This is not an opinion on the passing of the marriage equality law.
This is not an opinion on homosexuality.
This is an opinion about people who call themselves christians. And the heavy weight that entails.
In my blog post a few weeks back, I wrote, “even with all my qualms, and doubts, and wounds from the church, I would still call myself a christian.”
It physically made my chest cavity hurt to write that sentence. Because as I have found myself on the outskirts of the church — sometimes by my own choosing, sometimes not — I have begun to see more clearly what the church looks like to the rest of the world. What christians look like to the rest of the world. And I have found myself relating more to those on the outside of the church — especially those who used to belong to the church and got hurt or disillusioned and left — than I relate to those inside.
The christianese language sounds foreign and fake to me though it once spilled out of my mouth with fluidity.
Similarly the ways the church talks about and approaches problems and hardships in life feels not just unnatural, but fake as well. Though I have lost touch with the church culture, I have not lost touch with the personality of God and his son. And I’m seeing more and more and more how much of a disparity there is between mainstream American christian and church culture and the personality of God.
And then there’s this: there’s a commandment — one of those ten big rules to live by in the Christian and Jewish life — You shall not use the name of the Lord in vain.
I grew up with that being explained as why we don’t say “Oh my God” or “Jesus Christ” as an exclamation.
For a long time I would notice each and every time someone around me said either of those. I didn’t mind it if they weren’t a christian, because I understood that those that do not follow a belief system should not be held up to the specific standards of said belief system. But I still noticed it.
Then, a few years back, I was working for a church in San Diego in youth ministry and I came upon this study about the 10 commandments. When it came to the “do not take the name of the Lord in vain” command, I was blown away by the authors’ interpretation.
He said that the commandment is about misrepresenting God, not saying “Oh my God.”
And what had once been the most trivial of the commandments became one of, if not the most important commandment to me.
When you do things in the name of God that have no business with God, you are breaking this command. When you spread hate in God’s name, you are misrepresenting the character and name of God. When you are vicious to the world that God so loves, you are dragging his name through the mud. When apartheids and slavery and crusades and protests at funerals and wishing ill on a people group and refusing to acknowledge someone’s humanity and refusing to forgive and standing up for a cause that is against people not for people all take place in the name of God — that name is sullied — for some people beyond repair.
The world is full of people who think they have been hurt by God, simply because the “people of God” hurt them using His name.
And this fills my throat with hot bile and my eyes with hot tears. Because that is not who God is. And if you are in the business of misrepresenting God to the world, you are not an agent of God. You are worse than the merchants at the temple gates charging too much for sacrificial animals — the people whose actions Jesus so detested that he threw their tables and scattered their goods. The peaceful Jesus, the Son of Peace, is also a son of Justice, and when people’s actions under the guise of being “from God” keep people away from God, he will not stand for it. He will make a scene. Because as far as I can tell, there is nothing that angers God more than people hurting people and doing it in His name.
The repercussions are biblically harsh for people who lead others away from God, either by misinformation (i.e. the Prosperity gospel which doesn’t pan out anywhere where pain or hardship spring up) or by harm (like hateful words or actions).
It pained me to say I was a christian — which pained me then further to have that realization — because one, I want to make severely sure that if I call myself by the name of God that I am not misrepresenting Him. And two, because the label “christian” is so saturated by those who misrepresent the God who by his own definition is Love.
I don’t have an ending to this. It’s something I needed to air and get off my chest and challenge you with as I am challenged by it as well. The next time you speak or act in God’s name, please take into consideration that this is a huge command. If you have an opinion that you are not sure aligns with God’s, call it your own, not a “christian opinion.” It’s time we all stopped using God’s word, God’s will, and God’s name as an umbrella excuse to act and spout what we will without room for challenge.
We shall not misrepresent God. We shall not hate or harm in the name of God. We shall not keep people away from God.
I’m practicing this in my own life as well. It takes some guts to say what I think, not what I think God says. My hope is that what I think will align with God thinks often, but if it doesn’t, I’ve not marred His name or his reputation in the process. It’s up to me to own my own thoughts and actions. The higher power I believe in is not an excuse for any of my attitudes or behaviors. And I will not label them as such. God is love. If I am less than that, it is because of me, not Him.
To those who have been hurt by myself or another “christian” misrepresenting God: I’m so, so sorry.
To those that are gay, black, female, poor, of a different religion, or anyone who the church (including me) has outcast, ignored, or persecuted — I am sorry. My heart is changing. I am praying for the heart of the church to change. But I am certain that the heart of God has not changed — He loves you. I’m sorry if you’ve been fed a message that is different than that. It’s a lie.
He loves you. He loves you. He loves you. And He tells us, the hypocritical christians, to love you and one another as well. Not only in our hearts, but in our actions, in our lives.
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Jo O’Hanlon is an adventurer and storyteller. She tries to be honest about the ugly and hard parts of life, and the beautiful parts too. This blog is one of the places she shares her thoughts and stories.
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