A Progressive Christian Asks, 'How Do I Not Hate Most Christians?'

Dear John,

As a progressive Christian in the red state of Kentucky, I struggle with separating my belief in Jesus from the conservative, hellfire Christians I am surrounded by everywhere I look. My religious neighbors have so nicely informed me that yoga is spiritually dangerous and that Obama is a Muslim from Kenya. How do I not hate Christians? I find myself wanting to no part of the label Christian!

Well (if I may) I don't think the problem is that you want no part of the label "Christian." It's that you want no part of the label moron. And so many of the Christians around you are (sadly! It's nobody's fault!) morons. And you're perfectly aware that in the minds of a lot of people Christian and moron go together like soup and liquid.

Not good for you.

So you are so talking to the right person about this. I basically, viscerally loathe being part of -- well, any group at all. I don't join stuff. More than three people in a room start chiming in together with the same beliefs, and right away I get itchy and start scanning for an exit.

And yet -- even though half the stuff believed by most Christians is to my mind horrendously toxic bullshit -- I am a Christian. I sincerely do believe that God manifested as Christ by way of offering people a way to feel good about their lives. (Actually, to be entirely specific, what I really believe is that as a belief system Christianity is so perfect, and so efficacious, that whether or not it's actually "true" is irrelevant. But that's another post.)

So I'm stuck with two choices: pretend, at least out in the world, that I'm not a Christian; or keep the name, and fight to take it back from all the people who've basically ruined that name.

I choose the latter -- and so I fight like that, as ... well, a way of life, really, what with the blogging and speaking and all. And I'm cool with that choice. I don't really know what else to do. I'm not going to quit being a Christian, and I'm not going to let other people define for me what that means.

Plus, you know, for me, over the years I've been doing this, I've come to realize that one aspect of my really really not wanting to in any way be mistaken for, or associated with, anyone who would say anything as reprehensible as, "Yoga was invented by Satan," or "Obama isn't an American," is that that's essentially an arrogant way for me to feel. It's egotistical.

Those are terrible things to say, no doubt. But in a more general sense, who am I to claim that I can't be associated with idiots and dipshits? Who died and made me a saint? I'm a dipshit about 300 times a minute. If I start hating everybody who is a whole lot less than they should or could be, how do I avoid eventually having to chew off my own foot?

My advice? Keep the name Christian. Be proud of what it truly means. It's like being an American. Sure, lots of Americans are a blight upon the name. But lots of them aren't. Either way, at its core America is a phenomenal country, because the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence rock so hard they're diamonds. America is the greatest experiment in the history of believing in the innate nobility of humans. That won't change. It can't. It already happened.

So I'm a proud American! It chills me to think of being associated with what the term "proud American" typically connotes, but ... whatever. You spend your life fighting stupid and you die still swinging.

I'm a Christian, and I'm not an asshole. You're a Christian, and you seem like a nice person. Most of the people who comment on this blog are non-dickweedian Christians. There's a whole universe of Christians out there with whom I know you'd be proud to be associated. You're one of them/us.

Let people say stupid things. They're just scared. Remind yourself that they, just like you and me and everyone else in the world, are on a slow, winding journey toward becoming a better version of themselves. And then smile, say whatever little thing you might by way of toning down their dumb or crazy, and move on.

That's pretty much life, right there: tip-toe around the stupid, refocus and move on.

Thanks for writing me, mate. Love to you.