Open Letter to Marc Maron, Day 23 (on why I don’t always want to call myself a Christian)
…Why am I looking outward and comparing myself to others instead of looking to the ways that I already do whatever that hard thing is because, chances are, in some small way, I’ve probably already done it.
Not quite sure what to write. I just got home from Bible study and I just want to eat and go to bed. And I’m feeling like the aforementioned Jesus freak because 1) I just told you I went to Bible study and 2) what was on my mind was another God thing. And my vanity/fear/unwillingness to stand out in a crowd is urging me to find another topic. The conversation in my head’s going a little like: “People are barely reading this as it is and do you know how many people were turned off of this whole project by your whole nattering about God yesterday?” Perhaps I should add stupidity to the list of reasons why I’m whispering in my own ear that maybe another topic would be best.
It’s not that I’m ashamed of God, exactly. It’s more like I’m ashamed of being perceived as a person who’s head over heels with God. Because, let’s face it, these days any mention of the Christian God summons up images of the Westboro Baptist Church (not cool) or people who bomb abortion clinics (not cool) and a host of other things that by no stretch of the imagination could be included in a “Guide to Being a Practicing Christian.” I guess what I’m saying is I don’t have any problems with being a Christian, it’s more like I have a problem being called a Christian because, unfortunately these days it conjures up a host of images and behaviors that are not Christ-like at all. To put it in the terms of the marketplace (and to borrow shamelessly from Pastor Clark) as Christians we’ve been doing a fine job of corrupting Jesus’ brand. Jesus hasn’t failed; we have. And I just haven’t been able to come up with a word or phrase that takes back what the word “Christian” is supposed to mean from everyone who’s broken/defiled/screwed it up for the rest of us.
That being said, here’s the thing I wanted to write which prompted all of the above. I’ve periodically read the book of Jeremiah, which is basically God saying to the Israelites: “Look, you guys are screwing up. I keep giving you a chance to turn your lives are round, stop worshiping false idols and stuff, and you keep not taking them. So I’m going to let these other countries and peoples enslave you and take all your wealth.” Reading Jeremiah used to terrify me. I always identified with the Israelites and became convinced that I was doing everything wrong and God was going to sever all ties immediately. Forever. It never occurred to me, or at least it hadn’t occurred to me till a few weeks ago, that I could actually be Jeremiah. That I could read the book as a call for me to speak out, have a voice, use my skill as a writer to encourage other people to seek out a relationship with God. I was so busy feeling guilty and ashamed of all the times I’d messed up that I’d flat out missed what God was trying to tell me. So in addition to asking myself what I would do if I stopped focusing so intently (and unhealthily) on what other people do, I’ve got to ask myself what opportunities–for relationship, for healing, for grace, for favor–am I missing because I’m looking at situations through twin lenses of guilt and shame?
There’s probably a whole bunch of questions we could all stand to ask ourselves on a daily basis…
To be continued…