Yesterday, my boys and I played a small role in a huge project that involved three hundred volunteers from our church packing 60,000 meals for Haitians in need. As I looked around the room at dozens of people, many of whom had never even met, working together, I thought about how generous and kind my Christian family is. I thought about the people who had volunteered to oversee the project, to organize supplies and shipping, and to make things run efficiently. I thought about their patience in letting our kids, who weren't always as quick or as tidy as the grownups, experience the rewards of service, too. And I thought about how much I wish THIS were the stereotype of Christians that was accepted as the truth.
Christians certainly aren't the only group of people who are stereotyped and portrayed unfavorably, especially in political news, but if you are not a Christian, you may not realize just how ridiculous the caricatures of us really are. I certainly can't speak on behalf of all Christians, but I can speak on behalf of the ones who are similar to me, and here are a few things that we want you to know about us.
1. We are smart.
From what you've seen on television, you may think that we are religious because we just don't know any better. We are often portrayed as foolish, sending money off to any televangelist who claims to need a personal jet with jewel-encrusted headrests to fulfill the great commission. We are dismissed as uneducated people who are easily manipulated by right-wing politicians, people who live in a bubble that shields us from the problems that everyone else in the world understands.
The truth is that God doesn't care whether we dropped out of high school or earned a Ph.D., but we are weary of the stereotype that Christians just aren't very smart. We are all kinds of people with all levels of education. We are doctors and lawyers, teachers and engineers, tradespeople and stay-at-home moms. We are college graduates. We are innovators and business owners. We read books. We watch the news. We are interested in the events happening in the world around us. We are seeking solutions to the same problems as everyone else.
We even believe that global warming is real. We love science.
I know. That one just blew your mind!
2. You work and play and go to school with us, and you don't even realize it.
When you first meet a Christian, she probably won't be wearing a t-shirt that says, "I heart Jesus," but kudos to her if she is. Most likely, you will meet her diligently working in her cubicle at the office, not marching in a picket line or shouting Bible verses in front of the courthouse. The truth is that most Christians don't necessarily stand out in a crowd - at least not right away. That's because we enjoy many of the same things that you do. We like social media and know about pop culture. We follow sports and go to the movies and work out at the gym. We love to have fun, and we know a good joke when we hear one. Over time, I hope that the Christians you know will stand out because they are consistently generous and patient and kind. I hope they model joy and compassion and grace. I hope they apologize for their mistakes and exemplify Christian values. But the idea that you know one when you see one, well, it just doesn't work that way.
3. We care about people.
ALL people. We are called to love one another. Love is not the message that you hear during most political debates, but it is the truth of our religion.
4. We want you to have freedom of religion, too.
Really, we do. It is your right. Plus, your freedom of religion guarantees our freedom of religion. We get that.
5. We can and do look at both sides of an issue.
We not only enjoy a good debate, but we want to understand an opposing argument - and not just so that we can challenge it. We want to understand the complexities of an issue. We want to know how ideas affect different groups of people. We don't have to "win" every argument. We don't have to agree with you to care about what you think.
6. We are not perfect - and we know that.
The big idea of Christianity is that God extends us grace and forgiveness through his Son. If we thought we were perfect, then we wouldn't need that. This one just doesn't make any sense.
7. We aren't judging you.
Really, we're not. We are figuring out what to cook for dinner and when we can pick up the prescription at the pharmacy and who will take off work to wait for the repairman tomorrow and how to get two kids to basketball practice in two different places at the same time tonight. We don't have time for this. Please stop worrying about it.
8. We aren't all Republicans.
We also do not trust people just because they say they are Christians or quote Bible verses.
And while we're at it, we don't all watch FOX News.
9. We don't understand the political obsession with "moral issues."
Any issue that impacts people is a moral issue to us, and our morals should influence all of our decisions - both personal and political. There aren't just one or two moral issues. There are lots of them.
10. We would love to share our faith with you, but we can be friends regardless.
Jesus did not exclusively spend time with Christian people. We don't either.
In reality, Christians are individuals, similar in some ways yet as different as two snowflakes tumbling from the sky, human beings with messy lives who are just trying to do the best that we can with the reassurance of God's grace. If you feel overwhelmed or misunderstood, there is a good chance that we have some idea of where you are coming from. Please do not judge us all by what you have seen on television or even by your experiences in the past. You may be surprised by just how much our families have in common, even if our religious views aren't on that list.