The Pope, An Atheist and A Hypocrite Walk Into A Bar….

Okay, this isn’t a joke.  In fact, the Pope recently made the following statement:

“There are those who say ‘I am very Catholic, I always go to Mass, I belong to this and that association.   There are many Catholics who are like this and they cause scandal,” he said. “How many times have we all heard people say ‘if that person is a Catholic, it is better to be an atheist’.”say ‘if that person is a Catholic, it is better to be an atheist’.”

It took me a while to find the actual statement since it was reported different ways in the media.  

So is it better to be an atheist or a bad Christian?

There was a time when I would have said it was better to be a bad Christian or a hypocrite because at least they were in church and might learn to do better.  I’m of a different opinion on this today.  If you continue to practice bad behavior you will never change.  At least an atheist comes into this honest about the whole thing.  Is it better to stay either way?  Absolutely not.  What the Pope was trying to say is that the bad Christians give the church a bad name and do nothing to convince anyone to be a part of the church.  

In fact didn’t even Jesus say that He would prefer that someone be either hot or cold?   If you are lukewarm He would spit you out.  (Revelation 3:15)  Jesus expects people to be all in or not at all.  Halfway doing it doesn’t do anybody any good. 

And who did Jesus have the most problems with?  The Christian Leaders.  Specifically the Pharisees.  They were all about doing things for show but their motives weren’t always pure.  

In my lifetime, I have seen my share of church people and a lot of the negative side of people.  It isn’t pretty and no surprise that people have no use for attending a church.  For me, it has taken a lot of time and deep soul searching to separate truth from the hypocrites.  Separate the dark side of church from who God really is to me personally.  

You see, I used to “drink the koolaide” as they say.  I attended every Sunday and carried out my responsibilities.  The problem was that I was dying inside.  I left church feeling worse than when I came.  It was terribly frustrating.   I won’t say it was all bad but I was bad.  I was a total hypocrite.  And good at it too.  That’s not what I wanted to be or the life I wanted to live.  It took me a long time to unlearn the things that I was taught that was wrong.  I came to a startling revelation that there were many things that the church taught that wasn’t what God had intended.  Denominational leaders had taken some things and made it the extreme of what it was intended.  Much like what the Pharisees did in the Jesus’ day.  Did you know that some wore the actual law on their heads (and still do)?    Talk about legalism to the extreme!

So is it really better to be an atheist than a bad Christian?  Well, I’ve never been an atheist but I have experience at being a bad Christian.  It has been a painstaking experience reprogramming from the things I had learned.  I won’t say it was ALL wrong but I really had to deal with the legalism.  It would have been a lot easier to learn it the right way in the beginning.  Today, I can tell you that my relationship with God is much more personal and meaningful than it has ever been.  Time alone with God is much more fulfilling than sitting in a church pew for an hour on Sunday morning.  

Are all Christians hypocrites? Absolutely not.  In fact, there are many examples of selflessness, courage, moral action and reform and many other positive influences on the world. These are sincere believers transformed by the resurrected Christ and are models of what a good Christian is supposed to be.  Sadly, we tend to focus more on the bad apples rather than the good fruit.  

The point that the Pope was making in his statement is that none of us are perfect.  Just because we call ourselves Catholics, Christians or whatever religious title we want to wear, we have ALL sinned.  We ALL need that amazing grace every day to do better and be better people.  We aren’t better than someone else because we go to church or belong to a religious group.  

I often say that I was brought up in a church home but it took me a long time to discover God personally.  I’m glad I did.  It doesn’t make me perfect I just hope it makes me a better person.  


Converted To The Extreme

jesus_freakAre you a Christian?  That’s good.  I’m happy about that.  I don’t have a problem with Christians.  I used to call myself a “Christian” until years ago when a guide on an Israel tour said that they prefer to call themselves “believers” since the world Christian has a negative vibe to their Muslim neighbors from the days of the crusades.

I read about Kirk Cameron this morning and found out that he was an atheist until he was 17 years old and on the popular television show called “Growing Pains”.   At some point he was saved, born again, converted or whatever you want to call it.  Kirk has never been the same again.  When someone mentions his name now, I see people roll their eyes and talk about how he’s a “Christian” now.  Most people who don’t really know much about Christianity will say they have no problem that he became a Christian but now he is the other extreme.

There are other examples of where Christians have taken their conversion to the extreme.  Like the guy that went on a rampage on Facebook last year when Starbucks came out with the red cups.  Seriously?   Maybe he just needed some decaf with his Christianity.

It saddens me how Christians have given Jesus a bad image.  In fact, I think most of you may have felt a little cringe when I just typed the name Jesus in that last sentence.  No doubt your mind goes to some religious nut that really turned your mind off.  Let me just say that not all Christians are nuts.  I still prefer to be called a believer.  Not Brother Milton or any of those religious church terms.  I am a believer and I am not ashamed of that.  What I am ashamed of is these people that do not have the right balance in their lives.  That bothers me.

When I was in the Air Force stationed in Greenland, there was a super-religious guy that drove me nuts.  You could not carry on a normal conversation with the guy.  He was always quoting scriptures or speaking in the King James Bible language.  He was an example of the extreme.

If you look at the life of Christ, He didn’t attack people or tell them they were going to hell.  In fact, His harshest words were for the religious people.  With others he dealt with them kindly.  He even went to eat dinner at a tax collector’s house!  Wow.  What a scandal!

Being a Christian is defined that a person is Christ-like but I see a lot of Christians who aren’t Christ-like and they are making the people who are doing good and serving others look bad and making their jobs much harder than it should be.

If have seen first hand what a mess it can be to be a part of a dysfunctional Christian group.  I have had to unlearn so many things and one of those is how to be a Christian without being a nut about it.  I am not going to preach to someone.  In fact, I’m probably going to be quiet and pray for you.   I’m not going to force my beliefs upon anyone.  I have learned that you aren’t going to convince someone by argument or debate.

I have a lot of respect for people that are in the ministry.  I know several who are good people with good hearts.  Their job isn’t easy.  If you think you know people, you should try being a pastor of a church.  Just because people go to church doesn’t mean it is easy to deal with the various personalities. I used to be a greeter at church and had several times when I was fussed out about the smallest of details.  The music was too loud, they didn’t like the message on the church sign or the carpet needed to be repaired.  Yet they were the ones praying the loudest in the church service.

During the election I have seen posts and heard several Christians that have supported Trump and an entire magazine that thinks he’s going to bring revival in America again.  Yep, that one still puzzles me.  So now if someone knows I am a Christian, they immediately assume I voted for Trump.  I never drank the kool aide that he was going to bring God back to America.

I am a believer.  I am a believer in Jesus Christ.  I believe he came to this world and died as a sacrifice for my sins.  That doesn’t give me a license to be extreme about it.  You can choose to believe or not.  I’m not going to stop being your friend if you don’t believe.  I’m not going to shun you if you are gay.  I don’t care who you voted for.  I try to be a better person every day.  Some days I fail miserably.  I’m not going to beat you over the head with a Bible because I’m doing that enough to myself.