Christianity is of the religions that get a bad rap. I can’t help but shake my head at the number of people who judge Christians off the actions of a few. It’s the same with people who are Muslim, Islamic, Buddhist, and so forth. Just because people affiliated with various religions cause chaos and mayhem, it isn’t right to judge a group of people whose faith you disagree with in general. When 9-11 happened in 2001, the world tried to categorize radical groups. I’m not saying that what they did was right. It wasn’t terrific. The victims did not deserve to die, and their families did not deserve to grieve them. The world did not deserve to watch as innocent people died. Those groups carried out acts they believed were in Allah’s hands. Murder is never a good thing. But the actions of those groups did not represent their faith as a whole. When I worked for Habitat for Humanity, I learned that the families who were Muslim and Islamic are just like many people. They want to live in peace. They want safe neighborhoods to raise their children and to feel safe. It’s easy to lump a group of people in a category and much more difficult to separate those who mean to harm those trying to be good stewards of society.
Being a Christian is frustrating in today’s world. It’s difficult to watch as other religious groups are acceptable while Christianity is not. I can’t tell you how many social media platforms I’ve been on where people start hurling accusations against Christians. I am not going to dispute the fact that there are many hypocritical Christians in this world. Nor will I deny there are many hypocritical atheists, Buddhists, Muslims, Islams, and many other forms of faith. The truth is that everyone is human. No, I’m not counting the animal kingdom as human. We all make mistakes. We all have bad days where we say something dumb. We all do stupid things. That’s part of being people. And judging each other for bad decisions is not only damaging to the people who screwed up, but it makes those who are doing the finger-pointing look petty.
I’ve said and done a lot of dumb things in my life. I’ve claimed to be a Christian and done very unchristianlike things, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t learn from those errors in judgment. Let me give you a prime example. Years ago, I was married. At the time, my ex-husband coached a lot of kids in the ROTC unit at a nearby high school. He worked tirelessly with those kids and would pick them up a lot and do things with them to keep them out of trouble. I’d tag along to make sure everything was above board. There was one night where we picked the kids up and brought them to our house.
On the way to the house, one of his cadets decided to litter. She picked up a half-full bottle of mountain dew and, in the pitch black of night, threw it at a man on a bicycle. She missed. She and my husband laughed because she missed and said that they should go back and try again. My husband complied against my wishes. He was driving. He turned his tracker around and proceeded to go back to give her another try. She threw it out the window and knocked him off his bike. I was sick to my stomach. Very rarely have I been so upset that I didn’t know what to say. That was one of those nights. There was nothing I could do. I had no way to know what the man looked like because the night was pitch black. I never knew what happened to that man, but I never forgot about the two of them’ actions. There was no reason involved, except they thought it was fun. I don’t consider assaulting someone fun or Christian-like. What I knew was that the behavior the two of them exhibited told me that either I was growing up when they weren’t or that I was supposed to do more than what I did, but I had no clue as to what. I was married to a cop’s son. I don’t care what anyone tells you. Law enforcement looks out for their own.
This act is one example of claiming to be one thing and acting another way. He also claimed to be a Christian, but at that moment, he chose to allow an attack on another human being and laughed about it. I think if he were to look back on his actions, now that he has a daughter, he’d find that act to be reprehensible. But in all of our growing pains, I think most of us have done things we aren’t incredibly proud to recall. There are a lot of things in my life I would have done differently. Learning to own up to our mistakes is part of the journey we all face. I should never have confided in the folks I did about my relationship problems. I should have been strong enough to take a stand when I saw severe problems developing instead of taking a step back. I should have fought harder to teach kids that even though life isn’t easy or fair, it requires focus and standing up for your beliefs. It took years for me to gain the strength and conviction to stand on my feet. In many ways, it was like I was living with battered wife syndrome without the physical beatings, but the emotional ones were just as damaging.
Poor acts of judgment happen in the most unlikely places. That’s why it’s dangerous to label certain groups because the idea becomes that all groups are problematic. I don’t believe this to be true. If anything, I think the more we provoke each other to do dangerous things to others, the more acceptable it’s become. I don’t know the answers. What I do know is we have to start working together and judging each other less. We all have skills and unique abilities to make this world better. Judging each other is making people nervous. We are becoming conditioned to be afraid. I choose not to live in fear. I choose to treat others with kindness and not allow the negativity for what someone believes to be the cornerstone of who that person is. What matters to me is what’s in a person’s heart and how they treat others. Their faith is only a small battle.
My point is simple. When we choose to label what a person believes, we put them in a box. None of us need to be in one until we die, and even then, many choose cremation. What we believe should not have a bearing on what others think. Faith or lack of it is a spiritual journey that is an individual preference. Many believe in the Fundamental version of Christianity. That’s their choice. I have a strong faith in God, but I recognize my limitations. To say that I’ve never had a prejudicial thought would be a lie. To say I’ve done everything right is ludicrous. I’ve had more mistakes than success. What I have done is learned from the school of hard knocks. I should have my doctorate in that forum by now. When you judge others, others do the same to you, and it never feels good when it becomes personal.