Does Bad Christian Behavior Come From Trying to Do Right?
I received an interesting response to a post about what I call bad Christian behavior: a church’s anti-LGBTQ sign that may have gotten them evicted.
We’ve seen plenty of examples of what some people call bad Christian behavior.
It’s the church group who boycotts the funerals of servicemembers over topics that have nothing whatsoever to do with the servicemember who has been killed. It’s the pastor who makes the little snide comments and jokes about people who aren’t as “perfect” as he thinks he is, even when the Bible makes it reasonably clear that no mere mortal comes close to being perfect. It’s the congregations who are quick to allow politics to be preached in their sanctuaries as if who’s in the White House is somehow more important than learning more about Jesus Christ.
We’ve all seen it. But why do we see it?
The post I wrote about the church being evicted made one thing clear: we don’t know for sure whether the church was kicked out of the building it rented because of an anti-LGBTQ message it put on its sign. The eviction appears to have happened after the message, which called “LGBTQ” a “hate crime against God.” But no one has officially, at least not at the time of this writing, connected the two events.
But I said, in part, this:
I have to assume that in their minds, they were trying to communicate what they thought was an important message. I have to hope that they thought they were doing the right thing.
It’s a shame that they didn’t seem able to take into account the likely reaction from the community that would actually have to read the sign.
To my post, a longtime reader of mine, Aislínge, said this:
Don’t say that, Patrick, that you hope they thought they were doing the right thing! If they think like that, they can never move forward, learn from their mistakes, grow as people or individuals!
I’m sorry – I know what you meant by that, but it just struck me the wrong way. I might have said, “I hope they learn from this.” Although when people hate, it seems, well…not impossible, but incredibly difficult to change. Hate comes in too many insidious forms. I find that it usually seems that all religions are unable, as a whole, to learn to love or at the very least to be tolerant. I feel sorry for this church, too, but until they can put aside that hate, they hopefully won’t regroup and reopen elsewhere, having learned *only* not to proclaim their…beliefs…on a wall. Instead, that unreasonable hate may fester more.
She makes an excellent point and I don’t disagree. I, too, hope the church has learned from this, but there’s probably a good chance that they haven’t. There’s probably a good chance that they’re more likely to claim “religious persecution.”
My point about hoping they thought they were doing “the right thing” is the only way I can justify a church behaving in such a mean-spirited way. Somehow, in their minds, I would like to be able to believe they think they’re trying to uphold God’s word — or at least their interpretation of it — and just fail to see how hurtful they are.
It’s like the angry mob who brought the woman caught in the act of adultery to Jesus Christ to essentially verify that he felt she should be stoned for her sin.
That angry mob surely thought it was doing “the right thing.” After all, the law of the day was quite clear. They were following the rules. As for thinking about the woman herself and her wellbeing, even showing a crumb of concern for her, they clearly failed completely to do that.
Christ turned the tables on them, shaming them for their eagerness to see the deed done and their corresponding lack of compassion toward the sinner.
A while back, I asked a prominent progressive Christian pastor who’s active on social media about churches that do things like this: How do they possibly, in good conscience, do such things?
His answer was simple: you have to assume that in their minds, they think they’re doing the right thing. Yes, to us, they’re horribly misguided, hard-hearted, unloving and lacking all compassion. But if we’re able to stop for a moment in our own outrage — which is a very, very difficult thing to do — and remind ourselves that in their own bizarre, twisted mindset, they’re somehow thinking they’re standing up for God, maybe it becomes a bit easier for us to show them compassion.
We may not want to, but if we’re hoping for grace for ourselves, we have to be willing to extend it to others.
I agree with Aislínge when she says she feels sorry for this church. Maybe that ability on our part to feel some sort of sympathy for them means we’re further along the journey of spiritual maturity; they certainly don’t seem to find any sympathy for the targets of their remarks.
Maybe that’s a good sign for us. And maybe, as long as there are more people like us than people like them, that’s a good sign for our society.