So, I wanted to make a blog about why I write. But I realized you needed me to be more candid about my identity before you could understand both how this affects, and how it doesn’t affect, my writing.
I’m a Christian. More specifically, I’m a devout Christian that clings to Biblical teachings. That’s actually easier to say in person than it is on social media, especially in the #amwriting community, which is full of talented, progressive people that I sincerely admire (and it’s gotten worse after this last election where many people claimed that orange-haired, hateful, creepy man was the “Christian” candidate). It’s not that I fear you hating me (though I certainly hope you don’t – we all want to be liked), but much more that I fear you thinking I hate any of you. There are three reasons for this:
1) Many of us (Christians) have failed to love our neighbors as ourselves, with some acting even hateful and self-righteous.
2) The Christians who do love their neighbors are not calling out those who self-righteously teach the Bible.
3) People on social media cannot see my day-to-day life the way others who I interact with in person do. I have met multiple people who were shocked when it came up I was a Christian – because I did not act with contempt for them, even though their lifestyle was contrary to Scriptural teaching; in fact, I tried very hard to support them wherever I could – to love them.
First (Our fault)
Many Christians who cling to biblical ethics have forgotten the second greatest commandment: to love your neighbor as yourself. We have instead tried to use the greatest commandment (Loving God) as an excuse to not fulfill the second (and I was guilty of this when I was younger). But if we look to Christ, as we are supposed to, this is not how it should be. As Paul says in Romans, Christ didn’t wait until people conformed to his teaching to die for them. When Christ met people, it was always the same pattern 1) He had compassion (literally, try to count how many times when he sees people it opens with “and he had compassion on them”). 2) He listened to them – letting them explain why they were doing what they were doing – whether it was illness, love for a family member…he listened. 3) He healed them / provided what they needed… in other words, he served them right after listening to them and 4) after everything else, he taught them – this meant he had nothing left to hold over their heads to motivate them to conform his teaching, other than promising that the joy they had found would become permanent. And he didn’t just do this for people who would respond in the way he wanted. When he healed the ten lepers, only one returned. Many people ignored or rejected his teaching. But he never skipped the first three steps because of that. He never stopped loving them.
I could have added a fifth, but it was something he did not do when talking with people who did not know him. He did not speak a hateful word to any of them. In fact, the only people he ever spoke to harshly were religious people! People who were supposed to be aiding others finding God and were instead driving them from him! He never conformed his teaching to what others wanted to hear if they didn’t like it, but people kept coming to him because he continually showed love to them regardless.
Secondly (Mea Culpa)
Biblical Christians who understand that we must always love people fail to openly correct the perception that those abandoning the second commandment have created. There are a number of reasons for this. One, we don’t want to publicly chastise people who are at least trying to uphold a Christian ethic. But the whole purpose of the Christian teaching is to help people grow closer to God. When you show hate and contempt for people you don’t even know personally, you not only drive them away, but any bystanders who witnessed it. Many of us know this. But we fail to proclaim it.
And no, I don’t think we should be airing out all of our dirty laundry. Churches are made of Christians, in other words, people who admit they are sinners, which means it would make sense that churches often screw up, but it doesn’t mean we should be gossiping about every time someone in our congregations does something wrong. But when someone is publicly creating an impression that Gospel (literally an old English portmanteau of “gōd” (“good” – pronounced with a long o like in boat [“God” was spelled the same but the o was pronounced for less time) and “spel” (literally “word”, often used as “information/message/news”) is hateful, it needs to be publicly corrected to keep people from abandoning it before they ever hear it – because they think they know enough: that it’s hateful.
The third reason isn’t anyone’s fault, just a limitation of social media. You’ve never met me to know that my words of loving others, even if honesty and sincerity means I acknowledge where we disagree, my words of love are obviously still true because of my actions. This is because I’m empathetic – it’s kind of an essential trait for a writer. I instinctually try to put myself in others’ shoes, and it allows me to understand how they came to believe what they believe, even if I don’t share that belief. And when you understand someone, it’s very hard to hate them (exception being full-blown psychopaths… such as Hitler or Stalin). When you actually can become so emotionally invested in characters that don’t even exist in our reality, it’s not surprising you gain the ability to emotionally invest in people that do exist in our world, even if we don’t agree on everything.
As I said before, I have on multiple times witnessed the shock in a new friend’s eyes after it comes up that I’m a Christian once we’ve known each other for a few weeks. They’re shocked because, though they’ve seen me abstain from certain things that now make sense after learning about my faith, I did not treat them with contempt. Instead, I have showed my confidence in them as people, not merely trying to make a good impression, but even asking them for help on things they are better at than me, and being sincere in my gratitude. They thought that all Christians hated them, and therefore they would hate all Christians. I then offer to tell them what I know about Jesus and the Bible. Some immediately take me up on it, some eventually, some never. But those that do acknowledge, even before they agree with it (if they ever do), that the example Christ left is not hateful. Christ does want them to change, but he knows that they can’t until they turn to him. But he won’t force them, and he won’t refuse to help them or love them before that. And the reason he wants them to change is so that he can provide them the life of joy and fulfillment they have been seeking. And this is where many people don’t join up. They don’t believe Jesus can offer them more fulfillment than what they are getting out of their current lifestyle. In other words, they don’t believe what Jesus says about himself. That he is God, and good, the Creator and Sustainer of all life and joy. That might believe that God is, but they don’t believe that Jesus as he showed himself in Scripture is. And that’s not surprising. They haven’t experienced Christ. At this point, it becomes a leap of faith. They must “come taste and see that the LORD is good”. They may have seen through me that God seems to be providing for me a source of joy and contentment that sustains me in life. But they don’t think he can provide them more joy and contentment than what they currently are seeking it from. It’s good for me, but not for them. And the truth is, this is often the case until disaster strikes. While I do not wish pain on anyone, I do hope that when they do (as we all inevitably go through pain) they remember what I’ve said and find me or, if life has separated us, someone else who can remind them of the hope of the Gospel.
With All My Love…
While I can’t magically show you my intimate interactions with others on social media, I can at least tell you why I can view people this way. Because no matter what anyone identifies as, no matter what they choose to do, everyone is first and foremost human. That means that all are created in the image of God. And because of that, I find everyone an amazing piece of art, and someone worthy of respect.
Second, I recognize people don’t regularly do things they think are wrong. None of us do. We all are doing the best we can – we are programmed to do so. We know when you do things wrong, you don’t get the desired results. And we definitely want to get along with everyone. So, we don’t do things that hurt others, and we just want that same thing in return. We all think we are doing what’s right, even if we are doing things that are mutually exclusive to what others who think they are also doing right.
Finally, as part of my faith, I believe we are also ALL fallen – especially myself. I have yet to meet anyone who has screwed up worse than me. And that’s not an empty sentiment. I mean, I really, really screwed up. I used to be incredibly self-righteous. After that humiliating experience, it’s kind of impossible.
Now that I have been open about my faith, if you want to see how it both influences my writing but should not be a lens to try interpret everything in my novels, you can read my next blog.
But, if you want to know more about my faith (and I hope you do) – or if you want to ask questions about what the Bible says or what the Christian response to things should be, do not hesitate to ask me. And don’t worry, I’m not afraid of the phrase, “I don’t know” – because I often don’t. And I’m not looking just to lecture you either. If you want to explain some things to me, explain why you believe what you believe, please do! I want to understand you. Also, since I believe I have found the Truth, I’m hardly afraid of learning more! You certainly will know things I do not know – and probably bring up things that I’m not sure how to reconcile with what I do know immediately. That’s okay! I’ve learned to always be open to learning and to be patient when I don’t know the answers.