Can any article about some Christian doing something stupid be complete without this quote from Ghandi? "I like your Christ, but I do not like your Christians. They are not like your Christ."
Today this quote is making its appearance on every online article covering the story of the Lutheran pastor who apologized for taking part in an interfaith service for the victims of the Sandy Hook shooting.
I’ve read four or five different articles on this topic, and each time someone comments “I like your Christ, but I do not like you Christians.”
Look, I share the sentiment here. I love the teachings of Jesus, I hate the way they have been misconstrued by masses of “pew potatoes” the world over. But we can’t criticize all of Christianity based on the actions of a few lunatics who get attention.
Just because one very conservative division of Lutheranism believes that participating in an interfaith event is the same thing as affirming that all religions equally lead to God (and heaven) doesn’t mean they all do.
Many Christians do believe that Jesus Christ is the only way to know God and get to heaven. Other Christians believe that Jesus showed us one way to know God, but other ways will also get you there in the end. Some Christians even believe that Jesus is another isha-devata (a favorite deity to worship).
The Westboro Baptist Church is no more representative of Christianity than the Unitarian Universalists are. Despite what some really outspoken fundamentalist would have us believe, there is not, nor has there ever been one universally agreed upon bedrock called “Christianity.” The various, sects and denominations are as varied as humanity itself.
There. I’ve done my good deed in defending this thing called Christianity.
I was outraged by this story, but I know it is not the view of every Christian. I hope that even those who believe Jesus is the only way to know God or get to heaven would see the value of interfaith dialogue and ceremonies like this where we can all come together as a human race joined in our sufferings, and not worry about the stupid divisions we’ve created.
But to Christians that believe Jesus is “the way, the truth and life” and that no one “comes to the father” but through Jesus I have this to say:
This quote comes from the Gospel of John, which is unlike the other three gospels in nearly every way. It is a very gnostic book. It is highly unlikely that anything recorded in John are records of actual events.
Despite what we have been led to believe, the disciples did not follow Jesus around worshiping him as God. They followed him around as a teacher, as a leader, as someone to strive to be like. They had no idea he was God. Go re-read the gospels with fresh eyes. I’ll wait.
Did you see that? Even when Jesus hints at things like the fact that he’ll be raised in three days, the disciples had no idea what the heck that meant. If everyone who knew Jesus knew he was the incarnation of God it wouldn’t have taken some 100 years to develop the theology that taught that Jesus was both God and man. Philosophers hammered at that idea for ages, it’s not spelled out as clearly as you now think.
You can feel certain about the truth of your faith because you live in an echo chamber where people who think just like you pat you on the back for thinking just like them, and then when you pray you get warm, tingly feelings. That’s not a firm foundation for rejecting the possibility that every non-Christian on the planet will roast in eternal hell fire, or even to assume that they’d be so much happier if they could just worship your God. They live in their own echo chambers and get their own warm tingly feelings.
When Jesus told his disciples to evangelize to the whole word, I don’t think he meant to do so by insulting them. The best way to convince non-Christians that Christianity is a good thing is by embodying the principles the faith espouses. Love, kindness, charity, patience. Love your neighbor, be kind to strangers, help foreigners. The best way to convince non-Christians that Ghandi was right and that Christians are nothing like Jesus is to scold each other for participating in interfaith events, by smugly declaring that you have the whole truth and nothing but the truth with no room for any misunderstanding.