Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Is It Worth It?

What's your first reaction when people identify themselves as Christians?

Do you assume the worst? Do you assume the best? Are you ambivalent, or are you antagonistic? Do you assume Christians are deluded fools, or vicious hypocrites intent on tormenting others?

I've experienced all of these reactions from people, and I'm often at a loss for how to deal with some of them. Many times I want to respond aggressively to those who challenge my faith or spread falsehoods about the values I hold dear. Yet, I also wonder if this is the best way to spread the message I'm trying to spread. Ultimately, I have to ask myself, is it worth it?

My brother said he's been asking himself the same question lately. He's decided he's out of the business of explaining or defending his faith to folks. In his opinion, it's a waste of time, and a source of stress.

He's right. When dealing with folks who have an adversarial relationship with Christianity, it pretty much is a waste of time to try to engage them thoughtfully. Yes, there is a rush that comes from matching minds with someone and attempting to best them, but it's a cheap and meaningless thrill. Often, getting involved in those discussions only leads us towards behaving in a matter that later shames us.

But, these folks don't exist in a vacuum. In fact, typically you find them hanging around folks who may be wavering in their own faith, or totally ignorant of religion in general. Sometimes if feels like everybody is out there recruiting people to their cause. So, your discussions might not just be pointless debates, but the way some folks get information about the pros and cons of Christianity. And, contrary to what you might have heard, there are pros and cons to the faith.

On a certain level, I almost feel an obligation to challenge folks on their comments because I feel like I'm providing a service to others. But, what I've begun to wonder lately is whether that makes sense. After all, when people really want to learn about something, they put forth an effort to learn about it. The most common reason people fall prey to charlatans is because they are too lazy to research or consider issues themselves, or because those charlatans appeal to a bias they already possess. And if people are lazy and biased, are my comments about Christianity really going to help them?

In fact, I've begun to feel this way about a lot of things, not just Christianity. You could apply this thought process to race, or sports, or media coverage. Ultimately, given the way the internet makes information accessible, people who are uninformed probably want to be that way. Some folks like to cling to ridiculous conspiracy theories despite competing evidence because it makes them happy to feel smarter than the masses. They don't want to change, and they might even be hostile to someone who is trying to create change.

This isn't to say I won't blog about my faith, or that I don't see a place for respectful discussion with folks with different beliefs. It's saying I've realized that the mental battles that I've relished so often in the past may need to be discarded as I move into the future. Sure, they help me hone my arguments, but is that really worth it?

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12 comments:

Deaf Indian Muslim Anarchist! said...

I'm more suspicious of white people if they identify themselves as Christian, because I assume the worst-- Sarah Palin loving, right wing, racist, xenophobic, homophobic white Christians who hate Muslims and Hindus and support the Christian war on Afghanistan and Iraq.

but I feel at ease with many Black Christians. from my experience as a Muslim immigrant in the States, a lot of black Christians I've met, are very spiritual and totally real, unlike white Christians, who are usually Christian because of family upbringing and societal pressure.

yeah, some white people will be offended when they read this. So the f--k what. It's how I feel.

LisaMJ said...

Sorr
I have very mixed feelings on this topic. My initial reaction when someone says they are a Christian is often, I'm ashamed to say, a quick twinge of discomfort and slight disapproval. Then I try to watch that person, if they seem to talk the talk AND walk the walk, my esteem for them goes up greatly but if they talk the talk but don't walk the walk or do the opposite then I distrust them immensely and they lose my respect. Maybe I'm too judgmental. I really hate being proselytized but that is probably down to a now deceased very prying Uncle who felt it was his duty to begin to convert me as a small child (like 7). Probably until I was 9 I'd go occasionally with a friend of hers who I called Auntie and who called herself my Godmother (though I wasn't baptized). I also went to a Lutheran school till I was 8 and had to go every week then, though my Mom would just drop me off.

Anyway, my uncle seemed to think that he had to start telling me I should go to church as a young child and you know as a kid you have no control over going to church everyday, weekly, being a C&E Christian or never ever going. At first I took him really seriously and felt like I was really bad or something and then when I got older it made me mad that he was always trying to make me feel guilty for something I couldn't control. He was only once ballsy enough to say something to my Mom and by then I was almost a teen so he'd lost me and she just took his head off but he’d still try sometimes. I’m sure his heart was in the right place but he screwed it up 10 ways to Sunday and had the opposite impact, but he didn’t have the greatest level of social intelligence..

I now feel very ambivalent about religion. I'm pretty agnostic and sometimes I feel like I have more Christian tendencies and other times I feel like I have more atheistic tendencies. Part of me feels like, billions of people have believed in the Judeo-Christian-Islamic God, and other gods so who am I to fly in the face of all that? Other times I really start to think of everything being by chance and chain reactions. I have read parts of the Bible, and took a course in religion on college, I'm addicted to anything they show about the history of religion on the History channels and am seriously thinking about taking a history of religion class but I can't bring myself to completely believe.

I also really distrust organized religions given all of the negative things done in their names and the current crop of Christians (largely white) that DIMF alludes to who I don't trust as far as I can throw a Mack truck and who I seriously suspect would be first in line to crucify Christ if he came back to earth today and said and did the same things he did the first time.

I feel like faith is so deeply personal and it make me antsy when people talk about their faith a lot. But if I meet someone who seems like a really compassionate person and who rarely mentions their faith and then some how it comes up that they are really religious I tend to have a really deep respect for them and trust them a lot b/c they do "Christian" things but they aren't pushing it on me and don't seem to be openly saying "look at the good stuff I do and it's b/c I'm a Christian" it is like they are humble about it. That I really respect. Then again, I've met some people who are really vocal about their religion who really back it up, though I've met more who talk it up all the time and who are just not very nice people whose actions belie the depth or truth of their faith.

Anyway, this is a long rambling response so I will be quiet now. I'll just close by saying that though I try to respect people's faith, I don't always understand it, and it always takes a minute for me to really get some people's religiousness.

LisaMJ said...

I meant to say that my "aunt" was a friend of my Mom's, I "edited" and cut this super long post (if you can believe that) without really proofing it.

Big Man said...

Lisa

I think your response is pretty common and understandable. Thanks for sharing your feelings.

Deacon Blue said...

For the most part, unless someone is making a really egregious statement about Christianity or Christians, I pretty much steer clear of commenting online, except at my own blog, since it would be kind of hard not to discuss (and argue) since so much of it is about spiritual and Christian matters.

I mean yeah, I could just ignore people, but that seems ruder than arguing in my case. ;-)

Redbonegirl97 said...

I think nothing because I believe if you are a true Christian, you don't need to run through the street introducing yourself as the Christian.

Tiffany
http://liferequiresmorechocolate.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

Hmm that's very interessting but honestly i have a hard time seeing it... wonder what others have to say..

Shady_Grady said...

I would have the same reaction as I would to anyone else that told me they were religious. Disinterest.

Big Man said...

Thanks for all the responses.

JohnRyan said...

Coming from the white atheist side of the question, I feel the same as your brother. It's not worth the stress trying to argue over a matter of faith. There are those in the middle, who are wavering, but I say let them find their own way. When they feel like putting out the effort to understand their world, be there to answer questions, but there is no need to persuade. The person that leads themselves to salvation will be that much more sure and strong when they arrive as opposed to those that come to salvation carried on the backs of others. From the racial side, while I try to give the person the benefit of the doubt, I generally have more worry and concern when meeting a white Christian. The likes of Sarah Palin and George Bush have ruined that one for me.

Imhotep said...

Few things frighten me more than meeting someone who identify as a christian, especially if they volunteer the information. In my mind I'm telling myself hold on to your wallet and run to the hills, and no matter what keep an eye on that there christian.

My paranoia stems from my belief that most christian don't recognize a difference between a believer and a practitioner. You can believe all you want but if your deeds are not consistant with your professed beliefs, to me you're not a christian. It's not enough to go to church if you leave your christianity in the church's parking lot on your way home, then to me you’re not a christian. I would have more respect if the self proclaimed christian, threw out a disclaimer, something to the effect that they are way more human than they are Christian, and that their Christianity is more an aspiration than an actuality. That way when they compromise their christianity I'm not shocked or surprised.

IMO, Lots of christians (and other religious folks)are intellectually lazy. They are born into the religion or grew-up in it and never stopped to challenge its underpinnings. They walk around with a big ass bible (or faith book)and quote scripture, simply mirroring the behavior of the important people in their life. To me a christian is a person who if born 10K miles further east would be muslim, they are merely a product of their environment.
Presently I’m agnostic (could be argued that there is some intellectual laziness inherent in that position) Now, I would never tell someone what to believe. Whatever makes you psychologically comfortable, without interfering with my flow, then I’m cool.

Big Man said...

Imhotep

Your observations about Christians, and those of other faiths are on target.

I can't dispute them, and honestly, it's quite sad that many of those who profess a belief don't feel compelled to live by the tenets of that belief. And I've written about intellectual laziness many times.

Faith without works is dead.

Raving Black Lunatic