My God Won’t Leave You Stranded On The Side Of The Road

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Christianity has a bit of a PR problem.

As I type that, I want to laugh (except of course that I’m so sad I want to cry), because it’s just about the biggest understatement I could possibly make.

Christianity has a really really huge, colossal PR problem.   The word – and concept – of Christianity has become such a marred and dirty word that I don’t know that it’s likely to ever recover.  In fact, many God-loving people are abandoning the word altogether, because they’re sick and tired of having to follow the statement of “I’m a Christian,” with a hastily uttered addendum of “But not one of those Christians.”  I actually started calling myself a follower of Christ a few years ago, because I felt like it more accurately described my position.

And really, who wants to be associated with… well, those Christians?

People hear the word Christian these days and they think of people like Phil Robertson.  They think of people freaking out about coffee cups.  They think of people freaking out about bathrooms in Target.  They think of people freaking out about the phrase, “Happy Holidays.”  (Are you sensing a pattern here?)  They think of people petitioning and boycotting and generally spending their collective time and energy on being negative.  They think about people withdrawing their funds for starving babies – literally taking food away from hungry children – because of an administrative policy that wouldn’t discriminate against gay people.  They think about bakers refusing to make wedding cakes.  They think about hatred.  They think about prejudice and bigotry and judgement.

And as of this week…. they think about tow truck drivers proudly taking a stand and refusing to tow the car of a disabled young lady who’d just been in accident… all because she had a Bernie Sanders bumper sticker on her car.

People hate Christians.

And not because, as some would have you believe, they’re doing God’s work à la Matthew 10:22 (“You will be hated by everyone because of Me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.”)  No.  They’re hated because too many of them have been behaving  like horrible, horrible people – and it could stand to be said: not at all Christ-like – and then proudly claiming God as their justification.

And I get it.  I struggle with my love for my fellow Christians too.  I want to cry.  I want to scream.  I want to desperately yell, “We’re not all like this!!”  Yes, 98% of my writings on Christianity have been born of straight-up frustration.  No question.

But I realized something.

In the time it took me to decide to write about this, to find the perfect picture, and to brew the perfect cup of coffee, it dawned on me:

This is not about Christianity at all.  It’s really not.  It’s about select individuals making bad decisions, and using “God” as their cover. I’d like to believe (really, I need to believe) that people are smart enough to see the difference.  That anyone with a working, thinking, rational brain can recognize that a Christian, as in a follower of Christ, is NOT synonymous with a “Christian”, as in “I’m going to leave an innocent girl stranded on the side of the road BECAUSE GOD TOLD ME TO.”

Am I horrified by this behavior?  Yes.  Do I find it absolutely disgusting that anyone would bring God into something so ugly?  Yes.  But my ranting and raving and general defensive word-spewing only serves to bring me down to their level. I’m not the spokeswoman for Christianity at large.  Beyond that though, I can’t control what anyone else does.  I can’t control what anyone else thinks.  If someone wants to behave like a complete and utter jackass and  delude themselves into thinking it’s what God wants them to do, it’s their choice to make. If someone wants to lump all Christians together and label them all as horrible, bigoted, self-seeking sycophants, so be it.

None of that changes my faith.  None of that changes my God.

Have you met my God?

(Ack, I just heard the way that sounds.  Please don’t stop reading.  I do NOT mean that in a door-to-door, “Brother, have you accepted the LORD JESUS as your personal savior??” kind of way.  What I mean is… do you know who it is that I – and others like me – personally follow?  Because let me perfectly clear: It is not a deity who would ever… ever ever ever… ask me to turn my back on someone who needed my help.  In fact, my God is very much the opposite)

My God has more love, and grace, and patience than humans can even comprehend.  Love and grace and patience for ALL people …. Black people and white people. Gay people and straight people.  Christians and atheists and Jewish people.  Sanders supporters and Trump supporters.   Able-bodied and disabled.  People who spend Sunday morning at church.  People who spend Sunday morning at Target.

My God wants me to feed the hungry, to clothe the poor, and to stand up for the oppressed.  It’s kind of the whole reason I’m on earth.  I really believe that.  All this other stuff… it’s just noise and distractions.  And make no mistake;  I miss the mark, a LOT.  (More on that later)  But what I strive for? This is it.

My God wants me to use my powers for good, not evil.  I realize I’m a person and not a superhero, but it’s far more interesting to think of our skills, talents, and gifts as super powers, don’t you think?  I like to think that my super power is writing, but, you know, I’m not God, so….  A few years ago, I thought I heard God to tell me to get trained to teach yoga, so I did.  And I’ve spent many moments since then wondering if that was the right decision.  I had two shoulder surgeries in two years.  I have had chronic physical illness, chronic pain, and the worst anxiety and depression I’ve ever experienced. I’m clearly supposed to be learning something from the experience, and I’m still not sure what it is.   Maybe one day I’ll go back to teaching.  Maybe I’ll shift my focus elsewhere.  But I digress.  We’ve all got powers, and we all get to decide how we use them.  My God wants me to use them for good, whatever they ultimately end up being.

My God wouldn’t ask me not to bake a wedding cake.  If wedding cakes were the way I brought to the world my skills and my heart and my love of Christ, He would ask me to bake two.  He would ask me to make the best damn gay wedding cakes that ever existed, and to do it with love.  He would ask me to throw in some free cookies too.  Not the day-old ones that were sitting out in the case and starting to get dry around the edges, but fresh cookies.  Beautiful cookies, made with the finest ingredients I could get my hands on.

My God wouldn’t ask me to spend my time and my energy and my blood, sweat, and tears on picketing, petitioning, and boycotting. My God tells me that my time is so much better spent doing the work I need to do on myself so I can live out my faith to the best of my ability.  So I can show people what Jesus actually looked like; so I can show people how Jesus actually behaved.

My God wouldn’t ask me to leave anyone stranded on the side of the road.  The entirety of what I feel, and believe, and know to be true about my God and my faith tells me that the moment someone is in need is in fact the very moment that we’re here for. As a follower of Christ, as a person with a heart and a soul, as a human sharing this earth with other people, I am here to help my fellow man.  This is it.  This is what it’s about.  Forget the fact that it was his job as a tow truck driver to tow his car.  Forget that.  He was there to do a job, and he chose not to do it.  And I don’t know… maybe he hates his job.  Maybe he’d had a bad day.  Maybe he had a traumatic Bernie Sanders bumper sticker incident in a past life.  Setting all that aside….  no matter who or what he may believe in, or why he was there, or why the woman needed help in the first place:  as a human being, with values and morals and a sense of right and wrong, there was only one thing to do.  And he didn’t do it.  And then, he blamed God.

Which brings me full-circle to the beginning of the post, and the agony of people behaving badly, and the sadness and frustration of people lambasting Christians as a whole for believing in a God (except they usually words like “imaginary sky ghost”) that would ask them to do something so awful.

Let me say again that my God wouldn’t want me to leave anyone stranded on the side of the road.  Whoever or whatever those people are talking about is not my God.

And I’ll be perfectly clear (and honest).  God knows, I don’t always do the right thing.  I want to;  I do.  But I’m a fallible human. Sometimes I let fear, or pride, or ego, or laziness, or just plain selfishness keep me from doing what I know in my heart is the right thing to do.  I’m a work in progress, like everyone else.  But when I drop the ball, when I do something unkind… IT’S ALL ON ME.  And when you drop the ball and do something unkind, it’s all on you too.  Not God.

My God wants me to love my neighbor.  He doesn’t want me to be an asshole.  Full stop.

I’m tired of having this discussion over and over.  I’m tired of people behaving badly.  I’m tired of the emotional gymnastics I always go through when people rail about how horrible Christians are… when half of me wants to agree with them, and the other half is cut to my core at the hatred, wanting to curl up and cry, “But…  but… we’re not all like that!!!”

Mostly I’m tired of all this ridiculous noise, distracting us from doing what we need to be doing, and what we need to be focused on: Doing the right thing, loving our neighbor, and standing together to say we won’t tolerate bad behavior.  I don’t care who you are or what you believe in.  If you stand for love and kindness, I’ll stand beside you.

I’ll stand beside you, with my God, and work on me.  Work on my patience, work on my compassion, work on my love…. both for the person on the side of the road, and for the person who left her there.  Both for my fellow Christians, and for the people that aim to hurt us. It’s hard sometimes.  But I’m working on it.  I want to work on it.  God wants me to work on it.  Because my God?  He only wants goodness, not bad.  Lightness, not dark.  Love, not hatred.  Anything else is not God.  It’s user error.  It’s humanness.  It’s the dark side of humanity.

But I’ll work on me.  And you (if you choose) can work on you.  In the meantime…..

If you’re going to be a bigot;  If you’re going to do something disgusting and inhumane:  At least own up to the fact that you’re doing so out of your own moral shortcomings, and leave God out of it.


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21 Comments

Filed under faith, God, headlines, rant, religion

21 Responses to My God Won’t Leave You Stranded On The Side Of The Road

  1. Amy Sanders

    This entry made me smile. Thanks, Jennifer!

    On Facebook, just a moment ago, I responded to a post that asked me to think about this quote:

    The more chances you give someone the less respect they’ll start to have for you. They’ll begin to ignore the standards that you’ve set because they’ll know another chance will always be given. They’re not afraid to lose you because they know no matter what you won’t walk away. They get comfortable with depending on your forgiveness. Never let a person get comfortable disrespecting you.

    I responded:

    I’ve thought about it, and I disagree. I believe in unconditional love. I don’t need anyone else’s respect, because I respect myself. How people choose to treat me says far more about them, than it does about me. I am going to love, love, love, and love some more. I don’t care if you commit the worst acts on earth. I’m going to meet you, and what you have done, with love. So, universe, and all who are out there, you have an infinite number of chances with me. I’ll never give up on you. Be comfortable. Disrespect me, if you want. That is not what matters. I’ll never walk away from you or from anyone. As G.K. Chesterton wrote, “We are all in the same boat in a stormy sea, and we owe each other a terrible loyalty.” To whomever is out there, I am on your side.

    And I do feel that way, to the very core of my being. I think of myself as a Christian. I do not go to church to practice my faith. Instead, I love.

    • What a beautiful way to respond, and I agree wholeheartedly. I was so sick with mental illness, and if hadn’t been for a Savior who never gave up on me, I would not be here today, fully healed and with a mission of my own to love those who are lost in the muck. Never give up on people; you may be the only light in their darkness, and that is such a powerful thing when you are lost and stumbling around in it. God bless you ❤️❤️❤️.

    • jen

      That is a beautiful response, Amy. Love this, and love you! I’m so glad that I have your kind and gentle example in my life.

  2. Thank you for this Jennifer. You just made me cry in the best possible way. Love. Huge, heaping perfect coffee mugs full of Love.

    • jen

      Sea, it always makes me happy to see a comment from you. Thank you for the encouragement, and the love. xoxo

  3. Cimbria

    Thank you! You write everything I feel but can never put so eloquently into words!

  4. This is literally the most beautiful post ever written on the current state of “collective Christianity”. It breaks my heart that the numbers seem so few and far between of those of us proclaiming the name of Jesus as our Savior who are willing to stand back when the mob rushes forward to skewer the broken, condemn the downtrodden, and stick haughty noses up at the lost, and instead, saying, “Hey, wait a minute here, this is not right at all!”

    To follow your thoughts, my Christ – the one who reached down into an everlasting midnight of horrible mental illness where I was lost in a pit so deep I was never to see any glimmer of hope again and who raised me up, healed my mind, and set my feet on solid ground, and gave me a testimony so powerful I can’t even tell it without crying big, sloppy, wet tears of joy even ten years later – THAT Christ, was once asked why he was spending all his time with the undesirable folks in town, simply stated, “Is it not the sick who need the physician?” THAT Christ, the one who transforms our very being, who, gives peace that passes all understanding, and who comforts us in our deepest, darkest moments, THAT Christ is the one I want to emulate and strive with all my being to be like. Will I fail? Absolutely. But, I just can’t stand with group meanness for the sake of being “right” (and are they right, even?). To me, Christ’s example on earth was the full and complete opposite of that.

    You are so gifted with your words, and it is a ministry to my very heart to watch you continue to stand up for those who are being judged and unfairly treated. The poor, the sick, the broken…those are who need us and our wonderful, loving, life-changing God the most of all. We are called to be His representatives, and some of us are doing so very poorly in showing the lost who He really is. Our redeemer!

    It’s like you just reached into my mind and brought out all the thoughts out and succinctly laid them all on the table in perfect order. Bravo, my friend in Christ. We are all sinners, and those of us who have been blessed beyond measure to have accepted and received the gift of salvation should be so transformed by that experience that we should continually strive to do all we can to show His light, and love, and grace to everyone we come across.

    As always, amazing words of wisdom…well done.

  5. Areej

    Hey Jen!

    I’ve been following your blog for a while now and I enjoy reading your posts, but this one, I absolutely LOVE! As a Muslim, I can totally relate to this idea of people hating the entire group because of the actions of a couple of idiots. Seriously, all you have to do is replace the word Christian with Muslim in this article and, there you have the problem I and others have been facing post 9/11.

    Thanks for this article! Peace out ☮

    • jen

      Thank you for the comment. And you are so right… I don’t think there is any group that is immune to this. Society does so love to label and categorize and unfairly judge! Muslims in particular have received far more than their fair share of this (not that any amount is *fair*!)

      Much love to you.

  6. Elizabeth

    Thanks, Jen, for your writing. Like Cimbria, I also feel like you are able to explain what I am thinking and feeling much better than my words could. Thank you.

  7. claudia macgruer

    so so well said. i was brought up an atheist. then my mother gave me a tall bible stories book at about age 7 or 8. when i saw this man doing healing and his way with people i said: that’s it. that is what i want to do…and so i did. i do not understand the people in this world who actually believe that their god would tell them not to be kind or generous or turn their backs on someone for ANY reason. it just isn’t how the really good role models for humanity roll!!!
    so good article and keep o keeping on…
    walk in beauty,
    claudia

    • jen

      Thanks, Claudia. What I often wonder is if these people *actually* believe that God is telling them to do this (and, if so, why would you follow someone who you believe is telling you to do unkind things?) or if there is just something sort of skewed about their own sense of right and wrong, and they can’t tell the difference.

  8. Thanks for writing this. I’m weary of all of this as well.

    I grew up outside the church. I wish I could believe that people understand the distinction your making between “Christian” with quotes and Christian without them. But I see many who don’t. It’s not because they “aren’t smart enough.” or “rational thinking enough.” It’s because literally ALL they know of “Christianity” is people who espouse bigotry, cause pain, and equate hateful acts with the love of God and adherence to his commands.

    That’s the saddest part,to me, that people who may never have experienced love elsewhere are bludgeoned by bigotry when they go looking for God (or even sometimes before they go looking.)

    • jen

      Yes, I agree. That is the saddest part to me as well. No one ever brought someone to God bludgeoning them. But they sure do turn a lot of people *away* from God. 🙁

  9. Alec

    Hi, I’m an atheist and I do hate the same “christians” described here, so much so that I’ve stopped capitalizing the word. I can tell several more stories of people being hateful in the name of their god, but the truck driver who left the woman stranded is a good example of this kind of behavior, so I’ll just assume anyone who reads this knows what I mean.

    To all the people who are agreeing with the message being expressed here, I have to ask: Why do you need to include your god in this message? Can’t you be a good person without your god?

    I hope that anyone reading this will be relieved to know that I do not group all christians with the vocal minority. I view the majority of christians as decent people who have made the mistake of believing a story that has been repeated so many times, very few people questioned it for almost 2000 years. Now comes the part that may stop people from reading. Please continue on after this to understand what I mean by this next sentence. You have been indoctrinated. From early childhood you have been told to associate the christian religion with an abstract concept of what is “good”. This is one of the reasons people become atheists. Upon carefully studying the christian bible, it becomes clear that there are some very bad morals in the text. Indeed, I can argue that the people being mean and hateful are the ones following the bible, and therefore being better “christians”, or “followers of christ”, or whatever term you wish to use.

    I would suggest to people who read this and agree that “those christians” have some very bad morals that you ask yourselves if you are really getting your morals from your religion or from what you have been taught by your fellow human beings. I believe that the human race is going through a learning process and slowly improving our morals. I view religion and threats like “hell” to be an outdated way to get people to behave in a civilized manner. I don’t think the human race needs such threats any more. I know I am getting my moral values from understanding how our society operates. I think most of the human race is doing the same thing. Again, I think everybody who reads this should ask themselves “Why am I being a good person? Do I need my religion to be a good person?” If not, why are you following your religion? Is a story about someone being crucified 2000 years ago anything more than a collection of traditions? I hope I have given you something to think about.

    Thank you,
    -Alec

    • jen

      Alec, of course I could be a good and moral person without God. I don’t *need* God in the sense that I would still know right and wrong without Him. There are kind and loving and moral people from ALL beliefs and all walks of life (and, conversely, there are hateful people from all beliefs and all walks of life as well) I do not at all make my decisions based on the threat of hell. In fact, I don’t believe in the literal hell that I know most people assume all Christians believe in. As for being indoctrinated from early childhood on: That is a really big generalization to make. Plenty of people come to Christianity as adults. Plenty grow up in the church and then later leave, or change religions, or come to a different understanding. What I was taught as a child in the church I grew up in (which I no longer attend) is very, very different than what I now believe to be true as an adult. I CHOOSE to follow God as an adult – I’m not such a fan of the word “religion” – just like you choose not to. You won’t change my mind any more than I will change yours. My question for you would be, why do you care? What I mean by that is that you obviously spent a great deal of time typing all of this out, and trying to get us to see the error of our ways. But my belief in God is not hurting you. And I hope you could see from my blog post that it’s not hurting anyone else either. It’s a positive thing in my life, and it helps me bring a positive thing out into the world as well. How can that be wrong? I do my best to respect all different beliefs, not try to tear them down. There are plenty of religions and beliefs out there there I don’t agree with, and/or don’t understand, but it’s really not my job to agree or understand. If they are happy, if they are doing what feels true and right and what helps them navigate the world with more love.. then I’m happy too.

  10. Alec

    Hi Jen,
    Thank you for responding. I’ll answer what I consider to be your big question first. I care because I care about the whole human race above my own happiness. After saying that, this going to come out sounding pretty arrogant no matter what I say, but please bear with me, I am quite serious about this.

    At the end of your post you talked about people believing what they want to believe and being happy that way. I believe we should talk to each about our various beliefs and try to work out which ones are correct. This will allow future generations to live knowing how our world really works, as opposed to having to guess. If, in the course of our discussions, some minor offense is given, I think we should just suck it up and deal. We owe it to future generations to save them the hassles that your OP is about.

    Further, there are people like Judge Roy Moore in Alabama who use their position of power within the government to impose their biblical morals on the general population. People like Moore rely on the silence of christians like yourself and hope to count you as a supporter of his morals because you nominally belong to the same religion.

    By the way, thank you for making your OP. I wish more people would speak out against the fundamentalists.

    Finally, regarding my generalization about indoctrination, I was not talking about church, I was talking about “Silent Night” and countless tv specials that are played every December. I consider myself to be a victim of this form of indoctrination, as I occasionally think of the christian in a given story as the “good guy” on the basis of his religion alone, and I have hardly ever been to church. It was impossible to avoid in our pop culture until quite recently. I hope you can understand why I would make that generalization. We have just been raised to associate christianity with “goodness”.

    Thank you for responding and taking the time to think about what I said.
    -Alec

    • jen

      What I’m basically hearing you say is that the world, and mankind, and future generations would be better off if we (meaning people like me) would just stop being so selfish and realize and accept the truth (meaning Atheism).

      I understand what you’re saying. I respect your position. And you don’t know me, so you’re obviously free to form whatever judgments that you’d like. If it makes you feel good to frame it so that you care about the human race, and I care only about myself, so be it. Like I said, you don’t know me. No offense taken.

      I said what I did because faith is personal. If it were something that I could just be talked out of, it would have happened a long time ago. You’re not the first atheist to tell me how wrong I am for believing in God. (You were more polite about it than a lot of them though, so thanks for that.) I am an extremely open-minded person, and my mind can be changed about a lot of things. My faith doesn’t happen to be one of them.