negative stereotypes among Christians create conflict

I look forward to this week very much throughout the year. The crazy weather, blooming flowers and the increase of schoolwork at the end of another semester signals my favorite holiday: Easter.

Before I get bombarded with sneers, eye-rolls and Jesus Jukes, allow me to explain why I love the Holy Week. Spring brings a time of change and renewal. I believe my life changed forever when Jesus was crucified and resurrected; it’s an overwhelming and joyous time. And thanks to the freedom of living in this great country, I have as much of a right to say that in this article as you do to believe in whatever you choose.

Christianity has a bad rep among many of my peers. I hear words like “Jesus freak” and “Jesus-y” used as negative words — I even hear “Christian” used as an insult. Why? Because sadly, Christians can be poor examples of how Christianity should look. I typed in “why are Christians so…” in a Google search and the first three words that came up were judgmental, weird and delusional. Sure, I’m weird for many more reasons than my religion, but I never want to be considered judgmental or delusional because of my beliefs.

Jesus spent his time on Earth with the outcasts of society — the lepers, the prostitutes, the corrupt. His message teaches forgiveness and love. If Christians want to follow the way of Christ, we should be known as the most compassionate, loving, selfless, humble people around.

Oftentimes, Christians can be easily captivated by self-righteousness. We’re quick to cast the first stone. Sure, we admit that we’re sinners saved by grace, but we know there are others who sin more than us, and without conviction. Some Christians are seduced by the idea of being better than others, which directly contradicts what Christianity teaches.

I firmly believe Christians should hold on to the values and beliefs our faith teaches us — but I also believe we can do so without being seen as judgmental, weird and delusional. We’re going to disagree with others on some very intense issues — marriage, abortion, all the hot topics — but nowhere in God’s word does he tell us to be cold and unapproachable. In fact, the Bible explicitly tells Christians to prepare for persecution for their beliefs, but we shouldn’t outright ask for persecution through our actions toward others.

Those who don’t share the values Christianity teaches should meet us halfway; agree to disagree but show mutual respect.

Both Christians and non-Christians should do a better job of respecting each other’s beliefs.

Stereotypes tell us the majority Christians tend to be conservative and non-Christians tend to be liberal — especially in this area of the country. I know there are exceptions to these, but I think everyone can learn something from both conservative and liberal stances on religion.

There’s a famous quote by President John F. Kennedy in which he describes his definition of the word “liberal.” At one point he says “(liberal means)… someone who cares about the welfare of the people — their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties …” Those descriptions do a pretty good job of describing what a Christian should be: someone who cares about the welfare of others. Instead of embracing the ideas a word like “liberal” can evoke, some Christians have tainted it to mean something offensive.

I challenge Christians during this week — during this season of change and renewal — to examine how your actions appear toward those who believe differently than you. I challenge everyone to remember you’re no better than anyone else.

When we all show respect toward each other’s beliefs, we can break apart the negative stereotypes.


One thought on “negative stereotypes among Christians create conflict

  1. The issue of how a Christian should behave toward those outside the faith is certainly less complicated than the basis for the perception of that behavior by those same non-believers. I can not disagree that there are those who act “un-Christianly” toward those who hold contrary beliefs or no beliefs at all. The Scripture is pretty clear about how a Christian should live, and many of us (actually all of us) fail in that regard with regrettable regularity. But then we are still sinners, after all–redeemed, yes but not yet perfect.

    I have a feeling that if we examined the charges against us more closely, we would see that it is not only those who act judgingly who are painted with that brush (and rightly so), but it is also those who graciously take a stand for the truth of the gospel who are considered judgmental by those who disagree. Who am I to tell someone that they can’t earn God’s favor apart from following the Jesus of Easter? Am I not being judgmental in their eyes, even if I say it with a smile? Notwithstanding that there are Christians who judge others (and likely those who do so judge other Christians as well as non-Christians), for someone to call Christians judgmental is to be judgmental themselves, is it not? It is like someone being intolerant of those they consider to be intolerant.

    I am a little amused at the other two words in your Google search: weird and delusional. It is very likely that Jesus Himself was labeled thusly during His life on earth. He was even accused once of having a demon. No doubt similar terms were whispered about the disciples. After seeing what popular culture considers sane and normal, it isn’t surprising that Christians are considered weird. There is, in fact, a danger in trying to change that perception in the world. The sad fact is that in an effort to compromise and gain a favorable perception, many churches have abandoned truth in favor of acceptance. They are incapable of being judgmental because they accept all views and hold none. We are told to be in the world and not of the world. Claiming to be “not of the world” is probably going to seem a little weird and delusional to those “of the world”. It’s a label I can live with.

    In the spirit of your Easter post, I concur that Christians have a responsibility to love their neighbors and their enemies–and especially each other. We should give grace to others as we have received it from the Lord. But the truth in a world set against Him is that we will always be labeled, always be misunderstood by “the world” in general. It is through one-on-one relationships where actions overcome perceptions. That is how His love reached us. That is how His love through us will open eyes to the truth–and that, of course, is exactly your point. Happy Easter! He is risen!

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