christian vs. follower of jesusBy
This has nothing to do with paddling. But nothing says that I have to only write about paddling. My house, my rules.
I remember when I was a kid over at some friend’s house. His parents were expressing outrage over those gay people ruining the word for them. “You used to be able to say you were gay,” they complained. I remember thinking “What, now you have to go with happy instead?” What’s the big deal?
I admit that I am starting to feel that way about the word Christian. It used to mean a person who believes what Jesus says is true Gospel. Now, I fear, it means narrow-minded bigots with martyr complexes who thinks anyone who doesn’t agree with them is a Godless atheist.
This is especially relevant right now as a few weeks ago one of the garbage-spewing televangelists was telling everyone the south is flooding because gay people are getting married. Or whatever it is that will get them ratings this week. It makes me sick to my stomach. The south is flooding because a) there’s a hurricane and b) the south is in its path. Now while I did not consult God on this, I’m pretty sure the hurricane wasn’t on the agenda for the day. “Oh, let’s see…yeah…let’s whip up a hurricane, those people have been pretty evil lately…”
Except the good ones who are being flooded out too. Maybe the best way to be a sinner is to lie quietly among the saints and hope God doesn’t notice you.
People ask me, “Are you a Christian?” as if they’re asking me if I’m a Freemason. I want to respond to the question with another question; What’s the real question here? Are they trying to determine if I think like they do (assuredly not), or if I really believe that Jesus was who He said He was.
So what’s a person who loves Jesus to do? Say, “yes, I’m a Christian,” and be lumped in with people who won’t bake a cake for someone who’s gay? Or someone who thinks it’s okay to beat your kids into submission (spare the rod, etc.), or not give them medicine because the Bible “says so”? Or someone who’s wife is a shadow of her former self because of his bullying assertion that he’s the man of the house (again, the Bible “says so”).
Sorry, I can’t do that. I won’t do that. These people may call themselves Christians, but their behavior is more telling than any self-appellation. They may be Christians, but they don’t seem to be following Christ’s example. As Gandhi famously said, he liked our Christ, but he wasn’t so sure about Christians. I have to agree with Mahatma on this one. Even as I am one, I’m not so sure about us.
In fact, I’m very much not-so-sure of it. I agree with Mahatma, as would Jesus. I don’t know everything, but I’m pretty sure of a few things. I’m sure that Christian who hold a God Hates Fags sign at a funeral isn’t loving his neighbor. I’m pretty sure parents who thinks that they have to home-school their fifteen kids so the Devil won’t teach them about the earth being more than 6,000 years old are not open to loving their neighbors either. People who claim to love the sinner and hate the sin usually get it half-right. They pick and choose from the scriptural smorgasbord and take the stuff they like (women, submit yourselves to your husbands…) and ignore the stuff they don’t (neither do I condemn thee).
Now the irony here is that some of these Christians will read what I write and will say one of several things, and maybe all of them:
1) “You need to repent.”
2) “You are persecuting us.”
1) Absolutely. But not for this.
2) No, I’m not. Just because someone disagrees with you doesn’t make you a martyr. If you show up at a funeral telling a family that their son was killed in Afghanistan because Americans allow homosexuality, you’re going to get beat up by a former Navy SEAL because you’re being a dick, not because you’re suffering like Paul before Agrippa. It’s the height of arrogance and narcissism to think you’re anything at all resembling an early church follower being martyred for their beliefs.
Because Jesus didn’t go around telling people they were going to hell. He told them what they could become if they wanted to.
He loved everybody. All of them. No exceptions.
So, agnostic or atheist friends (I have a fair number of them), I hope you remember that for every Christian who holds a God Hates Fags sign at a funeral or who thinks that they have to home-school their fifteen kids so the Devil won’t teach them about the earth being more than 6,000 years old, there are thousands of people just trying to be more like Jesus. Followers of Christ. Not Christians.
I am not perfect. I make no claim to anything of the sort. I am a mess, and thankfully, I have a good example of how to behave in how I treat other people and how I treat myself.
Back in 1915, Carl Sandburg must have felt a lot like me when he heard the tent-show preacher Billy Sunday use his particular style of preaching to “win souls for Jesus,” and to earn a little on the side, I’m sure. He saw through the theater and saw the lack of substance and emotional manipulation and saw what was really there. He wrote a poem about it, and I love that poem. While we are all hypocrites to some extent, we don’t all make a living at it.
Jesus had a way of talking softly and everybody
except a few bankers and higher-ups among the
con men of Jerusalem liked to have this Jesus
around because he never made any fake passes
and everything he said went and he helped the
sick and gave the people hope. You come along squirting words at us, shaking
your fist and calling us damn fools so fierce the
froth of your own spit slobbers over your lips —
always blabbing we’re all going to hell straight
off and you know all about it.I’ve read Jesus’ words.
I know what he said. Youdon’t throw any scare into me.
Jesus.He never came near clean people or dirty people
but they felt cleaner because he came along. It
was your crowd of bankers and business men
and lawyers that hired the sluggers and murderers
who put Jesus out of the running.
I say it was the same bunch that’s backing you that
nailed the nails into the hands of this Jesus of
Nazareth. He had lined up against him the
same crooks and strong-arm men now lined up
with you paying your way.
This Jesus guy was good to look at, smelled good,
listened good. He threw out something fresh
and beautiful from the skin of his body and the
touch of his hands wherever he passed along.
You, Billy Sunday, put a smut on every human
blossom that comes within reach of your rotten
breath belching about hell-fire and hiccuping
about this man who lived a clean life in Galilee.
When are you going to quit making the carpenters
build emergency hospitals for women and girls
driven crazy with wrecked nerves from your
goddam gibberish about Jesus — I put it to you
again: What the hell do you know about Jesus?
Go ahead and bust all the chairs you want to.
Smash a whole wagon load of furniture at every
performance. Turn sixty somersaults and stand
on your nutty head. If it wasn’t for the way
you scare women and kids, I’d feel sorry for
you and pass the hat.
I like to watch a good four-flusher work but not
when he starts people to puking and calling for
I like a man that’s got guts and can pull off a great
original performance, but you — hell, you’re only
a bughouse peddler of second-hand gospel —
you’re only shoving out a phony imitation of
the goods this Jesus guy told us ought to be free
as air and sunlight.
Sometimes I wonder what sort of pups born from
mongrel bitches there are in the world less
heroic than you.
You tell people living in shanties Jesus is going to
fix it up all right with them by giving them
mansions in the skies after they’re dead and the
worms have eaten ’em.
You tell $6 a week department store girls all they
need is Jesus; you take a steel trust wop, dead
without having lived, gray and shrunken at
forty years of age, and you tell him to look at
Jesus on the cross and he’ll be all right.
You tell poor people they don’t need any more
money on pay day and even if it’s fierce to be
out of a job, Jesus’ll fix that all right, all right —
all they gotta do is take Jesus the way you say.
I’m telling you this Jesus guy wouldn’t stand for
the stuff you’re handing out. Jesus played it
different. The bankers and corporation lawyers
of Jerusalem got their sluggers and murderers
to go after Jesus just because Jesus wouldn’t
play their game. He didn’t sit in with the big
I don’t want a lot of gab from the bunkshooter in
I won’t take my religion from a man who never
works except with his mouth and never cherishes
a memory except the face of the woman on the
American silver dollar.
I ask you to come through and show me where
you’re pouring out the blood of your life.
I’ve been in this suburb of Jerusalem they call
Golgotha, where they nailed Him, and I know if the
story is straight it was real blood ran from his
hand and the nail-holes, and it was real blood
spurted out where the spear of the Roman
soldier rammed in between the ribs of this Jesus