The following is a guest post from Joshua Gardner, a musician in the “rogue folk band” Girls from Ipanema and a Christian who was brave enough to write on my blog.
I had something in mind to write here, but the more I thought about it, the more difficult it became to say with any semblance of clarity of thought. So bear with me if I ramble or express myself poorly.
A trend, although depressingly small (to me anyway), among the more socially conscience religious types as of late is to apologize for the terrible things done in the name of religion, specifically Christianity. And things certainly do need apologizing for. We Christians must apologize for burning Korans. We must apologize for the misogyny perpetrated in the name of Jesus. We must apologize for marginalizing the gay community and the individuals within it. We must apologize for carrying banners of war disguised as democracy to developing nations. We must apologize for many, many horrible things that we, as a group, have done.
I’m just one person and can’t really apologize on behalf of others. But as far as it concerns me, I do apologize for these things.
But, then what?
Those of you who consider yourself atheists are, in my experience, pretty familiar with the things Jesus said, and are even more familiar with the way followers of Jesus, at best disregard and at worst, contradict and insult those teachings. And it probably makes you angry. And rightly so. Imagine how much more angry it would make you if you were committed to following Jesus’ teachings of love and forgiveness when you saw others spreading hate in Jesus’ name. So, it makes me angry, too. It also makes me incredibly sad.
And that’s why I felt I needed to say this. We Christians, every day, do so many things we really need to stop doing and apologize for.
We, as a church, routinely tell people how they must think and feel, ignoring how they do feel. We distort normal, healthy views of sexuality and create confused, repressed young people. We treat women as separate and unequal to men. We declare that people choose who they are attracted to, that people choose to become part of a minority that is routinely mistreated, sometimes violently so, because of who they are attracted to.
We say and do a lot of things that hurt a lot of people, which is ironic, considering the fact that our holy book commands us to treat others the way we would like to be treated; it commands us to “love our neighbors as ourselves,” and to “love our enemies and do good to those who hate us,” and to “do violence unto no man,” and to “live at peace with all people.”
So, if you’ve been mistreated because of your religion, race, sexuality, or gender, in the name of Jesus, as much as I am able, I would really like to apologize.
And I mean that.
But I’m unclear on where I’m going with this because my apology does nothing to end the suffering committed in the name of Jesus.
So what’s next?
I don’t really know. Which is why, as I said, the more I think about what to say, the less I know what to say.
I wish the church, and the people within it, were more interested in reconciliation instead of retaliation. I wish the church were more aware of the fact that the same Jesus who said “don’t be greedy” never once said “don’t be gay.”
I don’t pretend to be an expert at this whole “love everyone” thing, but I think if we, as Christians, tried a little harder to do it then we all, as people, would be a lot happier.
Over the years, people you know like Leo Tolstoy and Martin Luther King Jr., and people you might not know, like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, have said and written similar warnings that if the church doesn’t get its act together and take this whole “love everyone” thing seriously, that it would become an obsolete social club.
Maybe that’s happened already.
A lot of you probably see it that way.
Sometimes I do, too.
So what’s the point?
I don’t know.
But I do know that I’m interested in righting wrongs. I’m interested in loving people. I’m interested in helping the needy, marginalized, and forgotten in our society. I’m interested in respecting the beliefs, traditions, and lifestyles of others. I’m interested in reconciliation.
I hope you’ll take this apology as a step, however small, in that direction.