One seemingly necessary part of most indoctrinations into Christianity is the one that teaches new Christians that they are special. In fact, they’re “God’s chosen people”. Jews say they held that distinction long before Christians appeared on the scene and they are absolutely correct. But once Christianity became the Roman Empire’s favored religion, Christians confiscated the “God’s chosen” title and crowned themselves with it. After all, with the Roman Empire supporting the Christian Church, who was going to stop them?
For almost two millennia, most Christians have been taught that theirs is the only religion that matters, and that all others are meaningless, or even evil. It’s similar to the ancient Jews and the Canaanites. God didn’t want them to live together in peace and mutual respect, he wanted the Jews to annihilate the Canaanites. At least that’s what whoever wrote the the book of Joshua believed. It’s still commonplace to run into that attitude of Christian superiority, but now I see it as self-deceptive.
When I encounter someone who proudly struts around announcing themself as a Christian, I wonder what their end game is. Are they sending the message that they’re superior to others because that’s what they’ve been taught. Or, are they out to convert anyone who is not already a Christian?
The approach may be more subtle. People may announce their Christian-ness with necklaces and cross pendants, “I love Jesus” tattoos, crossing themselves and pointing to the sky when they feel God has helped them, or using the right Christian code words.
OK, we understand that you are a Christian, but what type of Christian?
Even in my Christian heyday, that attitude of superiority bothered me. What I now think is “OK, so you’re a Christian, so what? What exactly does that mean?” I want to ask them what species of Christian they are.
Are they the ones who supports equal rights and equal justice for everyone, integration and diversity in US society, environmental health, appreciation of scientific advances, and not afraid to call out the moral crimes that the US government has committed?
Or, are they the type of Christians who fill our prisons by the hundreds of thousands, commit “black collar” crimes, think the death penalty, crusades and inquisitions were some of mankind’s greatest ideas, discriminate against people based on their ethnicity, life style, or anything else that makes them different? Are they the kind of Christian who signed up so they could get a ticket to heaven and gloat that their enemies will be making a one-way trip to hell?
Those are the extremes—those who follow a life philosophy of acceptance and respect for others, and those who would rather not have to deal with people who are different from them. Most Christians are somewhere in between the two extremes. Many have a natural tendency to be kind but have taught by their religious leaders to instead be critical of others who aren’t living up to what they think are their god’s expectations.
The point I’m trying to make is that if someone is a Christian and uses that title to define themselves, that tells another person absolutely nothing about their character.
In recent years I’ve met two people like that. Neither could wait to tell me, almost a total stranger, that they were Christians. One turned out to be extremely self-centered, and not remotely concerned about how his actions harmed others. The other just wanted to rant about how lazy and pathetic he thought homeless people were. He also wanted to tell me what he was a fan of Franklin Graham.
So much for assumptions
Skepticism should be brought into any relationship. If you are a Christian and never associate with anyone who isn’t, that Christian label may be all that’s important to you. That may be because you’ve been taught that Christians are good, moral people and non-Christians are immoral. But, if you’ve chosen your auto mechanic, plumber, lawyer, or even preacher because they call themself a Christian, that really doesn’t tell you much about their morality or business ethics.
I think people need to judge others not by some label. Neither should they judge people on what they spout from their mouths. They should be judged instead by how they treat other people. Is the person a Gospel-Jesus-kind-of-Christian who follows Jesus’s teaching of respect for others? Or, one of those Old-Testament-judgment-and-vengence-Christians who was taught only how to love conditionally and to distrust “outsiders”.
If it doesn’t matter to them what kind of Christian someone is, then I guess they just go with the label.