By Clay Parlette
With the recent news of the jailing of Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis, our country is faced again with a renewed ire on all fronts regarding the status of religious liberty in America. And if you are a supporter of Ted Cruz or Mike Huckabee for president, you have probably at one time expressed that Christianity is under attack and that it is difficult to be a Christian in America today. It is a quite controversial discussion, and one that I tend to avoid except via social media, but as a young Christian, I can indeed attest that the latter idea expressed by Cruz and Huckabee is true.
It is very hard to be a Christian today, but not by the reasoning put forward by my friends in the extreme Right. No, my religion was never affected by the ways of the world or the breaking news I saw on TV. I attended my church and lived what I believed to be a godly life by my daily affairs. I realized there was crime, war, greed, and there were all kinds of people who were different than me, but I lived on in peace. I had disagreements, I befriended others with conflicting beliefs, and I watched those around me make life decisions about situations I could never dream of experiencing. I talked to others about God and I prayed for the world, that God might look over it and be with everyone who needed Him. And I lived in peace.
Today Christianity has taken a new meaning, at least to some. When I Google “Christian” today, I expect to be flashed with websites talking about love and acceptance and forgiveness—the values that Jesus taught and that I find in my own Bible on my desk. Instead I find putrid photos and videos of so-called Christians spewing hate, judgment, and damnation on our brothers and sisters of the world. I see a complete disregard for one of the ultimate teachings of Christ: to abandon the judgment of others. One must question: would Jesus stand for this angry spectacle?
It’s gotten so bad that I am to the point where I am uncomfortable talking about my faith with others because the immediate assumption is that I am probably anti-gay, unfamiliar with science, chauvinistic, and judgmental. I have seen prominent Christian leaders attacked and abandoned for the crime of expressing hints of acceptance for others that aren’t Christian enough, or who are abominations according to some fundamentalists. It has become true that, if you don’t align completely with someone’s views, you are not a true Christian in their view and as some protest signs say, are destined to “burn in Hell.” Wow. What a delightful way to spread the love of God and to bring in new believers.
But this is not and was never the Christianity I knew. I wanted to continue my faith through my college years, and thus began my search for a church that I could worship with on those Sundays I found myself alone and away from home and the wonderful congregation I know. My first try was a dud as I found myself to be the guy standing outside of the established social circles and sitting alone in the corner as the others spoke of their after-church plans together. My second church trip began on a bad note with a frowning “greeter” woman looking me up and down and blatantly asking, “Are you looking for something?” Awkward. So I tried a third time, this time at a congregation under the lead of a pastor so compressed with bitterness at “the evil world” that I feared he would erupt at any moment. Strike three. I guess it just wasn’t meant to be. Besides, what college kid actually went to church on his own anyway? Maybe Sundays could just be some extra time to sleep in and recover from a fun Saturday night or get some homework done. It sounded like an okay deal. And okay it was, until I found Journey.
Journey at Christ Church houses itself in a modest north Findlay location on Bigelow Avenue, just off of North Main Street. From the moment I first walked in, I was struck with the pleasant joyful and welcoming atmosphere I remembered from church. The people spoke to me and the message was consistent with everything I ever thought Christianity to be. I felt as if I had reclaimed something that I briefly thought to be lost and I was elated.
I wish this is how all Christians would approach their religion. It hurts my heart to see the Mike Huckabees and Kim Davises of the world get on their soapboxes and proclaim to be the violated righteous elite while others suffer in silence and dauntlessly endure the attacks and accusations of others. Genuine Christianity isn’t full of anger, accusations, protest, and despise, as some would have us believe. I hate to break it to you, Kim, but I don’t think your fight would hold up to the “What Would Jesus Do?” test.
Okay, okay, I retract. You just caught me judging.