Sun | Apr 22, 2018

Why are so many Christians not nice people?

Published:Monday | April 20, 2015 | 12:10 AMDr Michael Abrahams

First, the good news. There are many wonderful Christians out there. People who are loving, kind, caring and forgiving. A Baptist minister, an Anglican priest, and a Catholic monsignor are among my friends, and are beautiful human beings.

As a matter of fact, some of the nicest people that I have ever met are Christians, including the above-mentioned, my mother-in-law, the pharmacist at the medical centre where I work, my mechanic, and several colleagues.

It makes a lot of sense. I grew up attending Sunday school, church and youth fellowship, and during this time I was made to understand that Jesus Christ was a really awesome dude. He not only performed cool tricks that made David Copperfield look like a three-card man, but his life exemplified love, empathy, compassion, forgiveness, kindness and humility. The Christians mentioned above not only talk the talk, but walk the walk, trodding in his footsteps as best as they can.

What perplexes me, however, is my observation that many Christians appear to deviate from the path of following Jesus Christ and are not nice at all. Some are actually downright awful. Yes, nobody is perfect, and all of us fall short of the glory of God, but when people make vows to follow a man who is said to have exuded such powerful and magnificent love, why do so many treat their fellow human beings poorly and with scant respect?

I began to notice this phenomenon as a child. The most 'tiefin' helpers were the ones who professed to be Christians. I remember one who claimed to be a bona fide Seventh-day Adventist, and was caught leaving our house one day with pork, stolen from our fridge, in a 'long bag'.

And as I got older, I observed many more instances. I know a lady who loves Jesus more than He loves little children. She fits the definition of a 'Jesus freak'. The last time I visited her house, I was greeted by a crucifix on the wall facing the front door, as well as a plethora of religious imagery. To top it all off, she had an open Bible or prayer book in every room of the house with, for some reason, two in the bathroom. Maybe it was because she thought that the bathroom needed more 'cleansing'. Anyway, one day, her daughter, a 'worldlian', suggested that she visit a home for mentally challenged children. She rejected the suggestion, being concerned that the children would drool on her clothes. I think that she may have taken Jesus' call to "suffer the little children" literally.

And then there is the workplace. Stories abound of devout Christians at the office, who are in church every Sunday or Sabbath, in addition to Bible study, prayer meetings, choir practice and other activities during the week, but who carry news to their superiors, talk down to their subordinates, and sabotage their peers, doing so while considering themselves to be 'blessed and highly favoured'.

I have encountered my fair share of disgusting Christians in my professional life. As a matter of fact, the people who have hurt me the most during my medical career are three very devout Christians: a colleague, a colleague's spouse, and a patient. One of them even preaches. All engaged in dishonest and, in some cases, unethical behaviour that wounded me deeply, and to date they have shown no remorse.

The vitriol of some of these Christians becomes even more apparent on my Facebook page. Challenging their beliefs or posting articles on LGBT issues is guaranteed to bring them out from under the rocks where they reside. The condescending, arrogant, self-righteous and judgemental attitudes rear their ugly heads, and the traffic in my inbox increases, with messages from friends who are offended by their unkind comments, especially the ones used to refer to people who are not straight in their sexual orientation.

Do unkind words come from atheists and agnostics, too? Sure, they do. But these people never made a vow to  follow a 'Prince of Peace' who taught us to turn the other cheek. Do Christians have a right to stand up for what they believe in? Definitely. But insulting, debasing and denigrating others is not necessary while bringing their points across. Indeed, it is attitudes such as these that induce depression and suicidal ideation in some of the recipients of these attacks, persons who 'fall short' and are harshly criticised and vilified.

Hypocrisy is another issue. Some people have more skeletons in their closets than Dovecot, but take pleasure in pointing out the flaws in others, forgetting to first cast the beam out of their own eyes. I know a woman who is a diehard, hardcore Pentecostal and has a child out of wedlock, among other things. One day, on my Facebook page, she commented on a photograph of a woman holding a placard at a pro-choice rally. She remarked, in all caps, that "ABORTION IS MURDER!", and also that the woman in the pic must be a "walking cemetery". I responded by asking her if she could put her hand on the Bible and honestly say that she was not a walking cemetery herself. She did not respond, and has not commented on my page since.

There is also a sense of entitlement and a level of coldness that I have observed among many Christians. I recall speaking to one about the 70-odd civilians slaughtered during the Tivoli incursion in 2010, and she remarked that she had no problem with it at all, even though innocent people were killed, because "something had to be done about 'those' people", while another dismissively remarked that "the Bible said that there has to be a blood sacrifice". Others have also shown little empathy for Palestinians and other non-Christians in the Middle East, referring to Biblical prophecy as justification for any hardship or oppression that they may face.

It is indeed difficult to believe that these people claim to follow a man who allegedly healed one of his captor's ears after one of his loyal followers lopped it off, and defended a woman who committed adultery, while daring "him who is without sin" to "cast the first stone". Had Jesus issued that challenge to some of the Christians that I know, he would have had to run for cover, only to later emerge wearing bandages, plaster of Paris, and Gentian violet.

Some even look down on fellow Christians who belong to other denominations. A Christian friend of mine who wears jewellery visited a church where adornment with bling is frowned upon. A member of the congregation asked her if she planned to get saved and give her life to The Lord. My friend replied that she was already a Christian, which earned her a scornful look of disbelief from the holier-than-thou congregant.

Many Christians are so caught up with dogmas, doctrines and rituals that they have forgotten one of the basic principles in Christianity and several other religions: to love others. Too many are quick to quote scriptures condemning and rebuking 'sinful' people and behaviour, but cast aside such gems as "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself", "Love your enemies" and "Judge not, that ye be not judged". No wonder Mahatma Gandhi was quoted as saying, "I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."

While reasoning with the monsignor one day about sin and sinners and who he thinks will go to Heaven or Hell, he looked at me and said: "I am probably more flawed than you. Who am I to make that call? Right now, I am only concerned with loving and caring for people." That is the kind of Christian that I can deal with.

- Michael Abrahams is a gynaecologist and obstetrician, comedian and poet. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and michabe_1999@hotmail.com, or tweet @mikeyabrahams.