Thank you for being Christ-like and not Christian

I was watching Bill Maher’s “Religulous” recently; there’s a scene where Maher speaks at a truck stop chapel (there’s such a thing!) and tests the church-goers with many questions about the hypocrisies in Christianity. A few of the church-goers got angry, called Maher some choice names and left. But a small group of them stayed and even prayed over Maher, asking that he get his answers and see their point of view. Maher then said something that may have completely altered the way I look at Christianity forever: “Thank you for being Christ-like and not Christian.”

This blew my mind. I didn’t grow up in a strict religious home. In high school I remember asking my mom if we could go to church. It wasn’t because I felt like I had to go to church to be a good person, I just wanted to learn more about this Jesus guy I’d heard about when I was really little. I’ve always felt like there’s a higher being, something bigger than myself, and I thought going to church was a good place to start.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. Going to church was a good start, but it wasn’t church that taught me about Jesus’ message — it was church camp.

Movie poster for Religulous. Image from IMDb.
Movie poster for Religulous. Image from IMDb.

It sounds dorky, but I started going to church camp in ninth grade. I actually really loved it, and still do (although I can’t go as a camper anymore because I’m in college.) I’d never felt such a powerful connection to and understanding of this higher being that I knew in my heart, existed. Church camp taught me that it’s good to live our lives by Jesus’ example, but to know that you’ll never be that perfect. I learned that it’s okay to slip up and make mistakes.

At church, I never heard the same message. At church, it seemed like there were always fingers being pointed. People in the church were so quick to look at what people do wrong over what they do right, which was the complete opposite of what I learned at church camp. I’ve been wrestling with that for a couple years now and honestly just started to wonder if I wasn’t meant to be a Christian.

That idea solidified in my mind when I was told by an old family friend that I wasn’t a Christian because I wholeheartedly support gay marriage. I’ve never believed God to be a vengeful deity that condemns people because of one aspect of their lives. Many argue that God created man and woman to reproduce so it’s unnatural for gays to be married. With the world’s population booming at the rate that it is today, I don’t think gay couples failing to reproduce will cause the decline of the human race. With so many kids needing homes in this day and age, gay couples who do want to have kids can obviously adopt.

Being told that I am less of a Christian because I feel so strongly about this really crushed my spirits, so I stopped associating myself with Christianity. Then I watched Maher’s documentary. Ironically, most of the documentary shows Maher laughing at different religious groups. However, that line “Christ-like and not Christian” still rings in my head.

Many Christians will try to argue that those two things are the same, but by today’s standards, the differences are obvious. Many “Christians” make it their mission to show others the error of their ways and point out their flaws. They think they should tell others that they’re doing something wrong in the hopes they’ll change their ways. But when you look at the way Jesus interacted with others throughout the Bible, he never once points his finger at someone and tells them to repent “or you’re going to Hell!” He treats others with love and respect, and in many cases, literally heals them with love. He hangs out with lepers and prostitutes, telling them over and over that God loves them.

In the second chapter of Mark, Jesus is eating dinner with tax collectors and other misfits when he is asked why he would associate with these pariahs. He answers, “It’s not the healthy that need healing, but the sick (Mark 2:17).” The outcasts and the broken are the ones who need love the most, and I live my life by this principle.

It’s not for everybody, but in my humble opinion, the best way to follow the Bible is to just look at the way Jesus treated people. He wasn’t picketing on the street with signs saying “God hates lepers.” He approached these people and showed them love.

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