I’ve seen it happen many times before, and each time I’ve seen it, it’s annoyed me beyond any need for a laxative. But now I can better explain why it annoys me so much.
What am I talking about? Articles or documents written by church people for a church audience that get criticized by other church people for not specifically mentioning Christianity or Jesus. Their argument is something along the lines of “How will people know that we’re not just another social organization, not just another group of people trying to do good works in the world, if we don’t mention that we’re Christians?”
My first, rather snarky, response is, “This article was in a denominational magazine. Are you freaking kidding me? Are you that stupid? Do you think that people in general are so dense as to not realize that something in a magazine called Living Lutheran (or Positively Presbyterian, Ecstatically Episcopalian, or even Confidently Catholic) is based on the writer’s Christian faith?” And does the mission statement of St Andrew’s Episcopal Church really have to state that they’re a Christian community? Isn’t it pretty clear that they’re not a chapter of the Ethical Culture Society?
My second, similarly snarky, response is basically, “This document was written for use within the church. We all know why we’re here. Do we really have to telegraph it to everyone?”
The response of the critics is that as Christians, we need to be aware of, and tell people what’s most important to us, and why we do what we do.
To that I say, “Well…maybe.” But there’s something else I have to say to them. Actually, it’s a question I have to ask.
What’s the most important thing you do every day?
Really, what is the most important thing you do everyday?
Some of you might mention taking care of your kids, or the work you do for the local food pantry, or perhaps it’s your job as a teacher, or maybe even your job at the local hospital. Those are all good things. But quite frankly, none of those count as the most important thing you do every day.
At least not to me.
Nope…the most important thing you do every day is something so intrinsic to your being that you don’t even think about it. In fact, it’s so important that even if you voluntarily stopped for a few minutes, you’d involuntarily start again.
What am I talking about?
Breathing is the most important thing any of us do every day. It’s what allows us to go about doing the other things we think are important. But do we ever mention it? Do we put that at the top of the list of important things we do?
No. We don’t even think about it until we have a hard time doing it.
So why do some Christians insist that other Christians make a point of their Christianity when talking to church audiences?
For that matter, why do some Christians insist on putting their Christianity out on parade when they’re helping others? Isn’t it enough to let your Christianity quietly inform your good works, and then have the people you’ve helped ask you about your motivation later?
A vegetarian friend of mine once said that there are good vegetarians and bad vegetarians. You’ll never know that a “good vegetarian” is a vegetarian unless you pay close attention to what they’re eating, or unless it just happens to come up naturally in conversation. A “bad vegetarian” will take every opportunity to tell everyone about their vegetarianism.
I think that those Christians who want us to explicitly state our Christian identity and motives are bad vegetarians, who want to make us into bad vegetarians too.