Michael Abrahams | Who are the ‘real’ Christians?
Recently, I was invited by the Anglican Church in Jamaica to participate in a discussion on abortion. Other participants were the Archbishop, The Most Rev Howard Gregory, Anglican priest Rev Mary Graham and Dr Carolyn Gomes. Both Dr Gomes and I are outspokenly pro-choice human-rights advocates and are not religious.
The conversation was one of the best I have ever participated in. There was respectful dialogue devoid of interruptions, finger-pointing, and name-calling. Father Gregory called for an multidisciplinary approach to address the issue, and Rev Graham called for age-appropriate sex education for children, and love, compassion and empathy for women who find themselves in situations where they contemplate terminating their pregnancies.
The interaction starkly contrasted with one I was involved in on Facebook a few years ago. A medical colleague of mine who identifies as a Christian and leads a ‘coalition’ that claims to stand up for Christian values, posted an article pertaining to abortion on his page. Below the post, a man commented that he believes that a woman has a right to make a decision about her body. My only contribution to the discussion was to post some ‘hand-clapping’ emojis in support of the gentleman’s statement. The response of the Christian ‘coalition’ leader was swift and fierce. He launched a brutal salvo of verbal barbs in my direction, calling me a “serpent,” “viper,” “child of Satan,” and “the Devil’s child.”
These strikingly different engagements highlighted to me the importance of not stereotyping Christians and making generalized statements, as there is significant diversity in Christianity. Reflecting on these experiences also leads me to ask a question that often comes to mind: Who are the ‘real’ Christians?
More than two billion people on the planet identify as Christians. They will tell you that they believe that Jesus is the son of God, that he died for our sins and rose from the dead, and that salvation comes from accepting him as your Saviour. Most will tell you that they have been baptised and that they attend church regularly, and many will delight in reciting Bible verses.
HOW MANY ACTUALLY READ THE BIBLE
But how many actually read, study and meditate on the words attributed to Jesus Christ in the Holy Bible? For example, in their holy book, there is no quote attributed to Jesus about same-sex attraction or women terminating pregnancies they did not want. On the other hand, according to the Bible, Jesus told people to love others as themselves, treat others the way they want to be treated, “turn the other cheek”, not judge, forgive, and sell their belongings and give the money to the poor.
Unfortunately, I see way too many people who identify as Christians expend much of their energy judging and denigrating LGBT folks and women who have had abortions, while ignoring the commands Jesus actually gave, especially those mentioned above.
In Matthew 22: 36-40, when Jesus was asked which is the greatest commandment, he replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind,” and that the second is, “Love your neighbour as yourself,” adding, “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
And what is love? According to the Bible, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy; it does not boast; it is not proud. It does not dishonour others; it is not self-seeking; it is not easily angered; it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails…”. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8.)
IGNORE EXAMPLES SET BY THEIR SAVIOUR
If being a Christian means being a follower of Christ, and walking in his footsteps, why do so many obstinately ignore the examples set by their Saviour? Why is love for others absent from so many of their hearts? Why do so many judge and treat others in ways they would never want to be treated?
Jesus never approached any government or leader to change or keep any laws, so why do so many Christians think they have a right to involve themselves in legislation in their countries? And why do so many disingenuously cherry-pick from their book? For example, many evangelicals will tell you that they supported Donald Trump because he did not support LGBT rights and that the Bible says homosexuality is an “abomination”. But the Bible also says that “lying lips” are an abomination, too, and evidence and data have shown that Trump is probably the most mendacious president in American history.
The irony is that many of these self-righteous people are similar to the individuals Jesus had issues with, according to the Bible. It was the religious zealots like the scribes and the Pharisees, who placed dogma and doctrine above and before love and the human condition, that Christ had little time for and would dismiss. Unfortunately, some of the loudest voices in Christianity indeed belong to arrogant, hateful, and ignorant clergy with mindsets like these, who manipulate and indoctrinate their followers to follow their ‘un-Christlike’ way of thinking.
The loving Christians need to speak up and let their voices be heard. Today, our world needs more love and less judgement.