What is wrong with Christians, anyway?
I was minding my own business, perhaps only marginally paying attention, when the professor in my undergraduate Philosophy or Religion class decided to pair us up to discuss religious practice. (At least, I think that’s what we were supposed to discuss, but I already told you that I wasn’t paying attention.)
I scooted my desk closer to a few fellow students and we began to talk. In the middle of our discussion, one student responded to some comment I made – about the Christian actions being reasonable (which of course they are…to me, as an insider) – with the exclamation, “Oh yeah? Then why are Baptists so weird?!”
Unfortunately, I don’t know what specifically gave rise to this comment but, having grown up in the Baptist denomination (a sub-group of Protestantism, if you’re curious), I can indeed confirm that Baptists are weird. Also, having travelled a bit now and having been a part of a number of other churches, I can also say with some authority that Baptists hardly have the monopoly on weird. Every denomination has its own idiosyncrasies which, of course, only appear to be so because I am coming from the “outside” position of growing up in a different tradition. These differences range from the minor (e.g., whether or not one raises one’s hands while praying and singing) to the more significant (like the Appalachian snake handlers…personally, I hate snakes; me and Indiana Jones).
However, these things don’t even begin to answer the real question, which I think was probably behind my colleague’s exclamation: What is wrong with Christians? For example, how can we think of ourselves so highly and yet, at times, treat others so poorly? Or another: how can we hold such high moral standards for others and then consistently fail to meet them?
Fair questions. Perhaps they have crossed your mind too. The answer to these questions, however, and to the less serious complaint about Baptists is a simple one: Christians are human beings. Being human means that we are fallible, weak, broken and in need of a savior. Whatever we want to be like, we are not there. Importantly, the problem with Christians is the problem with everyone else too. Paul tells us in his letter to the Roman Christians that we are all broken – everyone alike – and therefore we all need a savior (Romans 3:23). Paul (among others) also tells us that such a savior has indeed been given to us in the person of Jesus, who was crucified, and was raised to reconcile us to God.
Accordingly, Christians, like everyone else, still do bad things, make mistakes and are full of human frailty. While this doesn’t excuse or exonerate us – indeed, an important task for Christianity today is repentance (both collectively and individually) – our failures don’t alter the truth of Jesus’ saving death or resurrection. The fact that he uses broken people to bear his message is simply another example of his love – that he would involve broken people in his redemptive plan for all creation.