularly in this election season – it has become a daily battle to make this once effortless declaration, knowing that it now automatically aligns me with those who share so little in common with the Jesus I know and love. It aligns me with playground bullies, politicized pulpits, white privilege, overt racism, and with bigotry toward so many groups of people who represent the “world” I grew up believing that God has so loved.

There are things that used to be givens as a follower of Jesus, but no longer are.

For far too many people, being a Christian no longer means that one needs to be humble or forgiving. It no longer means that one needs a heart to serve or bring healing. It no longer requires compassion, or mercy, or benevolence. It no longer requires one to turn the other cheek, or to love one’s enemies, or to take the lowest place, or to love one’s neighbor as oneself.

In other words, being a Christian no longer requires one to emulate the spirit of Jesus.

So yes, I am still a Christian, but there is a kind of Christian whom I refuse to be.

I refuse to be a Christian who lives in fear of people who look, or speak, or worship differently than I do.

I refuse to be a Christian who believes that God blesses America more than God loves the world.

I refuse to be a Christian who uses the Bible to perpetuate individual or systemic bigotry, racism, or sexism.

I refuse to be a Christian who treasures allegiance to a flag, or a country, or a political party, above emulating Jesus.

I refuse to be a Christian who is reluctant to call-out the words of hateful preachers, venomous politicians, and mean-spirited pew sitters, all in the name of keeping Christian unity.

I refuse to be a Christian who attends a Church where all people are not openly welcomed, fully celebrated, and equally cared for.

I refuse to be a Christian who speaks always with holy war rhetoric about an encroaching enemy horde that must be rallied against and defeated.

I refuse to be a Christian who is generous with hell-fire and damnation and stingy with grace and love.

I refuse to be a Christian who cannot see the image of God in people of every color, every religious tradition, and every sexual orientation.

I refuse to be a Christian who sees the world in a hopeless spiral downward and can only condemn it or withdraw from it.

And, I refuse to be a Christian who rejects the idea that we should live as persons of hospitality, of healing, of redemption, of justice, of expectation-defying grace, and of abundant and life-affirming love.

Yes, it has become more difficult for me to say that I am a Christian these days than it has ever been before, but I still say it.

But I refuse to be a Christian without the spirit of Jesus – without his humility; without his compassion; without his smallness; without his gentleness with people’s wounds; without his attention to the poor, the forgotten, and the marginalized; without his intolerance for religious hypocrisy; and without his clear expression of the love of God. These are non-negotiables for me.

How about you, “Christian?” Are they non-negotiables for you as well?

.

 

Advertisements

One thought on “I Refuse to be a Christian. . .

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s