By Kenneth Justice
“Kenneth, none of them have been supportive this entire time; they totally ignore me now that I’m clean. Yet when I was f**king up; when I was doing heavy drugs and drunk all the time they were always wanting to talk to me; both to my face and behind my back” he said
~ For the last couple years I’ve been meeting regularly with a 20-something young man at coffee who wanted to turn his life around. At fifteen he got caught up in drugs and alcohol and after a short stint in the U.S. Coastguard (which only seemed to perpetuate the chemical dependency problem) he finally realized his life was going nowhere a few years ago.
Having heard of me through mutual acquaintances he started visiting me at one of my coffee hangouts to talk about life….he simply needed a friend ‘to be there for him’ and so he regularly sits down at my table to drink coffee.
His parents and sisters are hardcore Christian fundamentalists; the type that if you don’t believe things ‘their way’…then you might as well go choke a rubber chicken because you’ll always be a reprobate in their mind unless you totally follow their rules and regulations.
“Kenneth, when I was drunk all the time my sisters would call me up repeatedly and tell me what a worthless sinner I was; they’d tell me I was headed to hell and they would constantly talk about me behind my back….but now that I’ve been sober for a year they never call me at all. It’s like now that I’m doing fine…..they don’t know what to do with me” he said
“Kenneth, do you think that Christians like my parents and sisters want people to fail? Do you think they want people to be worse than them so it helps them feel better about themselves” he asked. It’s a tough question that the young man posed because it seems hard to fathom that family members would want him to fail…doesn’t it?
Interpersonal family conflict is nothing new to the world; sibling rivalry and parent-child conflict goes as far back as human history has been recorded. But when we introduce intense brands of religion into the equation the problem becomes even more intensified for all the parties involved.
Growing up in a fundamentalist branch of Christianity myself, I know from firsthand experience that the religious element, instead of being a positive force of grace and peace…..often ends up being used to place major guilt trips and heavy burdens upon children that are difficult to bear.
My young coffee friend has all but rejected any belief in god, “Why would I want to believe in a god that produces people who act like my sisters?” he has said to me on numerous occasions. It’s the type of question famous Christian philosophers like C.S. Lewis and little guys like myself have pondered as well; how can I remain faithful in my Christianity in the face of so many Christians who talk and act with so much hate and nastiness?
Lewis hypothesized that perhaps these hate-mongering Christians would be even worse if not for their faith in god, “Perhaps these Christians would be dictators, fascists, murderers, and psychopaths if not for the fact that they are a Christian; perhaps we should be thankful to god that they are only gossips and slanderers, perhaps by being a Christian it has prevented them from being as bad as they really could be” [my paraphrase of Lewis]
Of course, such a theory seems kind of sad; should I really be thankful that my fellow Christian is ‘only’ guilty of being a nasty gossip….and that they have never murdered anyone? Is that really something I should sing praises to god about; “halleluiah, my fellow Christians would have been murderers if not for getting saved….now they are only miserable nasty people…and they aren’t very fun to be around either…but praise god they aren’t dictators or psychopaths!” …..REALLY???
For Lewis, who was an atheist as a young adult, the most difficult part of him coming to a belief in God was reconciling his problem with Christians; “for the most part Christians aren’t the nicest people” he would say
Even in my own life, I have found that many of my closest friends throughout my life have been agnostics and people of other religions because they often tend to be a little bit less intense and more accepting of people with different beliefs and opinions. My fellow Christians tend to get too wrapped up into rules and regulations…..as though our Christian walk is supposed to be all about arguing over what color to paint the bedroom.
This past week on my blog I had to listen to a reader lambaste one of my Catholic readers; calling her faith “heretical” and “blasphemous”; the Protestant reader typified the normal nasty-rhetoric that so many of my fellow Christians let loose from their lips so callously. Instead of trying to have a positive discussion about the subject at hand; the Protestant Christian began their diatribe with the normal insults and nastiness that so much of the Western World has become accustomed to when dealing with fundamentalist branches of Christianity.
Not ALL Christians are nasty. Let’s get that out of the way…..but let’s also be honest; how much solace was it to the African American women of the 19th century who were raped, sold into slavery and had their children ripped out of their arms to be told, “Well, not ALL white men support slavery”. Do you think that made those women feel better at night as they lay there being raped by the slaveholder and wondering if her children were alive?
Sadly, it is the bad apples which tend to stand out the most.
For now, I really need another cup of coffee
If you haven’t heard I’m currently on a national tour of 100 coffee houses and I would LOVE to have coffee with you! Check out my homepage for dates and locations.