I often tell people the thing that draws people to me is the very thing that turns them off minutes later. I believe that I’m not alone.
The scenario is usually the same. I start a conversation or relationship with someone and as the conversation progresses eventually it leads to beliefs. I used to be afraid of this situation, because, if I was totally honest, I wasn’t wholly convinced in my faith. I knew I had a “personal relationship” with God, that I didn’t question. But I couldn’t rationalize the anger against certain groups, the fear of pleasures, and my having to say, “your wrong (in sin) and I’m here to show you that, and then offer a Providential solution available to you if you will confess and accept Him.
So I often stayed quiet. Maybe you’ve been there?
Then I stopped just accepting the scriptures and began to question them, not to prove them wrong– but to ask why. And that, as you will soon read, opened me up to something so vital, winsome and transformative that I can’t help but share it.
But in 2020, my response is usually more like this.
“Hi, I’m a Christian, (insert caveat here)”
That caveat being something to the effect of: Please don’t see me like you have seen most Christians act, behave, talk, attack on social media, etc. Sadly, that caveat has grown longer and longer in the past five years.
And I hate that.
Maybe you hate it too.
Maybe you are like me. People often state that I’m unlike most Christians they’ve met. I’m not “boxable,” they frequently say. In part, because I spent fifteen years asking thousands of “why” questions of the Biblical scriptures. I wasn’t content with the “God said it, I believe it and that settles it” mentality. Instead, I studied God’s word AND God’s world and sought the relational connection and correlation in both.
Though I didn’t have the scientific or educational background, it wasn’t that hard to do; I had the internet. I tried to be like Matt Damon from Good Will Hunting, learning like a Harvard student whatever I felt Providentially prompted to digest and study. Neuroscience, Bio-mechanics, the ebbs and flows of cultural commerce, and other things dominated my searches. Then, I did what reductionist scientists said was impossible- I started to connect dots, discovering patterns in existence, some for humanity, some against it.
I wrote an article about it here:
Through ideas such as these, I discovered that God wasn’t a dogmatic, petty, and jealous dictator, as men like Richard Dawkins presuppose. Instead, this Word AND World symbiotic study uncovered a wondrous, loving Creator and Father who has always wanted the best for His greatest creation, humanity.
When I applied Chapter and Verse into reality, tested it in the world’s domains (science, law, commerce, etc), fleshed out the scriptural metaphors to my level of exhaustion, and strengthened it through the fellow insights and encouragements of other Providentially-inspired and radically-different men and women I’m grateful to call friends, it remained intact and grew more wondrous.
That Word/world understanding came with real-world application. Because of this, I’ve had some awesome moments, such as sitting with the head of one of the top neurology labs in the United States and hearing him say, “I don’t know how, but it seems to me you know certain things that my peers in Neuroscience don’t appear to know.” I am thankful to know others doing the same in other domains.
And I know that it isn’t because of me.
I, and many others, attempt to embody the scripture that God uses the “foolish things of the world, to confound the wise.”
But in that foolishness, we discovered that this God and these Biblical Worldview understandings are not just “relevant,” they are resonant if framed in a way that’s empathetic, non-judgmental, and logically grounded. They’re applicable to everyone in society, across every sphere of culture.
And thankfully I’ve learned how to proclaim it in manner that doesn’t involve attacking, shaming or demeaning others.
I see it most every day. An atheist comes at me on social media, calls me a moron, misguided, or even delusional (which I fully understand and accept), and within five back and forth comments we become relational and intellectual friends.
I don’t feel any need to fight or “defend” my faith. Scripture encourages humanity to “test It,” so I and many others have tested It through whatever aspect of human and scientific existence we can find, and every time it (the Word and the world) comes out shining like gold. I can show that gold to anyone, despite their ideological or religious stances, because I no longer need to quote the chapter and verse or reference the worldview that began the investigation.
It is that confidence and these understandings that draw people in when I am out a places like the hair salon, the coffee house, or online.
Here’s the problem–
Although I believe all this to be true and though I feel I can ground it objectively, that’s not what much of public experiences about this faith, this God, and this Biblical Worldview. No, they’ve experienced something far different, and are we not all the summation of all our experiences?
Therefore, I don’t blame them. Even though we know that our personal filter has more to do with our experiences than reality itself.
Because of this, I put more of the blame on those of us (for I have been just as guilty) having distorted this wondrous thing called ‘ChristianITY’ into an angry, judgmental, hypocritical pot of sludge that this world is tired of gagging on.
Now, the rest are ready to kick the pot over and wholly swallow their personally-desired libations and delicacies. The problem is that I know the damaging outcome of downing those delicacies with reckless abandon, and I don’t want to see that happen (so I’ll write about it constantly).
Regardless, I believe there are few people living on this planet that “hate” God. Instead, there is a daily growing portion of people that “hate” Christians and God comes in as a package deal.
Therefore, I am lumped into this deal also.
“The very thing that draws people to me is the very thing that turns them off minutes later…”
As Christians, we’re supposed to be a city set on a hill, a beacon of light to the rest of the world. We weren’t meant to condemn it. We were meant to lovingly illuminate it, to reveal where it had strayed from its intended path of vitality, prosperity, Spiritual connection, and so much more.
Scripture uncovers, both in verse and in its stories, that as Christians, we were rarely meant to rule; we were meant to influence.
“The leader among you must be like a servant,” was a verse we too often forgot. And to that end, we often built our institutional empires on vilifying “others.” We bought personal mansions, luxury sports cars and other assets through the giving of those that supported that vilifying vision. And the rest of the world was paying attention. The amazing, vital and transformative lives of humble, honest believers have been thrown into the mix, and it is beyond tragic.
Then, in the last half-decade, many of us aligned, not just with a political party, per se, but with a man. We became obsessed with his promotion, his language– his tone. We turned his words into our social media memes, into an unnatural mix of patriotism and “faith.” We were busy with our fingers clicking furiously against our opponents that we didn’t realize the ground beneath our feet was crumbling away with every “friend” we lost on social media, with most every mainstream news story, with every cultural advancement.
That’s the backstory I come up against every time I and others start a conversation with, “Hi, I am a Christian.” That is what demands the caveat. The God of the Universe, and the One that intentionally made you to prosper and thrive, is condensed down to that. The God that created the beauty of Yosemite and the Force of the Waves on the North Shore of Oahu is now just a footnote in the vile vastness of how they view us as Christians.
To ever unveil these answers or attempt to expose the wonder of this God and this Biblical Worldview, I must build the strongest bridge of respect, insight, and dignity (which should always be the case) with someone quickly so that the immediate, “oh, you are ONE OF THEM!” reference is not invoked and the relationship revoked. Once we cross that moment, what drew them in often keeps them in. But, too often, it’s like shooting a BB into a tornado.
Now, it’s gotten worse.
In the song Crying Shame, singer-songwriter Jack Johnson, I believe, is talking about the version of the church from which I am attempting to disassociate. I encourage you to read the whole song for yourself but see if you can figure out these lines (or, as Jack states, “dust off your thinking caps”).
“Using fear as fuel,
Burning down our name.
And it won’t take too long
Cause WORDS all burn the same.”
The first part of that verse was more obvious to me, it appears to be similar to everything I’ve stated prior. But I couldn’t quite wrap my head around, “words all the burn the same.” Then, after a decade, it finally hit me, “If our words are seen as that vile to the culture, EVENTUALLY they’ll burn our Book.
I didn’t think that would be last week.
At a nightly protest.
Pretty soon, I worry that if we don’t put down our moralistic bullhorns and our social media attacks and our elitism and instead show people that “perfect love” and that “peace that passes all understanding” and all that amazing other stuff we are commanded to embody and reveal– people won’t care about the caveat anymore. All the transformative, wondrous, and healing power of the Christian lifestyle and the loving intent of the God that brought it, will vanish like our former Facebook friends. Or, as Jack Johnson says next:
“and who we gonna blame? It’s such a crying, crying, crying shame.”
Exactly Jack. Exactly.
David W Litwin is a designer, artist, author and speaker who lives by the motto of “live inspired.” Learn more at https://davidwlitwin.com