Don’t reject Christianity because of Christians

By Adam Hamilton When I was a child my mother used to make fish sticks for supper a couple of … Continued

By Adam Hamilton

When I was a child my mother used to make fish sticks for supper a couple of times a month. This was seafood night at the Hamilton house. Over time I came to despise those little crunchy sticks I got it in my mind that I was not a seafood person. It wasn’t until I was 38 when I was nearly forced to try swordfish steak and salmon at the Bristol restaurant in Kansas City that my eyes (and taste buds!) were opened and I came to realize that fish sticks were just barely seafood.

On July 28 bestselling author Anne Rice announced on her Facebook page that she was quitting Christianity and would no longer be “Christian” but that she was still a follower of Christ. Anne went on to give the reasons why she was renouncing Christianity. She noted that she refuses to be anti-gay, anti-feminist, anti birth control, anti-Democrat, anti-secular humanist, anti-science and anti-life.

I appreciate Anne’s frustration. I believe it is shared by tens of millions of people in America, including a growing number of young adults. They could add quite a few more reasons for rejecting “Christianity” to Anne’s list. But I’d like to suggest that Anne might be rejecting seafood in the name of fish sticks. She is rejecting a particular expression of the Christian faith. Even in her own (or formerly her own) Catholic tradition, tens of millions of Christians and thousands of congregations refuse to be anti-gay, anti-feminist, anti-science, anti…

Once, I had a parishioner write me after an encounter with a particularly obnoxious Christian saying, “Pastor Adam, from this day on I will no longer call myself a Christian. I don’t want to be associated with people like this man. I don’t want others to think I see the world like he sees it. I am a follower of Jesus, but I don’t want to be known as a Christian any more.” In response I wrote, “Please, don’t let this man define what it means to be a Christian. We desperately need to show the world that there is another way to be Christian!”

There are many churches whose members welcome and love gays and lesbians, whose congregations speak up for the rights and value of women, who see science as a form of liturgy expressing the glory of God, and where Democrats and Republicans sit side by side as followers of Christ. They are not perfect, but they are followers of Christ, living in community and seeking to change the world.

For years my friends would tell me not to reject seafood simply because I didn’t like fish sticks. It took me 30 years to figure this out. I hope it doesn’t take Anne as long.

Adam Hamilton is a United Methodist pastor and author. His latest book is entitled When Christians Get it Wrong, Abingdon Press 2010.

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  • ThomasBaum

    Adam HamiltonNice article.Jesus’s invitation was to “Come follow Me”, was it not?It was not to follow: His followers, His Church, Peter or his successors, whatever or whoever, but to follow Jesus.I am a Catholic and I cherish my Catholic Faith but I do not let the Catholic “religion” get in the way of my Catholic Faith.Whereas Judaism was and is a covenantal relationship between God and a People, Christianity is a covenantal relationship between God and a person.The True, Living, Triune, Triumphant God is a searcher of hearts and minds, not of religious affiliations or lack thereof.It is important what one does and why one does it and what one knows.No matter what kind of “box”, even with the best of intentions, we try to construct to put God in, God will not fit.God’s Plan is, ultimately, for ALL to be in God’s Kingdom, the new heavens and the new earth, that is why it is called GOOD NEWS. Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • Suko

    I agree with you Adam that we shouldn’t reject Christianity because of another person’s poor example of what it means to be a Christian. Unfortunately, nowadays, most people don’t really knows what it means to be a Christian.To Thomas Baum: are you a practicing Catholic? For anyone to say that they are Catholic means to be obedient to the Church when it comes to faith and morals. There is no in-between. You either believe in what the Church believes, or you are not a Catholic. We are not to be cafeteria-style Catholics picking and choosing what we want to believe in because it’s convenient for us, or because it conflicts with what we want to believe is right.

  • ThomasBaum

    Suko You asked, “To Thomas Baum: are you a practicing Catholic?”What do you mean by “practicing Catholic”?You then wrote, ” For anyone to say that they are Catholic means to be obedient to the Church when it comes to faith and morals.”I would say that obedience to what God has chosen someone to do, goes ahead of whatever “obedient to the Church” might mean.As Jesus’s invitation clearly says, “Come follow Me”, it does not say “follow My Church”.You then wrote, “You either believe in what the Church believes, or you are not a Catholic.”Was Jesus a Jew? There were those, Jewish religious authorities, of Jesus’s day who accused Jesus of being a blasphemer, were there not?Were they Jews? Was Jesus still a Jew?You then wrote, “Jesus Christ sent the Holy Spirit to guide the Holy Mother Church (not you or me) to all truth, and proclaimed “the gates of Hell will not prevail against it.””Just what or who do you think “Holy Mother Church” is? Not only is the (not you or me) not true, it is a cop-out. The Catholic Church clearly teaches that the Holy Spirit is bestowed at both Baptism and Confirmation. I have met the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit has revealed to me that the Catholic Eucharist is Jesus. I have also met God the Father and by the way, God the Father is neither a Male, a Female nor an It, but is a Being of Pure Love.Actually, it is not ” “the gates of Hell will not prevail against it.””, it is “the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it”, the “gates of the netherworld” being both hell and death (spiritual and physical).This is the “mission” of Jesus’s Church, Jesus won the “keys” to the “netherworld” and will use them in due time, God’s Time.The whole statement is: “Simon, thou art Peter and upon this rock, I will build MY CHURCH and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it”.As you can see, Jesus never said that it was Peter’s Church but that it was and is Jesus’s Church.Another thing that the Catholic Church teaches is that it is not confined to only those that are “members” of the Catholic religion.You then wrote, “Christ was obedient to His Father until death, we too are called to be obedient to His Church and to the magisterium.”We are called to follow “Jesus” so we are called to be obedient to Jesus and whatever God has chosen for us to do.The previous Pope, John Paul II, went around the whole world making public penances for the sins of the Catholic Church, so are we called to follow Jesus’s Church or to follow Jesus.God bless you too.See you and the rest of humanity in the Kingdom, the new heavens and the new earth and as we have been told, the dawning of the seventh day shall arrive but the night of the sixth day shall precede it.Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • bpai_99

    This is one of the most thought-provoking pieces I’ve read in a while, one that challenges my current perspective. I admit to being aware for some time only of the hatred, anger and bile being spewed by so-called Christians. Recently I’ve read of “Christians” who support the murder of doctors, defend racism, approve torture of prisoners, advocate treason and disobeying orders of the Commander in Chief. This piece makes me think that not all Christians may approve of such. Of course, the flaming hatred from so-called Christians that this piece is sure to generate will help me overcome that doubt. Ecrasez l’infame.

  • ThomasBaum

    bpai_99 You wrote, “I admit to being aware for some time only of the hatred, anger and bile being spewed by so-called Christians.”I suppose that is why Jesus’s invitation was to “Come follow Me” and NOT ‘to follow My “followers”‘.Knowing “God’s Name” does not make one a Christian, there are some, who are “Christian” in their heart, that either don’t even “believe” in God or don’t believe that Jesus Is Who He Is.Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.