So, this morning the MYF at my church had a car wash fund-raiser. If you spent any time at all in a church youth group, you’ve raised money this way. We did pretty well. Not bikini car wash good (think what a ruckus that would cause), but okay. About $400 and a sermon. Yeah, a sermon and not from our pastor. One of our customers, after we finished washing his truck and tobacco harvester (hey, we’re in North Carolina), asked us to gather all the kids together because he’d like to speak to them. I figured he wanted to thank them and say something about how nice it was to see young folks involved in church. Instead, he says he wants to share some words from the book of Romans and starts in on this rip about how everyone sins and the wages of sin is death and, if you don’t want to burn in hell, you need to accept Jesus as your personal savior and that Hell is a real place and blah, blah, frickin’ blah (frickin’ is not the word I want to use here). I just sat there thinking “Dude, do you even realize where you’re at? This is a church youth group, doing a fund-raiser in the church parking lot and this is what you’re telling them? Do you realize that it’s more than possible that we’ve been over that with them?” Okay, maybe we haven’t done it in that fundamentalist scare-the-crap-out-of-you way that you just spouted, but still.” Followed up shortly after by “What f–king arrogance”. I thought this, I didn’t say it, even though every fiber of my being was screaming it in my head. How did the other two adults with me react? With what I considered remarkable grace. They thanked him for his words, took his money (the important part), and saw him on his way. Like I said, remarkable grace.
I suppose you’re wondering at the virulence of my reaction. I’ve listened to fundamentalists talk about Christianity and God’s love in ways that I believe pervert those ideals. I’m so sick of people trying to scare others into coming to God with tales of Hell, or how if you don’t subscribe to their own personal brand of belief you’re destined for the Lake of Fire that I want to puke. There’s never a mention of grace or love in their words and I’m convinced they more drive people away from God than they ever bring closer. I don’t care how pure their motives are, their means suck. Jesus’ message was always one of love and inclusion and these nimrods twist it to promote a religion that’s at least as exclusionary as what the Pharisees espoused in the 1st century. If you want a relationship with God, if it’s not on their very narrow terms, it doesn’t count. I once heard a good Southern Baptist say that the Baptist’s are the only ones who are doing Christianity right and the rest of us are probably going to Hell. They’re excellent at pointing out the sins of others while ignoring their own. And, God forbid you’re gay. That’s an immediate, don’t pass go, don’t collect $200, go straight to Hell sin. Unless, of course, you repent of your sin and never do it again. Or even, better, go to one of those gay rehab camps, renounce your sexuality and cram yourself into a mold that will make them comfortable. Yet, these same people commit daily sins at least as bad as the ones they’re so against. It’s hypocrisy, plain and simple. That, along with the remarkable arrogance that only they possess knowledge of the true way to Christ, is why I get so riled up at these well-meaning, misguided souls. And, I’m just as bad as I say they are. If not worse.
I get pissed at their arrogance and hypocrisy and react with an arrogance and hypocrisy of my own that equals if not exceeds theirs. When I wrote the preceeding paragraph, I didn’t censor myself, except for language that I felt might detract from the message. What you read there are my true, unvarnished feelings on the subject. I did it to make a point. As I was writing it, I didn’t have any idea how well that point would be made, though. In that one paragraph, I’m intolerant, rude, hypocritical and arrogant. The very things that rake others over the coals for all the time. I’ve tried to justify it, change it and deal with it. All to no avail; it’s like the default settings in your computer: screw up bad enough and, when I reboot, that’s the way I think. Lucky for me, I get another chance every time I mess up. Now, if I can just start giving others the same chances.