Let’s play a word association game, okay? I’ll say a word, you notice what descriptors come to mind immediately. No looking them up…just knee jerk reaction to each word. No cheating.
Got your descriptors for each figured out? Are you sure? Don’t go on until you have acknowledged what you believe about each of these.
Folks, that is what we call a stereotype. We all have them. Whatever stereotype you assigned to each of the categories listed above is a direct result of your life experiences and the influences of the people around you. Many of those stereotypes are inaccurate and unfair to the majority of people who claim those descriptors.
Lately I’ve shared several things on Facebook that are quite harsh towards people who categorize themselves as Christians. Many of my Christian friends have a difficult time accepting the criticism because they don’t see themselves as fitting the stereotypical descriptions attached to a word. Just as many Muslims recoil at the idea of being compared to Bin Laden’s followers, many Christians recoil at the idea of being lumped together with the legalistic extremists that dominate the news.
So why do we do this?
It’s programming. Conditioning. Experiences, both good and bad. They shape us and they shape our view of everything outside of us. Many of us have had experiences that have left quite a bitter taste in our mouths regarding the absolute rightness of Christianity.
So what’s a person to do when the descriptive word that has long been their identity, their get out of jail free card, has acquired such a negative connotation? Do we bow up and the people who lump us all together and whine that we aren’t all like that?
Well, that just added pouty whiner to the stereotype, so it probably isn’t the best solution. I said pouty not poultry.
Do we wear our identity plastered all over our shirts and our cars and set out to prove we are better than the fundamentalist lowlife assholes by serving and sacrificing until it kills us and destroys our family?
Not likely to change many attitudes and opinions.
So what’s a “nice Christian” to do? How can the bad wrap/reputation be shed?
My personal game plan is to ditch the Christian identity as my meal ticket and secret hand shake.
I plan to do my best to love every person who crosses my path. Hint: you will be much easier to love if you just love me back and don’t try to save me and my children from hell.
I am going to lay my hands on whomever needs and wants my touch, and wherever healing is within my power, I will give them all I have to give.
I plan to donate what I feel I can to organizations whose reach and ability to make a difference for hungry people exceeds mine and who keep the proseletyzing to a minimum.
I will do my best to connect with people who feel Christianity isn’t for them by caring for them and accepting them as Jesus might have.
I will teach and model for my children as best I can that “do unto others” means showing love to them even when they are not showing love to us.
I will help my children to see a bigger picture and learn to be wary of anyone pedaling “absolutes”.
And finally, I will work to move past and release the resentment I apparently harbor toward my stereotype image of Christian. Note: It will be a much easier task if they will kindly remove their claws from our political and legal system and start caring a bit more about the “creation” they claim came from the God they hold in such high esteem.
Okay, so I still have a long ways to go.
What are your thoughts? How do the “nice Christians” shake the negativity that many have attached to the word “Christian”? Is it even possible, or is it time to find a new identity?