I keep writing and rewriting this message, trying to convey the gentleness and compassion that Jesus Christ would insist upon, especially when communicating with wayward Christian brothers and sisters. It's not my job to judge them, but only to love them and help them stay on the path of righteousness, following as closely as we are able, the teachings of Christ.
Each time, after saying what I mean in the voice that rattles about inside my head, I read it back. It sounds like a diatribe, an attack, a rude awakening attempt. It lacks the generosity of spirit, the sincere patience and kindness that our Lord demonstrated in His time on earth as a human being.
I feel as though I am confronting a bully - a gang of them really - with righteous indignation for people who seem to miss what I think is obvious: that the singling out others as 'sinners' or as 'not enough' or simply, 'inferior' is not in line with the teachings of Jesus Christ.
The frustration I feel over the shunning of people by those identifying as Christian cannot be overstated. The zeal with which some folks exult over the closing of borders, the refusal to help the persecuted, the demonization of anyone who thinks or acts differently is heartbreaking.
Imagine how bewildered you would be as a Latino Christian migrant coming to this country and being confronted by Christians derisively saying they aren't welcome here. Or hearing the former president of the United States people like them, 'thugs and rapists.'
Imagine a child who musters the courage to say they are struggling with their gender identity or sexual preference out loud, even to their families, knowing they are Christians, and that God is love. And to be met with anything but love and support.
Imagine the family of a fallen American soldier standing at their graveside and hearing and seeing a jeering crowd of 'Christians' holding signs that say, 'God hates fags.'
Imagine a Latina mother trying to enter the 'Land of the free, and the home of the brave' being forcibly separated from her children - even very young ones - and being sent far away without any real records being kept for who is where, making reunification of families difficult. And some Christians cheer for this behavior and the leaders who order it.
I'm not going to harangue about why these sorts of things are wrong. Anyone who has even a passing familiarity with Jesus' teachings knows all that. What I don't understand is why someone who is very vocal about being a Christian cannot empathize in any way with the poor, the desperate, the shunned, the abused.
The slogan, 'What Would Jesus Do?' is rhetorical. Anyone who has read any of the Bible knows how Jesus treated the poor, the sick, the stranger, the outcast, the foreigner, even the criminal. Not only is He kind to them Himself, but He commands us to be kind to them too. He showed us how. Kindness and decency were modeled by Jesus, but they are not superpowers confined to Him and a few other people. We all have the capacity.
There are many, many injustices in the world. Christians are not immune from injustice, but it's not exclusive to them either. People of any race, color, creed, or political stripe suffer from one form or another. Injustice, is a human phenomenon, brought on by the evil in the world. Every single human being is subject to it.
The anger that sparks much of this un-Christlike behavior is real. People are hurting. Times can be very hard. Unfortunately, the response to this pain is anger and the anger looks for someone to blame. How easy to simply blame the outsider? Or the one who is different?
I have some questions for the Christians who are actively supporting the undercutting of compassion and rights granted the LGBTQ+ community. And/or those Christians supporting the slamming of the national door in the face of immigrants. If you had to face Jesus today and explain to Him the reasons you seek to persecute these people, what would you say? How would you justify your treatment of his children - after all, we are all his children?
Do you think leaving them alone somehow suggests that you morally agree with what they do in their private lives? Is that why you can't leave them alone? That you are complicit in another's perceived sin because you didn't yell at them? Because you think Jesus would condone harassing and denigrating them? He might say okay, let the ones who are without sin (ANY sin) cast the first stones. Or pass the next anti-immigrant bill. Or advocate the next limitation on gay or trans people. Or march for the next voter suppression act disguised as 'election integrity.'
Does your active persecution suggest that you are all finished cleaning up your own soul? That you are free of sin and now have all the time in the world to run around insisting everyone else clean up their own? If you answered this question 'yes', you lied, if only on the basis of your mistaken pride.
Christians, our role is not to punish, it is to love. Our purpose is to welcome as many people to the Body of Christ as possible, realizing that we are all different. Different skills, different abilities, different ideas about how to live life. We are not to restrict entry into His kingdom through our earthly rules and customs. God will decide who is worthy and who is not. He is judge. We all are the judged.
You might hear some LGBTQ+ people speaking ill of the church. If you do, chances are they are lashing out at real, perceived, or expected treatment, they might receive from Christians. Not from Jesus. Jesus loved all people. He laid out no limits in one of His two most important commands. He said we are to love one another as ourselves. No exceptions, no carveouts. Everyone everywhere included.
We are human, so we all have our biases, prejudices, weaknesses, and preferences. You may 'disagree' with their 'lifestyle.' You may truly believe that what they do is distasteful to God.
You probably feel justified in your beliefs. You probably think you're right. Though I disagree with you, I cannot say for a fact that you are wrong. In fact, I may find out when I get to my own judgement that God hates bald people or fat guys or people who went to my high school. I doubt it, but it's possible.
Here is what I do know: if you are hateful in your actions toward LGBTQ+, or immigrants, or other races, or other nationalities, or any other person for any reason, you are not following Jesus. Because we know from His own words that He would disagree with anything espousing hatred between people. Any people.
If you have read this far and you are NOT a Christian, I ask that you not conflate Christianity with right-wing politics. Or left-wing politics. Or any human ideology. If you disagree with white supremacists don't feel the need to add 'Christian' to your description. Ditto white nationalists, neo-Nazis, fascists, insurrectionists, the Ku Klux Klan, or even MAGA supporters. They are not the same. These groups contain imperfect people, like the rest of us. If they truly are Christians, most believers would say their understanding or practice of the faith is faulty.
Every single person was created by God to love and to be with Him in eternity. No one is more, no one is less.
If you are behaving in a way that is un-Christlike, stop. Confess your sin. Change your behavior. God will forgive you. If you think a hater like you can never change or enter heaven, read the letters from Paul to the churches He planted. Or Acts of the Apostles. You'll see that Paul himself said of all the sinners in the world, he was the worst. Not only did God forgive him, but he went on to be one of the most important apostles, spreading the gospel far and wide.
If you think this message has merit and may help someone change their ways, feel free to share.
Thank you for reading. God bless you.
Jim Donaher is a writer, author, and educator from Massachusetts. He has one published book, 'Call Him, He's Home: A Regular Person's Guide to Prayer' and will soon publish his second, 'Call Him, He'll Help: A Regular Person's Guide to Praying for People.'