Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

Deeply-Held Beliefs

I’m about to make a point that I’ve made before, here.

I’m of the Christian faith.

There are days when talking about it isn’t the most comfortable thing.

But not, at least for me, because I feel like we Christians are persecuted (those who feel this way may wish to check their psychological projection at the door), or because there’s a “War On Christmas!!” or whatever the latest foolish attention-getting cable-television shouter is claiming.

It’s because I feel like I have to apologize for people who brandish the term “Christian” like a weapon; the people who use the term to make themselves feel superior to other people; the people who use the term to knock down other people and their particular other religious affiliations.

In the ferocious online denouement of the US Supreme Court’s ruling in the Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby case Monday, there were myriad articles published, saying all kinds of things that people could either agree with or not, could try to refute or not. One article, though, included one sentence that got me at least as worked up as the substance of the ruling had.

With just a trace of politically-left-leaning snark, its author wrote:

The owners of a chain of stores called Hobby Lobby don’t like Obamacare. In particular, they really don’t like the part that requires insurance companies to cover contraceptives. Normally, people who don’t like a law petition the government to change that law. That’s how a nation of laws works.

But these men are Christians. The Supreme Court ruled Monday that Christian business owners are special. Their deeply-held religious belief that some particular form of contraception is immoral carries more weight than the force of law, five conservative Christian justices ruled.

The article went on to talk about what the author nicknamed “a la carte law-abiding”. I dutifully read it to the end, but I was still mulling over that early section.

First he referred to “Christians”. No modifier adjective. Then he referred to conservative Christians, a term that attempts to distinguish between all Christians and the ones that have gotten particularly involved in American politics over the last thirty or more years – at least as far back as the Rev. Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority in the 1980s.

I think this distinction is inadequate. I know plenty of conservative Christians who are wholly admirable people – I work with quite a number of them on a regular basis. I know plenty of liberal Christians (admittedly, my own self, for openers), and they’re fine people too. May I be blunt? None of them remotely approach the hypocrisy that I have observed in the people who bloviate on the teevee and the radio and the Internet, and who get involved in politics – to such a degree and in such a way that I’ve wondered, “and the opinions you’re espousing, and the recommendations you’re making for how everyone ought to behave, and in fact the way you yourself behave toward other people (and peoples!) … they follow the teachings of Jesus how, exactly?” Have you even read his work? It’s great. I highly recommend it.

After awhile, the mass media came up with the term “evangelical Christians” to try to get a semantic handle on the folks who seem to be passionately to the political right, while making sure to affiliate themselves with the Church – sort of the religious version of wrapping themselves in the flag. My religion, right or wrong.” –But always right.

But here, I tap the brakes gently. The church at which I get to be musical has a committee that until recently was called “Membership and Evangelism.” The Webster’s Dictionary faith-specific definition of evangelism is “the winning or revival of personal commitments to Christ”. The Oxford Dictionary suggests “the spreading of the Christian gospel by public preaching or personal witness.”

Neither of those definitions addresses how public this ought to be. Recently I thought perhaps it might be useful to coin a term that attempts to more precisely describe this particular brand of folk. Pushy Christians? Push-copalians, perhaps.

No. No, you’re allowed to be enthusiastic. A while back I researched the term “enthusiasm” and discovered that it does have grounding in matters of worship. I do value my personal space … but I won’t begrudge you the opportunity to be fired up about what you believe.

The ones that I do have the issue with are the ones who make themselves feel good and righteous by labeling themselves Christians, and then espouse policies that don’t do unto others as they would have others do unto them.

(In the ’70s, there was a wonderful t-shirt design that said, “Do Unto Others – Then Split”. It was meant as a joke.)

I take issue with the people who call themselves Christians, and then behave as if “my religion is better than yours, which makes me better than you; and the reason my religion is better than yours is because it’s my religion.”

I take issue with the ones who let you know loudly and very publicly that they consider themselves followers of Christ, thus revealing that they really didn’t understand Matthew 6:5-8, in which Jesus himself suggests:

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

And I take issue with the people who imply or insist that their denomination is better than mine; who imply that their faith is stronger than mine; and, pursuant to the recent Supreme Court decision, who insist that their religious beliefs entitle them to special favors – or the ability to circumvent the law, where they see it as necessary.

Comedian John Fugelsang has called them CHINOs – “Christians in name only”.

I think they need to be called what they are: Selfish Christians.

They’re the people who so often cause me to be reticent to even float the term “Christian” in conversations outside of my church, because they have cheapened it … they’ve tarnished the brand, so to speak … and in a few cases, they’ve poisoned it almost beyond reclamation, in both matters of style and substance.

To them, I would love to say, that’s great. You say you’ve got deeply-held beliefs, as if by merely saying so, your beliefs are more deeply-held than mine, or anyone else’s. How do you know that? (Oh, sorry, yes. You just do.)

Well guess what. I’d rather deal with people whose faith gets the shakes … like most of the people I know … including the fine pastor I work for (he said so in a sermon this spring, I heard him!) … than deal with people who Know What They Know No Matter What.

As I’ve said before, in the direction of these people who make it that much more challenging to attract new members to my church (and, not crucially but still effectively, to attract them to church choir)

Thanks a heap.


July 2, 2014 Posted by | current events, religion | Leave a comment