East of Eden
Not Christian, yet Christ-like.
On Facebook yesterday I wrote as a status: "I'm realizing more and more that some of the best followers of Christ have nothing to do with any churches. How God works through...". I wrote this after scrolling through my friend Jenn M's page. She's not Christian or any other religion. I wouldn't say atheist, either. Maybe some combination of deist and agnostic. Whatever. The point is, she's no Jesus Freak, but she constantly extols many Christ-like virtues. This girl is giving, so very giving. She'd give a person in need the shirt off her back without blinking (of course, maybe if I had her rocking abs, I would, too). She thinks on good things- on how blessed she is to have a home, an amazing family, clothes to wear (or give away). Despite having a chronic illness, and caring for her gorgeous daughter who is battling Type I Diabetes, she does not sit around in crying, piss parties.
Then there are the many, many, many Church Folks I know who are the polar opposite. Sweet Baby Jesus, please take these folks home to you. They are the ultimate in ingratitude, and master in being Pharisees. They judge folks for being in the wrong denomination and those who, like Jenn, are part of the fast growing group of Nones. They get bent out of shape if their church services don't go *exactly* right. They see the Devil in the details and in their neighbors. They give expecting- no demanding- they be blessed tenfold. And the worse part, they are like those shiny white sepulchres Jesus talks about. So full of death.
While I got a number of likes, a former classmate, Lucas, raised an objection. He wrote, "Hebrews 10:25 differs, the way I understand it. Also spiritual gifts make no sense apart from involvement in a local church. Elders and deacons would be unnecessary... etc." We wound up going back and forth, with my buddy David jumping in, too. I'll skip that but add a few clarifications. My initial post wasn't a call to flee local church bodies. Nor is it to trash church membership and attendance. After all, I attend church quite regularly. I'm an on-the-books member, even running my church's Facebook and Twitter pages. I do believe Hebrews 10:25 should be heeded. Yet, I stand by that initial stat update. God uses whomever He sees fit. He used prostitutes, liars, adulterers, murderers and all around misfits in the Bible. I don't see why He wouldn't use them now (I want to be a misfit!).
I can't help thinking of those Nones, though, which includes my awesome friend and nurse, Melissa. For most of the ones I know, there really isn't some malicious feeling about Christians or even necessarily church. They just don't go. Weren't really raised in it, never made a connection. I've come to realize, the closest some of them will come to church is... me. Scary? Yes, because I should never be an exemplar of anything, especially not Christianity.
Thing is, the older I've gotten, the more I realize the why's of the Bible. For example, the Bible marks fornication as sin (much to the disdain of, like, everyone). As a kid, sin was just awful, and I associated with evil, darkness, and the flames of Hell. As a teen, these thoughts remained, but grew a bit fuzzy. In my early twenties, they became like some abstract truth. I held to them in theory, but not so much practically. I knew plenty of people knocking boots without having jumped the broom, and they not only hadn't been pulled down into the gates of Hell, but went on living their lives with seeming aplomb. I waited to my wedding night to give away the big v. I don't talk about this much because... well who likes a braggart? Also, cause I feel I was a technical virgin. Physically yeah, but mentally... I was a Samantha. My point for bringing it up, though, is because I now see *why* fornication is labeled a sin. In my mind, it's not about Dante and cloven hooves and pitchforks, but broken hearts, STDs, HIV, teen moms, and abortion. It's my 17 year old sister crying alone trying to grapple with being a mother and the SATs. It's generation after generation of Black kids with no dads and moms working three jobs in the projects. It's friends spending years wondering why their dads never bothered with them. The wages of sin stopped being theories and were put into painful, damning practice.
There is much discussion on how to get seekers into church. Giveaways, rock bands, open mic poetry slams, family fun nights. I don't think we need to channel used car dealerships to get people through the door. We need to show them Christ in our lives (and not with the goal of driving up membership; people aren't stupid). Mary Mary sings about "The God in me." Show them Him and they'll start seeing the "why" and we'll start seeing change.