God, Church and Christians: Misconceptions and Bad Conceptions

“Christians are very judgmental.”
“Organized religion is a cult.”
“Only church people make it to heaven.”
“Christianity requires you to ‘give up’ fun things, or restrict yourself.”
“You can’t dress or act like that in here.”
“Something must be wrong with you…that’s why God let this happen.”
“Once I was able to reason, I learned I was a sinner and God was upset. I [also] discovered non-Christians are also nice people. So whom do you believe?”

I have been raised Christian my entire life. I have never been the guy to hang out on the streets and try to hand you a Bible, or the guy to protest others for their “ugly sins.” My expression avenues have always been through music and trying to manage my own life the best I can. In 2015, there are so many varying views, opinions, lifestyles and experiences as people try to live their very best across the world. But what’s interesting is that God seems to be the entity receiving the largest amount of mixed conceptions. Some thank God when good things happen, some blame him when the bad takes place (or both). Some may choose another route completely, finding something else to put their trust in. Why is that?

Here’s my theory: any time we don’t like something, that means we had a previous influence steer us away from it. It could be our own perception, another person’s opinion, or even a bad experience. My brother doesn’t like peanut butter because he didn’t like the taste of it – but he has to taste it first to arrive at that conclusion. Some may have negative conceptions of God because of a former experience (or experiences) that they had, which may often have been with other people. Even people who are church-goers and/or Christians have confused and discouraged each other with their words, sometimes right in the church! Next thing you know, you have people in the church leaving, and people outside the church wanting nothing to do with “that religion stuff” or “the crazies” or “the high-and-mighties.” All of this and MUCH more, as I’m finding, is a leading cause is misrepresenting what God is actually about, and misleading people away from Him.

Today, I don’t want to try to force you to think you need to drop what you’re doing and run to the altar with your hands up. I don’t want to tell you how wrong you are, or how right you are. That’s not my place, and I am not an expert myself – just a young, 20something black male. I want to, instead, address the things that are untrue about God, church and faith that are false stereotypes; but also the bad things that are being done, which NEED to stop.

Misconceptions:

  1. “You’re not good enough” or “God doesn’t love you”: Some church folks have shown this with the hesitant way they act towards newcomers. Some just up and say it to your face. Some who may not be church-goers say it to keep you away from trying church. LOOK: Anyone, no matter who you are, should never tell this to any human being no matter what the context. I’ve written plenty of blog posts and research papers, and although I’m far from being published, no one can tell me I’m not good enough at it to try. I’d just work harder at it and seek outside assistance when proofreading! So don’t tell anyone they aren’t good enough for God. He loves everyone the same no matter what, and saying otherwise will only discourage them, tick them off, and misrepresent what God’s about. It DOES show, however, excellence in ignorance.
  2. “Church makes you christian”: Here’s the thing: sitting in a Starbucks doesn’t make you a frappuccino. As great as church has been for me personally, no church is perfect. And the good ones are aware – that’s why they exist, to foster people needing God to help them! Being Christian means you accept Jesus and you have (or are developing) a relationship with Him. Going to church surrounds you with his messages to give you a weekly spiritual boost, and it surrounds you with others trying to keep themselves on his straight-and-narrow as well. Otherwise, it’s like marathon training by yourself: not like you can’t do it, but when you go through the rough stages or want to quit, you need someone there to help push you along and tell you not to give up!
  3. “Christians are perfect” – I’m not perfect because of Jesus. I’m not perfect, so I need Jesus! If people were perfect, there would be no reason to do or be anything, because we’d all be robots. Don’t let anyone fool you – everyone has their shortcomings.
  4. “You have to act a certain way”: The only thing you HAVE to do as a Christian is believe in Jesus and try to live your life as a good example through Him. But listen: believing in God doesn’t always mean you were the worst human being on earth before, and some Christians write others off when they make it sound like this. God takes you as you are, and makes you better. Plain and simple!! So if you go to church for the first time looking for answers in a very difficult time, don’t let Sister Patty LaWeave and her attitude tell you “sorry but we don’t let hoochies in here” or “you might want to change your clothes before you come to God” or even “God wouldn’t have made you that way if he loved you.” You just stay in there and get whatever it is that you needed that day. At the end of the day, you’re still his son or daughter, and he just wants the chance to be there for you. Sister Patty LaWeave has nothing to do with that, because she can’t help you.

Bad Conceptions:

  1. JUDGEMENTAL CHRISTIANS: The #1 complaint of Christians from day one. I can’t call this a misconception because it is true of many – not all by any means, but it definitely exists. The Bible tells God’s followers not to do this unless they want to be judged too. But this is a problem far spanning religion. Christians are judged for being Bible-toting do-gooders who stay in their little judgmental box. Minorities are judged based on the color of their skin. Women are judged by men who don’t want to be surpassed. The LBGT community is judged by those who ask why they “choose being this way”. I could go on, but look: WE ARE ALL PEOPLE. PERIOD! If you don’t accept me or respect me, my default will be to want nothing you stand for. But if you, the imperfect person, show me, another imperfect person, respect and kindness, I may be more open to you and what you stand for.
  2. Christians saying negative things to each other: Some of the things that are said are misconceptions. The fact that negative things are being said is not a misconception. I’ve touched on some of these examples already, as well as the fact that we need to treat each other with respect. Yes? Yes. This is at its’ worse here because the church is a place where people should be lifting each other up, not tearing each other down. The rest of the world has enough negativity and esteem-knocking as it is! The worst example I heard recently was a Christian telling a woman with a miscarriage that God took their child because “something must have been wrong with it, but better that He took it instead of letting it be born with something wrong.” Are you kidding me?!? The fact that this statement alone didn’t completely steer this person away from God in such a vulnerable time is a miracle of God in itself.
  3. Churches are close-minded/won’t adapt: This is another thing that many are guilty of, but it’s also associated with the Christian stereotype. It also boils down to: some people like things a certain way and in strict order, while others are cooler about going with the flow. I’m no expert in how churches operate, but when my church had to move to new buildings twice within two years and across town, being closed-minded was not an option. We had to adapt to some logistical change nearly every week, and without people willing to adapt, there would be no church right now. If a marketing consultant never adapts with social media sites, he or she is chopping out a huge part of potential outlets and the company doesn’t grow as well. I could go on with more examples, but you get the point. When things change, good or bad, we have to go with it if we want to grow. Otherwise, we’d all be perfect, right?

Now, I don’t want the things I’ve just mentioned to scare people away from God. But these are very real things that anyone may have experienced when it comes to him, church and other Christians. It is true that some Christians don’t always use the best approach. It’s also true that some Christians really do their best to represent God to anyone they encounter. I’m not always the best example, but I try to remain open-minded, I love all sorts of people, and I tend to get along with most people I meet. My personal experience is that God has gotten me where I am today, and I just don’t want to see more people write the guy off because of Christians saying or doing blatantly negative things. You hear about Westboro Baptist Church type of situations, and well, of course people are going to feel some kind of way!

To reiterate my bottom line: WE ARE ALL PEOPLE. NO ONE IS BETTER THAN THE OTHER. Me talking to Jesus does not, in any way, make me a better human being that you. We all have eyes, ears, hands and toes. We all like to eat, look forward to payday, and enjoy the electric slide a wedding once in a while. Not only are we all human: none of us are perfect. In fact, I am quite aware of how flawed I am. I’ll probably make a good few mistakes tomorrow! Now, my comfort in making my mistakes is that, no matter what, God will forgive me and let me pick up & learn from it (sometimes, after checking me). This doesn’t give me a license to be a screw-up; it just insures me that no matter what, He will still love me. Maybe not all my actions, but me. He has this thing called unconditional love – and nothing we do is ever bad enough for it to run out. No living thing on earth is capable of this. I can say with certainty that when I found myself as low as I could possibly be, God’s unconditional love was the only thing to let me know it’d be all right, and to pick things back up. (It wasn’t stories I’d heard, not other people so much, not any of my stuff – it’s something no one else can provide quite as well).

Depending on the eyes reading those last few statements, the word “preachy” may come to mind. That is far from my goal, or my calling in life. But I want to close with these two things that I hope we can all at least try to agree on:

  1. Love each other. Everyone on this earth deserves that, no matter what. When I see people, I don’t immediately think of them as gay, white, Japanese, Jewish, fat, sick, mentally challenged or whatever. I say “hey Sam, how’s it going?” Even if some people make me hope I never see them again for some reason, I still do my best to treat them right. Not only do I want that back from them, but it’s how we were made. Everybody doesn’t stick to that all the time, but I can only work on me.
  1. Meet people where they’re at. We are all very different from each other! I can’t necessarily talk to a young person about faith the same way I would to an old person (for example). Christians, every approach can’t be the same for everybody – once we’ve acknowledged that we weren’t sprung from the ground perfect, we need to respect and love people before trying to approach them about God. And if you’re someone being approached about God, I’d say at least be open to listening. Hopefully it’s done in a way that peaks an interest in the very least. I promise you, it was His sheer grace alone that got me where I am today and kept my family alive countless times. True story.

We all have free will to chose whatever we wish to believe. Just remember: a student has to be willing to be taught, but it won’t work if the teacher only says “nope, wrong answer, it was 6.” But if the teacher says “here’s how I got there; now you try for yourself. If you want it, you can totally do it”, the results might just be a little different.

-BB2

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Music Monday: Great is Thy Faithfulness

Hello all, and welcome to another segment of #MusicMonday! In this segment, we’ll talk about favorite songs, artists & genres and their role in music in order to keep great music alive. Today we’re talking about a well known hymn that has lived on for almost a century and gotten many believers through many a challenge:

Great is Thy Faithfulness started as a poem written by Thomas O. Chisholm in 1923 based on his own experience with God’s faithfulness. He sent it to William Runyan, who set the poem to music and had it published by the Hope Publishing company, and it later became popular among churches via hymnals & such. The refrain goes:

“Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!”

To me, there is no truer statement to sum up this entire song than the 3rd line of this refrain. There are just things that we cannot do on our own, whether we want to face up to it or not. When times get extremely challenging in our lives and push us to a wall where we can’t face it on our own, it’s that trust in God & His provisions that get us through. Yesterday morning at my church for the sermon, we sung a few hymns (starting with this one) and then had brief discussions in small groups based on some follow up questions such as “Where have you seen God’s faithfulness in your life? How do you know He’s faithful?” For me personally, I can definitely say that God has placed certain people in my life at my rough moments. Whether it was my family understanding and supporting me when I needed it; or even being around loving church members & coworkers who don’t necessarily know something’s going on but they create the positive environment I needed to be in; or someone who I meet and can almost instantly relate to when going into new territory; or even someone who did or said something small but extremely kind that made me stop and put my issues in perspective & they didn’t even realize it – these are all the kinds of people God will place around me at just the right time for the right reasons, because He knows it’s what I need during my rough spell to stay encouraged and get through life’s bumps in the road.

How often do we sing these songs (or any songs) and not take a step back to really think about the meaning of them, or their impact? It’s so easy to pop a song on in the car and just have it as background noise because you’ve heard it so many times. But it’s so important to know what you’re putting into your ears, because whether you realize it or not, this is what will go into your soul. With songs as powerful as Great is Thy Faithfulness, it’s overwhelming to think about just how faithful God has been in my life…let alone the lives of every other person in so many ways! Some of us should be dead right now, or extremely ill, or destitute, or very discouraged from a lack of success, the list goes on. But no matter what our position in life is right now, no matter how much money we do or don’t have, the bottom line is, if you are sitting here reading this, God still has us on this Earth for some reason, and He continues to make provisions for us every day here and there to keep us on the journey He’s laid out for us. The question then becomes, what will we do about it?

Thanks for reading today, and I hope you enjoyed this glorious hymn as well as any others that might impact your life in a special way! Please feel free to share a hymn or song that means a lot to you, and let’s keep meaningful music of all kinds continuing to live on and touch lives.

Have a great week, and sing on my brethren!
BB2

PS: Singer in the video is the great gospel artist, Fred Hammond, performing some years ago on TBN.

Singles: Trusting Time vs. Anxiousness

grandma singles

Being a 20something means you’ll be often anxious about whether or not you’ve accomplished what you wanted to accomplish by this point in your life, and where you are in relation to doing so if you haven’t. This is heightened if you’re still single on top of it all. This morning while reading a bit of Corinthians (I won’t say what part, since it has nothing to do with my upcoming thought of the day…not even sure how my brain got there), I remembered that God says “Wherever 2 or 3 are gathered in My name, there am I in the midst.” So when you’re a single 20s-something, you can’t help but wonder…well, see what I’m getting at?

Is this a silly thought? Perhaps. I know God’s not going to share more with a young married couple than me just because I’m not married. But still, the answer family/friends/the world (parts of it) give us is always the same, tired cliche: “when the time is right.” No one really likes this answer because we’re too anxious to know where our timelines are going. However, today I asked the question: what’s God’s answer on this?

Not like I know God’s thoughts or anything, but if I had to guess, seeing as how we sing about Him being an “on-time-God”, the answer is probably this:

“In God’s Time.”

Now of course, this can still be frustrating. It’s in our nature to not be a fan of the ‘not now’ or ‘I can’t give you a precise timeline TODAY’ answer. It also doesn’t feel fulfilling right away. However, God’s is the only trustworthy timeline when we decide to trust it in the first place, because He operates on our needs as opposed to us wanting things when we think we need it. Even though we can’t see it, which is so so SO frustrating when we’re anxious, we need to allow:

Our Faith > Our Anxiousness

Personally, this is a big work in progress, and probably will be for some years. But trying to focus on the right things lately is helping. Thinking about this is also giving some slight peace to my recent posts on how I suck at things including patience, and even my unfulfilled thoughts after watching Crazy Stupid Love.

No one is a fan of time. But When you put the right amount of faith & trust in, focus on the right things, and guard your actions along the way to set yourself up for success, you will get what’s out there for you. And you probably won’t expect it. Today? Maybe, maybe not. But we should try to be smart enough to not rush it. After all, why try to eat your favorite meal under-cooked?

-BB2

(P.S. Don’t listen to ANY internet pictures with silly captions about love. They’ll either depress you further or you’ll laugh at how wishy=washy they are. People believe in those things way too quickly. Google image search ‘when will I find love’ and have a good chuckle.)

(P.P.S. And no, I didn’t do that because I’m lonely. I was looking for a picture at the top of this article. And I decided to go with something funny. Hence the old lady. Funny, yeah? Just me? Fine.)

Things I Rock At

the-Help_thumb8

This is the opposite of my recent post, Things I Suck At. The agenda is the same: I will write about things I’m good at this time, in order to acknowledge more about myself to gain a stronger self-awareness. I’m choosing not to include anything having to do with music, because that’s what I ALWAYS do, and what I get the most compliments on whether I’m leading, performing, whatever. Frankly I’m far from perfect on anything in music, but because it’s my main livelihood, I’d like to focus on other areas.

  1. Listening – For the most part, I’m a pretty good listener. Whether it’s gathering instructions or genuinely and active taking interest in what other people are saying, I consider myself a good listener. I’m not perfect, of course, but I do take value in most things people are saying. I’m best at this when I’m either in a conversation with someone older than me from whom I can learn by their experiences, or someone maybe who might be seeking my help on something. There’s a difference between hearing and actively listening. Too many people today just listen for their next chance to talk, rather than listening to really grasp what the other person is saying. I try to do the latter as often as I can.
    listen

  2. Friendly – Despite my social awkwardness, I am a nice, friendly guy by nature. I was brought up pretty polite and whatnot, which for some reason was one of the top things that stood out to teachers when I was a kid compared to others who were just being kids and..well, talking. But I digress. I strive to have as little beef with people as possible, and instead greet everyone with a smile, handshake, bright ‘hello!’, and so on. This is one of the better things about my character.
  3. Honest – I am TERRIBLE at lying. Even as a normal kid trying to hide the fact that I just snuck some food without permission, I was far too easy to read. The same is true today. I will always be upfront and honest with people on anything, and not in a sassy “the internet told me that I’m an empowering woman who needs to own up and tell it like it is ‘cause I can’t stand these fake chicks, mm-mmmm *neck roll, Z-snap*” kind of way. (Wait I’m a guy. Ignore me. Anyway. Yeah I’m honest. ….. *sashays awkwardly to the next point*)
    honesty-is-the-first-chapter-in-the-book-of-wisdom

  4. Nurturing – As previously pointed out in one of my earliest posts, my personality type is that of a nurturer. I naturally look out for my loved ones, often putting their needs above my own well-being, doing whatever I can to ensure that they are taken care of. While this can be taxing on one’s own self if not careful, it is a positive trait of mine. I was usually the one taking care of Mom when she was very ill & everyone else was elsewhere. I’m always the one making sure everyone else is taking care of themselves in busy seasons and then getting sick myself, losing my voice. Part of this comes from how my priorities of worry are placed. But at least I can sleep well at night knowing that certain people I care about are all right. When they’re not, I go into ‘fix-it’ mode if I’m able to. I would say this will make me a good parent someday, but there’s things about myself that I’d be too frightened to mix with nice girls good genes to create a goofy, goofy kid.

  5. Faith – I love the fact that I was brought up in a Christian household, because everything I’ve learned (and continue to learn) about God on a daily basis comes just at the time when I need it the most. My parents don’t claim to be perfect people, but instilling Godly values in their kids and teaching them everyday about having a relationship with God is the best thing they could have done for the four of us. This is the biggest thing I turn to in times of sorrow and in times of celebration.
    Grace-of-God

  6. I’m 24 and Not Pregnant. But no really – I’m single, no baby mamas, I’m not a deadbeat dad, I don’t have HIV/AIDS, I don’t have a drug or drinking problem, I haven’t been to jail, I haven’t stolen any highly-classified government secrets, I haven’t created any national tragedies, I do my laundry regularly…I’d say I’m doing okay comparatively to that creepy bearded guy in the gas station who makes you glad you can swipe your own credit card.
    the_cosby_show_watch_pregnant_men_part_2

So these are 6 things I appreciate about myself. What do you appreciate about you? Feel free to share in the comments. But most importantly, embrace your strong points, recognize who you are, and live your life proudly because of it.

-BB2