My buddy asked me to talk on her blog about the recent news of Jack Schaap getting into trouble, and it has got me wanting to talk a little bit about the Church. If you didn’t know, Jack Schaap was pastor of a big church in Indiana and he was caught fooling around with a teenaged girl. Bad news though it may be, I wasn’t particularly surprised to hear it. He has had quite a track record of inappropriate remarks and misogyny over the years that he has been in charge of that church. I am truly saddened for the people who are going through this, but I am especially saddened by the way things like this reflect on Christianity.
I’ve read many news sources and internet conversations in which people have pointed to the faith as a distinct source of corruption, and although the term “Christian” gets used a lot by groups and individuals, I think it’s important to distinguish real Christianity from people who just use it as a social category. That label “Christian” is an adjectival name for a person who acts like “Christ.” Someone who follows Christ is a Christian. That’s it. We don’t say that every piece of psychology is Freudian, only statements or beliefs that follow the teachings of Sigmund Freud. We don’t call every person from South America Uruguayan, only the ones who are actually from Uruguay. Similarly, we should not call every sort of religious person with a Christian-like background in the USA a “Christian.”
You’re a Christian if you follow Christ. By definition, this can’t be an incidental part of your life or an inheritance; it’s a conscious choice. You can’t just claim the label and go around living a life that is completely unlike Christ. This type of thing is rampant in the USA right now, and it’s no wonder so many people pretending to be Christian are making the faith look toxic.
Now, I know that it’s also possible to vacilate in your opinions and be still genuine in your beliefs, and I am NOT trying to say that a person isn’t a Christian if they slip up once in a while. (That kinda thing is a whole different problem in itself.) What I AM saying is that just getting a job in a church does not a make person automatically a follower of Christ. Just because a man says he is a Christian is not enough to actually make him a follower of the teachings and life of Jesus. It’s just not.
When you base your communication with people on critism and name calling, you’re not acting like Christ. Biblically speaking we have no record of him using harsh language with people (unless they were the crooked religious leaders), and I think it’s safe to take that and say it is Christ-like to use respectful, kind language when we speak to people. If you can’t talk to someone about their behaviour without being nasty or hurtful, you’re not being a Christian. Westborough can call themselves whatever they want, but they’re not acting like Christ, and they’re not talking like Christ. That’s not Christian. They’re not a Christian church.
Similarly, just because Jesus was compassionate is no reason to claim that his life exuded tolerance. Jesus was honest about practical behaviors that were not Godly. If you’re going around telling people that the message of Christianity is love and tolerance, I’m not trying to be rude, but that isn’t what Jesus taught. You’re not emulating Christ, you’re emulating one facet of his behavior. It’s not Christian. It’s nice to be nice, but Christ taught that “sin” was a real thing. If you don’t believe that, okay, but you’re not a Christian.
I am a firm believer in moderation, and I dislike taking a dogmatic approach to spiritual issues, but, I love being a Christian. I enjoy learning about God and knowing him, and I find it very troubling that people like me are told that tolerance is the same thing as kindness and exclusivitiy of any sort is equated with hate speech. This faith is a relationship with God, not a psychological cancer, or a tool for cruelty and social power. All the richness of living peacably with others and enjoying spiritual completeness is shouldered to the side when people like Jack Schaap come out publicly spewing evil in the name Christendom.