It’s hard not to stereotype isn’t it? Depending on your background, experiences, influences, etc., at some point in your life you’ll make a statement or do something that stereotypes another person or group. In the right context stereotypes can be funny. The best comedians make the audience see themselves in such stereotypes.
Today, I want to talk about the Christian stereotype. The one where Christians are seen as God-fearing, Holier-Than-Thou, self-righteous, preachy, pompous do-gooders, and most importantly hypocrites. I know the stereotype well–I used to think a lot like that myself. My experiences with “Christians” only enforced my perception of that stereotype. It’s one of the reasons I did not speak openly about my faith once I decided to embark on a spiritual quest. I didn’t want to be considered one of “those people.”
I believe this stereotype is reinforced by certain celebrities, evangelicals, and other folks who are in the public eye. This morning I was listening to the Jagger Mafia on Live 105.3FM, and they were discussing the recent interview Hulk Hogan had with Larry King. In that interview Hulk talked some about the accident involving his son Nick, in which the passenger of the vehicle John Graziano was critically injured. Jagger played some clips from the Larry King show, as well as taped conversations that were released by the jail facility where Nick Hogan is being held.
The disappointing thing about Hulk Hogan was how many times he invoked Jesus, spoke of being a good Christian, and yet took no responsibility for his lack of parenting skills or his son’s mistake. At one point Hulk even stated that being in a coma would make John Graziano a better person. Not only did Hulk come across as a hypocrite, but the negative Christian stereotype was in full swing. This type of behavior belittles true Christians who are perceived as using their beliefs for publicity stunts.
I will be the first to admit that I am far from perfect, and while I aspire to be a better Christian, I make mistakes (and sin) all the time. That’s right, I sin. I am a sinner. During this journey of faith, I have come to accept that fact. What I don’t do is hide behind my faith, or use it as an excuse for my behavior. I don’t make black & white decisions based on my faith, because honestly, I’m still learning, still wrestling with what I’ve learned, still trying not to sweat the small stuff.
Longtime readers know I don’t shy away from topics such as abortion, feminism, and homosexuality. Many would argue that my opinions contradict being a Christian, but I choose not to isolate myself from dissenting ideas. How can a person grow if they are only exposed to one experience? How can I become closer to God if I don’t learn as much about the world-both good & bad? How can I not love my sister Lesli just because she’s gay?
Yes, I have done stupid STUPID things. I think part of being a Christian is the drive to be better, not just in what we do or say, but in every aspect. Some days I do better than others. Today, I didn’t give the finger to any other drivers, not once. Oh, I screamed some profanities in my car, but no tailgating of other drivers for 10 miles. Guess that means I’m not excused yet from anger management classes. Heh.
I totally respect your right to choose your beliefs, and I don’t condemn people because they’re Jewish, Agnostic, Aetheist, Buddist, etc. I think such beliefs are very personal, and who am I to judge another person? Some of my closest friends are Jewish, one of my best friends thinks Jesus was an alien, and Lesli is more deserving of a decent afterlife than I ever could be.
This is one Christian who doesn’t have all the answers…
UPDATE – Ben has some insights into what makes a “Christian.”