And They’ll Know We Are Christians by Our Arrogance, Judgment, and Intolerance


“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.

(Matthew 22:36-40)


I grew up in a small, conservative church in New England.  It’s been many years since I’ve gone to that particular denomination with any regularity, but the hymns we sang every Sunday are forever burned into my consciousness.  I remember one song, the touchy-feely emotional type that I outwardly avoided – but secretly loved – that had a chorus that went like this:

And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love.  Yes, they’ll know we our Christians by our love…

I’ve been thinking about that lyric a lot the past couple of days, partly because once something gets stuck in your head it’s there until it’s replaced by something else… but mostly because my social media newsfeeds have been inundated with opinions on this asinine new bill being considered in Arizona; a bill that makes it expressly legal for a business to discriminate against someone – without the fear of a lawsuit – if you feel that not doing so would threaten your religious freedom in some way.

I’m incapable of mincing words at this point, so forgive my bluntness when I say:

What the hell are we doing?

Everyone who’s defending this bill has made essentially the same argument. We have to protect our religious rights! We have to defend what’s right and pure! We have to stand by our biblical principles!

And you know what? I agree. Religious rights are important, and I’m thankful that we have them. I can go to church whenever I want. I can read a Bible while I’m riding on the light rail. I can wear a cross around my neck, and a Jesus fish on my car. I can talk about, or write about, my faith wherever I go. I can accept and respect other people’s religions, and I can appreciate and embrace our differences.

If I stand for anything, it’s for what’s right and pure.

And as for biblical principles – real biblical principles of goodness, kindness, compassion and love – you will not find a bigger supporter. I love the Bible. I love what it’s taught me, and continues to teach me. I love what it’s revealed to me over the past 40 years. I love its story. I love its message of a God who so “loved the world that He gave his only begotten son.” But here’s what I’m wondering…

I’m wondering what part of, “Love your neighbor” is getting confused as, “Love your neighbor unless you disagree with his lifestyle. Love your neighbor unless he’s a liberal. Love your neighbor unless he’s gay.” And before you can say it, I’m not talking about, “Love the sinner, hate the sin” either. I’m talking about JUST LOVING, period, and leaving everything else up to the individual and to God.

I think of Jesus in the Bible and I think of the person “in the trenches.” I think of the guy who was hanging out with the people that no one else would give the time of day. I think of the soul who was spending timing with the tax collectors, breaking bread with the lepers, and conversing with the prostitutes. I think of someone who was healing the sick, helping the poor, and raising the dead.

I do not think of a person who would refuse to serve someone, based on creed or religion or skin color or sexuality. I do not think of a person who would walk away from someone – from anyone – when He had an opportunity to be kind to them, to love them, to minister to them.

I think of Jesus in the Bible, and I wonder how we’ve strayed so far. So far that we’ve forgotten what we were supposed to be doing in the first place. So far that when I think of people who actually emulate Jesus that His followers are the very last people who come to mind.

When did being a Christian become synonymous with using the Bible to brow-beat everyone? When did being a Christian become synonymous with arrogant grandstanding, a tit-for-tat war of words and actions to prove that you’re more Godly, more virtuous than everyone around you? When did being a Christian become about defending conservative reality TV stars, no matter how inflammatory and vulgar their message?

When did being a Christian become about standing behind a ridiculous, intolerant bill that celebrates turning people away, playing judge and jury on others’ lives, and isolating and separating yourself from the very people (ie: ALL people) that you’re asked – commanded really – to love.

Somewhere along the way, this is exactly what happened.

I see the comments from my non-Christian friends… comments about how judgmental Christians are. How arrogant. How intolerant. How cruel. I see the comments and I cringe. Cringe because the comments are hurtful, and cringe because I know they’re right. I’m no stranger to cruel comments on my blog, and the worst – by far – are from my fellow Christians. Often under the guise of “saving” me of course, but cruel nonetheless. And each time… EVERY time… I can’t help but wonder, if I, a fellow believer, am so disappointed and disillusioned with God’s people and their actions, how on earth can they be reaching and encouraging others?

Spoiler: They can’t. They’re not.

We’re missing the boat here, in a big big way.

Christians, we can do better than this. We have to do better than this. I want that old hymn to be true. I so badly want it to be true. Right now, I just don’t think it is. And bills like Senate bill 1062? They’re a giant step in the wrong direction.

I write this to you as a very flawed, imperfect follower of Christ. Lord knows I have my own work to do in the department of loving others. But it seems to me if we can all – all of us – do a little less quoting of cherry picked scriptures like Leviticus 18:22, and a little more living of scriptures like Matthew 7:3, the world would be a much better place.

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Filed under bible, faith, God, kindness, love, rant, spirituality

26 Responses to And They’ll Know We Are Christians by Our Arrogance, Judgment, and Intolerance

  1. Kathleen

    I grew up singing and loving that same song. I left the Catholic Church because the rules were less about loving and caring for people, and more about controlling behaviour.

    Keep living the Christian faith of love Jennifer, you’re a better example and thus a better guide than those rule makers. Examples inspire others to do better, just like Jesus did.

  2. Cate

    Good one Jen. Love it. You are spot on, as usual. Don’t worry about the haters that will
    Pop up down here in your comments. You are speaking a prophetic truth- and you remember what the people did to their prophets don’t you!? 🙂 lots of love from this Pastor’s wife
    from Australia. X

  3. Amy Bunner

    You go girl!! Spot on!

  4. Krista

    You could not have said this better! As someone who considers themselves a christian, but does not attend church, this is exactly why. I want my kids to grow up knowing a God who loves and expects us to love. Not to judge, backstab, and show up in church and think that that makes it ok to be a jerk the rest of the week. The real message of the bible has gotten distorted and twisted… you straightened it out!

  5. amy

    So good and so true.

  6. Judi Fox

    Well said!!!!

  7. Eva Schmidt Algermissen

    Well, you could ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’ OR ‘love the sinner, hate YOUR OWN SIN.’ We are all sinners and we really need to work on/worry about our own selves instead of wasting time will others’ sins.

  8. megan hanson

    Beautifully said, couldn’t agree more.

  9. Sharon Gordon

    Jen, your last paragraph…: I write this to you as a very flawed, imperfect…”Follower of Christ” …that is what we need to focus on being Followers of Jesus..Love as He did,walk as He did Live as He compassionate,caring,understanding and not judging as He did <3 Thank you for your very loving caring words.

    Sharon G

  10. just curious

    I completely agree with you. I have had a question that in my mind for many months following your blog (which I love) but do you believe that gay people living in gay relationships will be saved. Regardless of how you feel they should be treated, because I agree with you on that, do you believe that God will look over their choices and give them salvation.

    • My very short answer to a question that deserves a much longer response: Yes, I absolutely believe they’ll be saved! I’m actually working on a whole page for my site on the issue of Christians and homosexuality, because I think it’s important, and is a cause that is very dear to me.

      • just curious

        I would really love to read it. I personally feel that it between the person and god, not me, but I do believe the bible in it’s entirety so unless the person is working to correct their sin, I disagree. I struggled with being homosexual for many years. I have a very different view I am sure, but I would love to know your view on the issue. I wish I could read it now because I am impatient lol.

        • Hmm, I believe the Bible in its entirety too. 🙂 So we’re likely just looking at a difference of interpretation. Have you ever read anything by Justin Lee of the Gay Christian Network? Or John Shore? They’d give you an idea of where I’m coming from (if you want to have something to read while you’re waiting. ;))

          • just curious

            I have not. I really appreciate your responses by the way. I’ll look into them, but I already enjoy your opinions on many topics, waiting for your page is probably what I’ll prefer.

        • Megan Gardner

          The way that many Christians treat homosexuality breaks my heart. How can it ever be wrong to love? Love expressed physically between consenting adults is still love. It doesn’t hurt anyone. But there have been many, many people that have been harmed by the belief that it is not okay to be homosexual. I can’t imagine believing some fundamental part of myself made me deserving of eternal torment! It’s no surprise that people who believe that about themselves become depressed or even suicidal – you can’t excise part of yourself and trying to do so can’t be emotionally healthy. Loving God and your neighbors is great, but please remember to love yourself, too. I know that can be the hardest one, but you deserve it. Everyone does.

    • I responded to this, but it seems to have gotten lost in space somewhere. My short answer is YES, I absolutely believe they’ll be saved, just like anyone else.

  11. Lisa from Iroquois

    Magnificently put.

  12. Karen

    That was so well put. I’m an atheist – found this posted by a friend because I pick my friends because they are good, kind, wonderful people of every, all or no faith – but this is something I have been struggling with myself for a while. I try to be open minded and nonjudgmental, and certainly not prejudice, but lately I hear “Christian” and think narrow minded, judgmental, homophobic, misogynistic. It’s an instant reaction I regret and think of all the wonderful people I know who don’t fit those descriptions, but that truly has become my first instinct. And your argument is what i always think of (I am certainly not up my the fine details of this or any religion) but from what I remember, Jesus fed the poor, healed the sick, hung out with – well -everybody, told everyone to be kind, not judge and just love. How did it get to this point? Because unfortunately this bill in Arizona is not a solitary incident.

  13. Jamie

    I love your bravery. Thanks for putting your thoughts out there, even with the fear of what other Christians will say! This Christian says AMEN!

  14. Megan Gardner

    Thank you. I read your blog because you remind me that religions can still do some good in the world. I am marrying an atheist blogger in a few days, and since I’ve known him I’ve become much more aware of the terrible things people do to each other in the name of God. I’ve heard people say that if you don’t agree with them, you hate Christianity/Christians/God. I’ve always thought it was a ridiculous thing to say, but the more terrible things I see the more I can understand why someone could legitimately hate “Christians” and their particular brand of Christianity. I’m so glad there are people like you, breathing love into every word you write and bringing Christianity back to something worth respect and appreciation.

  15. Stardog

    …and we’ll guard each man’s dignity and save each man’s pride.

    From the song you were talking about, if it’s the same song I was thinking of. If only more people would remember that.

  16. Rosettes

    The sad thing is that the vocal gay advocates have turned this into a matter of discriminating against a group of people out of spite–that businesses owned by religious people will shun them/not serve them all the time, everywhere, for no defensible reason because they simply can’t tolerate associating with people they don’t like. Have you read the proposed changes to the bill?

    It is simply saying that what individuals do out of religious practice or conscience, they can do as business owners. So if an individual is uncomfortable attending a wedding of two same sex individuals & watching them caress & kiss is awkward—They don’t have to go. That same religious person who bakes cakes, makes flower arrangements, takes photo or video—they cannot be sued for declining to do these services for money at a same sex ceremony like they don’t have to for free. (This happened in NM–photographer was sued for not being willing to photograph two women getting married. Why would you force someone to do something artistic when they don’t see the beauty in it? Why would you profit from simply having to shop around and get another vendor? Revenge? To put them out of business because you don’t like that they believe what you do (that should be a private thing) is not the way humans were designed to express sexuality?) It is not very tolerant of same sex individuals to not “Live and let live”. To force businesses to do things that endorse gay marriage when half the country doesn’t see it as legitimate social institution.

    Another motive in AZ for this law is Hobby Lobby–owned by Catholics who don’t believe using birth control is an ethical way to disrupt a pregnancy. They are personally convicted that abortion is immoral. “The Greens do not object to providing most birth control pills to their employees, but do not want to provide intrauterine devices (IUDs) and the so-called morning after pill. Neither contraceptive causes abortion, but they may prevent fertilized eggs from implanting in the uterus, which the Greens consider tantamount to abortion.”

    There is a difference between treating a person or group of persons in a way that is unloving and just wanting to have integrity as you conduct business to operate on personal standards of right & wrong. Sometimes—taking a stand, acting on a belief of what is right or wrong–shows love by providing an example, a choice of what someone could do that might be healthier for individuals or society rather than living by a standard “to each his own”–that there are no moral absolutes, especially in the area of sex/reproduction/rearing children. It is not loving to demand a person violate personal convictions just to make yourself feel accepted or enabled to do as you please without any difference of opinion. If it is truly important to you to not have children–you don’t have to work for Hobby Lobby or you have some limited free birth control optoins or you can pay for your own birth control. You can give a child up for adoption. You can pay for your own abortion. If you really want to have someone photograph your same sex commitment ceremony–you can hire someone who is supportive of your lifestyle, you can hire a videographer & select stills from the filming, or you can have a friend take photos. Everyone in all situations has options & the creativity to solve our personal problems without forcing others to violate their standards and do something for our benefit to their detriment. Respecting free will of all parties is loving.

    • What if you can’t find anybody supportive of your lifestyle? Why should a gay couple have to search 10 times as long and hard to find a photographer for their wedding? Don’t they have better things to do? Your comment absolutely reeks of privilege.

      • I agree, Kyle. It’s easy to say, “What’s the big deal? Just go somewhere else if you’re turned away.” But it’s an entirely different proposition if you’re the one being discriminated against.

    • Ron Valiquette

      I totally agree. But you are making way too much common sense for the agenda that wants your blood for not bowing down to their immoralities. We are ALL sinners, there is not one perfect human who ever walked the Earth but Jesus Christ. We have to accept each other… including homosexuals accepting the fact there are some of us with Christian beliefs that just cannot perform certain services that we believe PROMOTES what they do. We must accept, respect and love each other. But we cannot be forced into accepting ones actions if they are against our moral and Christian beliefs. God help us all.