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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Being Christian in a Secular Society

This is what I am and I have no problem with it.

I have a big problem with those Christians who insist that everyone else believe as we do (and even that can vary greatly) and that our government and country should follow suit. It's too easy to attack that argument on the basis of the requirement of church and state separation. I attack that argument using the very cornerstones upon which the faith is constructed: the life of Jesus.

It's become a bit of a cultural joke to say "What would Jesus do?" and whether or not you consider yourself a Christian, the view of Jesus is something that can be admired by everyone who belief in love, peace, etc. etc. The key problem with the Christian right wingers is that they have memorized scripture but have forsaken the essence, the spirit of Jesus in the process. They speak of shunning groups of people for supposedly amoral behavior. A key example of this is the attitude towards gays.

This attitude is gleaned from the Old Testament in a pick and choose style. Surrounding the text that condemns homosexuality are other sins such as eating shellfish. If you haven't ever read the Open Letter to Dr. Laura you simply must do so now.

This particular issue sticks in my craw not because I have many gay friends but I would rather leave my children and even my welfare in their hands before I would give that kind of control to someone like Dr. Laura. Live and let live. As long as we are free to live as we choose and be willing to compromise on public issues recognizing our many differing beliefs, the secular society does more to promote the fundamentals of the Christian faith than what might be readily apparent. Jesus did not go around damning people or avoiding those whom others thought were dirty, immoral and otherwise blights on society. He walked with them. He listened to them. He broke bread with them. He didn't care what other people thought about this behavior.

Jesus taught by example. This is a key point that many so-called Christians seem to miss.

Example, not force, not legislation. You can't legislate morality. You can only legislate what will best provide freedom of expression for all. For this we all must be willing to compromise how we conduct ourselves and express personal beliefs in public for everyone is entitled to what h/s believes. This includes those who are not Christian. They have the right to not be Christian just as people have the right to not believe in divine beings at all.

People come willingly to Christianity, they come with a spiritual hunger. Christians do their best marketing by serving as examples as to what a Christian is. If left in the hands of most right wing groups, you can come away with the impression that Christianity is a political force to reckon with; for this reason many believers leave organized religion altogether. It's important to recognize that organized religion is completely capable of misrepresenting the key principles of the Christian faith. It's often been misrepresented.

A secular society doesn't diminish Christianity. It doesn't weaken it. In my opinion, nothing can weaken it which is why I don't feel threatened when we have to realize our religious celebrations are private matters. They do not belong in the public areana. In fact, there is no reason for them to be there. Do we want to show people we are Christians? You can do that each and every single day at your workplace, your school, your home . . . anytime you are up and moving. Likewise, you can pray with your family any time you choose to arrange that.

I laugh at the contention that the public school system is shot to hell because prayer was taken out of the schools. What bullshit. The public school system fails on many levels, and a key reason is the lack of parental involvement with the child. We lead such busy lives somehow we think rearing a human being or two will magically just fit in fine with a hectic lifestyle. It doesn't and our society continues to pay for this stupid thinking.

While there was prayer in school, our society espoused the belief that black people are inferior beings and treated them as such; bigotry was alive and well and, this is the important part, not questioned. Obviously having prayer in school did jack shit to open the minds and hearts of those wanting the prayer in school and those saying the prayer in schools.

Say them at home with your family. We have to believe that God's hearing is pretty good and he can hear you talking from almost anywhere.

A secular society continues to challenge us to find more effective ways to share our faith and to do so in more meaningful ways. If you go out of your way to help a stranger and the stranger asks why you have done all this, explain you are a Christian and that's what Christians do. (actually, non-Christians do too but you get the idea here) They shouldn't thank you, thank Jesus. That's how you get the message out there. The person then can take you up on the suggestion or leave it.

Take it or leave it. The freedom to present and the freedom to ignore. That's what I like about a secular society. My faith isn't so weak that I fear the diminishing of it by acknowledging other beliefs and their right to be considered equally.

1 comment:

Cheryl said...

Nancy, this is by far the most well-reasoned, coherent piece I have ever had the pleasure to read about what religion is really all about. What makes it particularly outstanding is that reading it makes one feel as if a veil has been lifted; it reveals what should be obvious -- but sadly, for many, often isn't -- as a simple truth.

Unfortunately, there will never be a shortage of stupid people.