Below is my latest article in the Orange County Record.
Being a minister, I am often asked why more people are not Christians. Sometimes this question comes from a person struggling with the notion that there are others who do not believe in Christ. Others ask this question because they see the decline in the particularity of the Church.
Whatever their reasoning, the question is asked out of love for their faith.
To be honest there really is no clear cut answer; this is something the Church has struggled with for centuries. But it seems like today this predicament is on the minds of Christians of all walks of life. People leave the faith or are not interested in Christianity for various reasons. Maybe they had a bad experience with a particular minister, maybe they could not ‘wrap their brain’ around a particular theology, maybe they were told that their beliefs were wrong or that their questions were not valid. For whatever reason the fact of the matter is that the Church itself does not hold the cultural and societal significance that it once did. I do not know if it ever will be that way again—a sobering thought for a young minister like me.
There are a lot of misconceptions about Christians today and I want to explore some of them over the next few weeks.
I believe that the “Achilles heel” of the Church are Christians themselves. Mahatma Gandhi is quoted to have said “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” If we claim to be followers of Christ, then why aren’t people experiencing the presence of Christ when Christians are around them? There seems to be a disconnect between what is professed in sanctuaries around the world and what is actually followed through with by fellow Christians.
So what are the misconceptions about Christians?
Misconception #1- Christians have to read the Bible literally. – The Bible is the foundational document of the Christian faith and has been the focal point for millennia. However, the way that it has been read and interpreted varies greatly. The Bible has been read by billions of people and each person has taken something different from the text.
How much are we limiting the Bible and the power of God to reveal Godself through the pages of scriptures if the Bible is limited to one interpretation? If there was one way to read the Bible then all of the churches should be on the same page. But the last time I checked this is not the case at all. Many people who believe in the literal interpretation of scripture often do not all agree on how that looks in actuality. First Corinthians states that women should cover their heads in worship, but a small fraction of Christian women actually do this. If the Bible is to be taken literally then how to do you know what to take literally and what not to take literally? Obviously one cannot take Jesus’ parables literally because they are stories in help get across a main point. What about the commandments on how to treat slaves? What about the dietary laws in the Old Testament? Not many Christians have ever sold all they had as Christ stated was a requirement to enter the Kingdom.
Does this mean that the Bible is unimportant? No, but the way that one person interprets the scriptures may be completely different than the way another person interprets the scriptures and the shocking part is they both might be in the same congregation. Too often all Christians are labeled as literalist and this is flat wrong. Some of the most famous and prolific Christian thinkers did not take the Bible literally. Maybe some people believe that women should not hold a leadership position in the church, others do. Some people believe that world was created in six days and others do not. They are both reading the same scripture, following the same Christ but see the Bible in completely different ways. Does this mean that one is wrong and the other is right? No, it just means that they see the experiences of the faithful of God printed in the pages of scriptures in ways that speaks to them.
Next week, I will continue this series on the misconceptions about Christians. I would welcome your insight and feedback. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.