One of the great weaknesses of humanity is shortsightedness. Whether it is because of our relatively short lives or because too many of us fail to gain a solid liberal arts education with the requisite history courses, we have trouble seeing the big picture, particularly in regards to societal differences and especially across time. As such, we draw conclusions based on our limited experience that are often incorrect.
Allow me to use an example I often encounter in my dealings with non-Christians. I meet an atheist, pagan, Taoist, what-have-you, and we converse. We drink coffee and break bread and generally have a good discussion. We find that we have a fair amount in common, particularly intellectually, and they come to like me.
However, in the past, they have disliked Christians, who they feel have traditionally been bigoted, unaccepting, and closed-minded. Christians have tried incessantly to convert them, refusing to listen to reason, and yet here is a Christian who listens and respects them. It makes no sense.
The conclusion drawn at this juncture is generally that I am either 1) Less Christian than those they had encountered previously or 2) More Christian, and certainly a better one.
For any of you reading this who have ever come to this conclusion about me or any other Christians, I have a newsflash. Those of us who love you, who respect you, and who you in turn like and respect are neither less nor more Christian. We are neither better nor worse than our brethren.
Obviously, there are bad Christians in the world, just like there are bad Buddhists, Hindus, and Wiccans. But in my experience, in my education, and in my study of the subject, I have found that the two conclusions mentioned above are only reachable through ignorance.
I committed the same error before I was Christian, though I cannot quite pinpoint the catalyst for the misconception. Because before I was Christian, I viewed Christians as hypocritical jerks who only considered themselves able to either convert or persecute me. Perhaps, before I converted, I was only really interacting with Christians on the fringe of the Church. I certainly wouldn’t have converted if I hadn’t been drawn into a loving family who were none of those negative things.
After becoming Christian, I found that I was meeting more and more Christians who were thoughtful, loving, and respectful. There was no judgmentalism and no hate.
If you have come to one of the above conclusions, it’s not because I or the other Christians about whom you have made that decision are different. More likely, it is because you don’t really interact with Christians much, or maybe haven’t given them a chance, and are less open-minded and more ignorant than you think. I am no different than most any other Christian, neither more nor less than the brothers and sisters with whom I worship on a weekly basis.
You’re not better than Christians when you snub them and write them off. And I am certainly no better than them just because you like me. I sin, am blunt and often a complete jerk without meaning to be, and generally screw up whenever the occasion presents itself. For whatever reason, you gave me (or some other person whom you respect) a chance and they turned out to be decent.
I’d ask you to give more people chances. I’m a firm believer that most everyone is pretty decent, just not everyone gets a fair shake. We’ve pretty much got all the same dreams and desires, so drop the holier-than-thou attitude, quit putting people on a pedestal, and treat everyone as you’d like to be treated.
And peace be with you.