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My dad has a special talent. He has the ability to shut down arguments. Like a guided missle, he can target his words to the very heart of whoever is involved and leave them speechless. I have inherited a sharp tongue, and have learned to shut arguments down as well. I try to avoid doing it because, while it can have the immediate relief of ending the argument, it usually means I will have said something I regret.
But when I see things like what Rachel Held Evans posted on Storify yesterday, (and all the other Twitter conversation) it makes it hard not to say something. (It also gives me heartburn. And I don’t mean that in a Christianese sort of way. I actually took two TUMS.) Over and over, people who call themselves followers of Christ behave in ways that in no way reflect Jesus. (Side note: Can I just say, Rachel should be considered for sainthood given her ability to remain calm, assertive, and respectful while flaming piles of BS are lobbed her way.) I so desperately want to jump in and say, Rather than referring to these people as brothers (or sisters) in Christ, can we just call it like it is so we can all go home? They’re assholes who feel threatened by a strong woman calling shenanigans on them, and are hiding behind the patriarchy they’ve helped create. Nothing about their behavior suggests they are “in Christ”! It’s not helpful. It’s not productive. It’s not nice. But dammit if it doesn’t make me feel relieved to say it.
In his letter to the Galatians, Paul said that the fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Gal 5:22-23 In Matthew 7:15-20, Jesus taught his disciples how to recognize false prophets, telling them that they would know a tree by the fruit it bears.
No one, including me, could claim that I am an example of what it means to be in Christ. For one, I’m not even certain of the existence of God. But part of the reason why I don’t care to be involved in church right now is because I invariably find people who almost seem to make it their business to behave like massive douche canoes. And all in the name of God, praise The Lord. After awhile, even lab rats know when to stop pressing the pedal that doles out painful electric shocks. Ya know? If one were to assess whether someone was in Christ based on consistent bad behavior and attitudes, logically, one would have to come to one of two conclusions: 1) That the someone is either not genuinely following Christ or, 2) Jesus was a giant asshole who consistently denigrated people with different points of view and treated people as less than as part of His bringing the Kingdom of Heaven to earth.
Even though Mike and I are not Catholic, we watched with baited breath as Jorge Bergoglio was revealed to be the new Pope. As Pope Francis began his address by asking everyone to pray for him, I developed a massive “Pope Crush”. With each thing he does, the “crush” gets worse: washing the feet of prisoners; refusing the papal apartment for more modest accommodations; choosing his own old, beat up car over the PopeMobile; becoming an example in Catholicism of love toward the LGBT community; working to eradicate corruption among priests and the Vatican Bank. I’ve commented to Mike how, for the first time in a long time, he is a leader in the church in whom I actually see Jesus reflected. While some have commented on how sad that is, I choose to see it as a glimmer of hope. Maybe, just maybe, it’s the beginning of a change within the church. Perhaps, more and more, we will see in others what it means to be “in Christ”. Who knows? Maybe one day I’ll find myself in there again, too.