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Maybe I Haven’t Really Tried Christianity Yet (Edited and Expanded )

I have struggled off and on throughout my life with the statement: “Christianity hasn’t failed. It just hasn’t been tried yet.”
Because over the centuries there have been individuals that took Jesus literally about not killing, even in self-defense. Many more have been willing to lay down their own lives by serving others. In my own times, I remember Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Corrie Ten Boom and her family, the lone unarmed Chinese student standing in front of a line of tanks, the students killed while protesting at Kent State.

There are unsung heroes that have given their lives in different ways for others in every century, of every gender, from every nation, religion and walk of life.  In the 13th century when the church with the help of the King of France began a crusade to wipe out the Cathars, a  heretical group in the Southwest of France, the Cathars’ Christian neighbors and friends tried to protect them by joining them when they sought sanctuary in the Cathedral at Beziers. Unfortunately, the “Christian” military leader decided to let God sort them out and burned the Cathedral down with both heretics and Christians inside it.

On the public stage three people come to mind immediately who changed governments by putting their lives on the line for justice and mercy without counting the cost.  They inspired others to do the same. One, Gandhi, admired Jesus, but didn’t claim to follow him, though his actions spoke louder than his words. The other two, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela did claim to follow Jesus. None were perfect, but they all were willing to lay down their lives for others and not to return evil for evil. And they changed their worlds.

Frankly, when I look at history and listen to Jesus Christ, this is what true Christianity looks like to me.  Yet most Christians cannot seem to accept the reality that not only was Jesus non-violent,  but throughout history violence has never put an end to violence.

The main difference between Jesus, Gandhi, Martin Luther King and militia protest groups now on our front pages is that the first three didn’t come to confrontations armed and Mandela came out of prison determined to lead people to forgive and reconcile.

The difference between Jesus and some of our loudest nominal Christians is that he invites, “Come and follow me.” He was never deluded, as centuries of Crusader Christians continue to be, that people can be forced to truly follow Him by law or fear or discrimination.

Who are the “bad” guys in your eyes? ISIS?  Obama?  Militia Groups?  Gays who want to get married?  Donald Trump? Muslims? Immigrants who take our jobs. American companies who out-source American jobs to foreign countries? Christians who want to deny other Americans religious freedom. Tea party members?  Liberals who risk putting compassion for foreigners above Americans’ safety?  Billionaire CEO’s of Conglomerates whose greed threatens America’s economic survival? Gun toting Christians who think violence is the answer to conflict of opinion? All of these are the “bad” guys in someone’s eyes.

As a follower of Jesus  I’d like to think I’d risk my life at least for those I love or admire and hopefully for a helpless child.  But Jesus died for the bad guys, everybody’s “bad” guys.  Isn’t that a bummer?

I admit that I’m not there yet. But, I’m not comfortable with just accepting that. My struggle isn’t over. Maybe I haven’t really tried Christianity yet.

Reflections on Important Values and Who in History and in our Personal Experience Embody Them.

Preparing a class on 2nd Corinthians that I will be teaching in a few weeks. Got to thinking about who embodies my personal concept of Christ in history in the Common Era.
I was a bit surprised when I settled on Gandhi. But also know from reading, that Gandhi was a pretty rotten husband and father. Kind of makes me understand why Jesus never got married. I suspect that most great men have had long-suffering families. Perhaps great women also, though in history many of them became nuns and prioresses since that was the only role where women had freedom, respect, and a certain amount of power.
Recently I both read and heard another person say that today’s most popular idol is our self. We’re number one. Our opinions, our belief system, our needs, our desires, our loves, our country, our talents, our goals, our values are more important than anyone else’s when it comes down to making choices. And the end justifies the means when it comes to protecting those.
One of my blog posts brought some rather strong disagreement when I included the bible in a list of possible idols. I really value the bible and look to it for insights, challenges, encouragement and grace. I consider the bible good, but not God.
There are other people than Gandhi,leading smaller lives focused on family and the people they come into contact with, that I consider Christlike. In my past I’ve known a pediatrician, a nun teacher, and an ex nun facilitator that stand out particularly in my memory. They seemed to actually be able to put caring about others first, to be able to admit their own limits and be open enough to others’ very different opinions to be stretched by them, and amazingly to both affirm and challenge others without diminishing them.
I’d love to hear what you value in humans and who in both history and in your personal lives embody those values.