There Goes the Neighborhood
by Greg Albrecht
A friend of mine just returned from a conference reporting disturbing results from a new survey. North Americans were asked to name the type of individual they would least like to have as a next door neighbor. The most feared and least liked next door neighbor -- a serial killer, a drug dealer or a terrorist? Not according to this survey!
The number one, least liked and most feared potential next-door neighbor (imagine a drumroll here) -- a conservative Christian! Let's examine ourselves. Have we Christians earned and now richly deserve this dubious new tribute, or is it unjustly given by those who are out to persecute us without cause? Let's assume we aided and abetted this negative public perception.
Recently I received a letter from a reader asking Plain Truth to help call a halt to mean-spirited Christians who seem to proclaim a message of intolerance and anger.
Our reader comments, "My own experiences have shown me that I am far more likely to be deeply wounded in my spirit and heart by a brother or sister in Christ than a non-believer. I am more likely to find safety outside the church and feel love and acceptance from non-Christians than I am inside the church.
"I found that if I was deeply hurting and in need of help, my brothers and sisters in Christ would quickly condemn me and decide that they wanted me to suffer pain and be broken...all in the name of God's love."
The reader continues, "I feel that it is this refusal to see things from any other perspective than our own that keeps our churches segregated by race, by class and by denomination. It keeps us from being united against the true enemy. I do find many Christian leaders preaching veiled hate, racism and anti-Semitism, and I feel hurt.... I know that the early church centered on the idea of loving one another and reconciliation. No one would have referred to the leaders of the early church as mean-spirited preachers of hate, judgment or intolerance."
Somewhere along the line we have lost our way. We have bought the idea that Christianity is defined by boycotting Disneyland and organizing political action committees against politicians whose religious (or even denominational) views are different than our own.
Where did we get this idea? Where do we see biblical examples of Christians organized into angry goon squads intimidating pagans? Where do we see biblical Christianity modeled as believers living in holy huddles, excluding all others, with the exception of warning non-believers of impending Y2K doom while selling them survival books and supplies?
Jesus would not get along or go along with much of our sectarian Christianity. As far as we know, he didn't carry around a Christian Study Bible with resource notes written by his mega-church pastor. We search in vain to find Jesus protesting or boycotting against secular authorities.
But he did throw the moneychangers out of the temple, didn't he? And he continually confronted religious hypocrisy. Remember the Pharisees? Actually, Jesus' actions would more closely resemble a condemnation of our current ideas of Christian culture and behavior than they would joining a boycott of Disneyland.
It's time to shed the anger and hatred, the holier-than-thou superiority, the in-your-face church-ianity that is everyone's worst nightmare of a next door neighbor. Let's get real about our faith. Let's stop the angry protesting, condemning and partisan politics and be what we say we are. Christians.
What ever happened to things like helping, serving, ministering, loving, reaching out? After all, who wouldn't want the Good Samaritan living next door?
-- Greg Albrecht