I had a very interesting conversation about Christianity last night. This particular conversation has been a long time coming and today I can't get it out of my head. I really didn't say much. Hardly anything at all. I listened long and hard about the views of...let's call him...Ron. I respected him and refrained from talking. That's really hard for me to do. I love to talk. I love to say what I think. I love to keep rambling until I feel I've been understood. But last night there wasn't room for that. It isn't even that I'm afraid I don't know what to say, although at times there's some of that. It's just that sometimes it's time to shut up.
I'm torn about this conversation because the topic was so heavy and intense and I felt as if I couldn't do justice to what I hold in my heart. I'm also torn because on so many levels Ron and I are on the same page. We hold a lot of the same views on justice, compassion, peace, and the struggle to understand why Christianity has become what it is today.
I've known for a long time where Ron comes from. He says he's not a Christian, but is very focused on spirituality. He believes in the spirit world, in a divine calling and plan for our lives, and each person's individual power. That we are all made in God's image and hold His power and His goodness. (I'm probably not doing his beliefs justice because there isn't enough space and time here, and I'm not him, so I can't speak for him. That's simply a short version of my take on what he believes.)
And Jesus? Well, we talked about Him a lot. Or I should say Ron talked about him a lot and I listened. It may be putting it too simply, but my understanding is that he believes Jesus did live here. He believes He did what the Bible says He did. He talked a long while about Jesus' love, His ability to perform miracles, and His revolution for the poor in a dark time. He called it all a "beautiful thing." But the thing that Ron can't stand is how the end of the story is, in his view used for fostering guilt. He talked about being shown the crucifixion story at a young age and how it scarred him. He feels he was taught that the message behind the cross is that you should be so disturbed by it that you never forget that you owe this Jesus. That you never forget how unworthy you are. That you never forget that you better live in a way that doesn't offend what Jesus did. And if you don't live right, you better feel pretty bad about nailing Jesus to that cross.
This is one of the areas where I can totally respect his frustration. I don't think that any of what he was fed, or that many of us are fed, is the point at all. Jesus did not die so we'd feel bad about it for a lifetime. He did it to take on every ugly perversion and hateful act of mankind in one fell swoop so that we could be free. He did it because He is love. I'm not saying we're free to do whatever we want because Jesus took care of it, but I genuinely don't believe the point of the cross was for us to wallow in our unworthiness and never forget how bad we are. But sometimes that's what we're taught, subtley or not.
I think the only question I asked Ron was what he thinks about Jesus claiming He is God. The one and only God. He said some things about how he doesn't know, because he's not sure exactly what Jesus said and perhaps His words have been twisted...Then he went on to say how frustrating it is to watch the Western world fall for an idea of fear-based religion and all that's been stripped from the original stories and teachings of Jesus. That frustrates me too. But I still believe that Jesus is the one and only God, part of a beautiful trinity that has revealed itself to me in a powerful, tangible and personal way. That's where we're different. But I didn't say that.
I didn't say it because Christians really have done a number on the truths of a loving God. To the extent that when these conversations arise, there is so much frustration and anger, that I don't even get a chance to speak. Pretty much anything I could say would come out sounding like the same old mumbo jumbo Ron's been hearing his entire life. Things he has an educated argument against.
There are times when I think I just need to rest in being me. Just rest in knowing that there are times when I shouldn't speak. Rest in the hope that perhaps my life might speak more than any scripted answer I could ever attempt at giving. I cannot tout my beliefs to someone who is in fight or flight mode. He's in that mode because of a long history of people in his life misrepresenting Christianity.
What is so interesting to me is that if you take the Christianity of today and you strip away judgement, arrogance and disrespect, and maybe even guilt, you come up with what Ron believes. If these things were removed from his idea of Christianity, he may not refuse to call himself a Christian. Because the things he holds dearest to his heart and soul are exactly what Jesus came to teach.
So I'm thinking about this conversation today and feeling sad and a little angry. Angry that the "beautiful thing"Jesus came to do has been all covered up in many ways. And yet I'm feeling hopeful, knowing that all of it works together. Even the disillusionment and failures of God's people and the mistakes they've made to hurt others will all work together in His good and perfect plan. He's that powerful. He's that wise. And He loves us that much.