Are you a Christian, Ignorant, or Evil?*

Studies keep showing that non-Christians mainly associate Christians with being intolerant, judgmental, and arrogant. Ironically, though not surprisingly, Christians rarely see how they are being intolerant, judgmental, or arrogant. Often they just assume they are being unfairly persecuted against.

But that’s because we don’t often think about the implications of what we are saying. We aren’t intolerant, judgmental, or arrogant on purpose (for the most part, of course, there are some spectacular exceptions), we are generally just unaware of the implications of our words, phrases, systems, and approaches.

For instance, we talked before about the cliche “Love the Sinner but Hate the Sin” and how the message being heard is you love part of me, but not all of me. Your love for me is not unconditional but compartmentalized.” That’s not what we meant for them to hear but, as the saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. We can do a lot of damage with a lot of good intentions and a lot of naivete.

There are many more examples that I could mention.

But this post is about the trend to make Christianity more attractive to people by making it sound like it’s the most reasonable thing in the world. The point of this post is to say: by telling people that believing a man named Jesus was raised from the dead and that the Bible is written by God “makes a lot of sense if you think about it” or that it’s even “common sense” means that if someone doesn’t believe it they must necessarily either be ignorant or evil.

That is to say, when we make the truth of the Christian story obvious, largely to make ourselves feel better about believing it, we must explain then, if it’s so obvious, why so many other people don’t believe.

And if someone doesn’t believe something that is obvious and common sense, after a while, we Christians have no choice but to say that they are either ignorant, in the sense that they aren’t even capable of grasping the most common sense truths, or they are evil, in the sense that they know its truth but the “hardness of their hearts” keep them from accepting it as their own. If Christianity is obviously true, I am not sure of other options we have.

For instance, if you tell a man to do something that is “obvious” and “common sense,” like “Go pour your coffee in the sink,” and he pours it in your fake flower pot instead, what will you think? Either that he is so, let’s put it gently, dim-witted that he didn’t even understand what the sink was, or more damning, he did it on purpose as a malicious deed. Either way, the guy who didn’t follow the “obvious” and “common sense” instruction isn’t looking good. He’s either evil or ignorant.

We do the same with the Christian story. Armed with the belief that Christianity is “obviously true” (or that evolution isn’t), when people just don’t buy it, we implicitly (and sometimes explicitly unfortunately) make them out to be evil or ignorant.

Now, what about this wouldn’t give people the impression that we are intolerant, judgmental, and arrogant.

5 responses to “Are you a Christian, Ignorant, or Evil?*

  1. I think the problem is the assertion many Christians make with the “absolute, without a doubt, this is the way things must be thought”… There is no room for doubt, no room for wrestling, if you can’t see what I see, there’s something wrong with you….

    Rather than propositional statements of faith, perhaps we need to do a bit more of living of a story… perhaps, instead of saying, “It just makes sense” confess what we all know… “You know, there are some things that just don’t make sense to me… but I follow Jesus anyways because of…” and then tell our story… That seems to be a better model than some sort of modernist, Enlightenment-driven, scientific method analysis of theology….

  2. Good post, Jared. I wonder if most of this is due to the influence of a capalist-driven, consumerist-driven society. We live and die on the sales pitch.

    But two things have changed how I share the Gospel:

    1) I read one of Rich Mullins’ articles about how he and an unbelieving friend used to debate back and forth about the reality of Christ and finally Rich “won” and his friend had no comeback. Despite “winning” the argument he was shocked by his friend’s response “I do not want your Christ”.

    In the end it’s God that changes hearts. It’s our responsibility to be the moon that reflects His light.

    2) My Dad often said (perhaps it’s actually a quote, but if it is, I can’t find it): “What you woo them with is what you win them to.” The idea of if you’re leading someone to Christ by showing them how awesome the church facilities are, or the youth group, or how funny the pastor is, or how logical Christianity is, that’s what their hopes (at least initially) are put in. Jesus often told Israel that all they wanted to see were signs.

    I love Luke 17, about the 10 lepers he cleansed. One turns back because he realizes Jesus is the treasure. I want to share Christ in a way that reflects that same thing: Christ is the treasure. I don’t know that systematic proofs and such do that.

    • Well said Christian, thanks for these ideas. I used to be such an arguer. I pretended it was for Jesus, but really it was for ego. We might as well have been arguing about sports teams or beer preferences, it didn’t matter as long as I won.

  3. I think that part of the problem is that Jesus didn’t tell the disciples to go into all the world and expound on their theological treatises; But, rather, in Acts chapter one, tells them to go and bear witness, or testimony, which is to say tell people what you’ve experienced on a personal level. In Greek the word is martyrion, which means a testimony of what you’ve seen, heard, or experienced, factually. It puts one’s life in the position of identifying with the Christ, rather than offering up arguable tenets which others may see as only opinions. Put a miracle into the argument, if you will, and all defensiveness goes out the window…well… unless your speaking to an ideologue.

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