I’m growing tired.

I’m feeling sick too — well, not so much in a literal sense in that case.

christianityI’m growing sick and tired.  Here’s why: a seemingly growing need that some Christians — largely on the conservative side — seem to have in defining just how much of a true Christian you are based on your political views.

The more conservative your views, it would seem, the more you can claim to be a “true Christian” … if you can claim to be one at all.

I’m truly growing sick and tired of it, and if I’m not careful it just might threaten my own Christian walk.

There are strong reasons why America’s Founding Fathers thought it would be a pretty good idea to separate religion from politics when they decided to form a new nation, but of course the more conservative side these days would say that’s not what the Founding Fathers actually intended to do.

Bull.

There are also strong reasons why results of a study by the Pew Research Center released recently indicate that people are “leaving Christianity in droves.”  Among those reasons why people are either choosing to switch to another faith or to go the atheist or agnostic route, one of them has to be the perception Christianity has because of the actions of many Christians themselves.

That’s a sad statement for a group of people who are counseled to spread the word of their faith throughout the world.  One of the biggest problems comes from a “holier than thou” attitude, even when it comes to how Christians deal with fellow Christians when political views become too interwoven with religion.

goldwater 1It’s been said that there are two topics that need to be avoided in select discussions between family and friends in order to keep those discussions from becoming too heated: politics and religion.  When there’s a blending of the two, watch out.  My own personal experiences in dealing with people of faith over the past few years or so provide examples of just how true that can be.

One strongly conservative friend of faith shared a meme on Facebook in the last few days that touched a raw personal nerve.  Here it is below …

larry meme

So, if I’m following the “logic” here, the worst offense of Christian extremists is refusing to bake cakes for same-sex weddings.  And if you’re too far to the left of the political spectrum (and I’d like to know what those guidelines are), you don’t have a problem with murder by decapitation as practiced by Muslim extremists.

One click on the “unfriend” option was all it took to stop from seeing more of that kind of “logic.”

goldwater 2Speaking of Muslims and extremists and Facebook exchanges, it’s been a few years since I accepted a friend request from the pastor of a local non-denominational church who was also friends with the pastor of my own Seventh-day Adventist church, where I was in the midst of a stint serving as head deacon for several years.  One day, my pastor’s friend shared something that slammed Muslims.  It did a very good job of spreading hatred toward the Muslim faith in general.  I opened an online discussion with him, which soon turned lengthy because it brought the wrath of the pastor’s followers, by asking the preacher one simple question: “Do you preach this stuff from the pulpit?”

The man — named Terry — never did answer that question.  What I got mainly in response was his followers telling me I needed to go to church and be educated by their pastor, including the following direct quote from a gentleman named Ryan Edwards (amazing how I still have that email notification after about 5 1/2 years) …

“John you are obviously a very smart guy that does not like god very much.  I hope that you will put this hate aside and use your intellect to better yourself and stop trying to find new and better ways to attack the fundamental founding ‘Christian’ principles of this great nation.  Terry is a great pastor and I am sure he can help you with this. God Bless…”

Ryan wasn’t the only follower of Terry to come to the conclusion that I “hate God.”  My status as a head deacon at my church at that time did nothing to sway that belief in me.

Their minds were made up.  I was a heathen because I didn’t share their conservative political beliefs.  Not that I much cared what they thought of me.

goldwater 3Coming back to more recent personal experience in being told that I need to get on my knees and pray for God to save my largely liberal (with a few hints of conservatism) soul, there’s that time from April 19 of this year when I tangled with that former morning zoo radio shock jock and current mass media messenger from God, good ol’ Glenn Beck himself.  Remember him?  He used to be a big deal on Fox News.  Yeah, that guy.

I was doing some stuff on my laptop the night of April 19, it was doing some strange things, and somehow I accidentally clicked on a Facebook news feed for the Academy of Country Music awards that night as the show was going on.  As I was scrolling through the news feed, I came across a photo of Beck with his wife standing alongside National Rifle Association mouthpiece Wayne LaPierre and his spouse.  Beck was dressed for the occasion in a felt cowboy hat, cowboy dress jacket and shirt with no tie, blue jeans held up by a belt with one of those rodeo style buckles about the size of a dinner plate.

A little backstory here …

beckThere was a time back around 2011 when I started writing a book about conservative pundits.  This was when Beck was at his most popular point at Fox, being featured on the cover of Time Magazine, a much bigger deal than he is now.  I read a couple of Beck’s books, listened to his radio show on a daily basis, and there was a time he called himself a “rodeo clown.”  For the book I was working on, I took the lyrics to the old Moe Bandy country song “Bandy The Rodeo Clown” and did a little rewriting, turning the tune into “Beck-y The Rodeo Clown.”

I’d almost forgotten about that until I saw that photo of Beck dressed up like a cowboy at the ACM awards, and I couldn’t resist commenting on it.  If you dig hard enough, you can see it here.

I wasn’t expecting anyone to reply to that comment, which brought up the “Beck-y The Rodeo Clown” memory while asking Beck how much cow dung he’d ever stepped in.  Lo and behold, Beck replied himself: “Enough to recognize it when I see it.”

Oooooooohhhh, that really cut me bad.

What followed was a lively exchange with a bunch of his fellow rodeo fans that lasted into the next day or two, with me being called mean, a troll, hateful, even going so far as to dig into my profile information and gleaning personal info on me, all the way from my being a church deacon to mentioning my daughter by name and suggesting I show her my level of “hate.”

The Glenn Beck rodeo fans were riled up.  No matter what they threw at me, I kept bucking like a bronco until they quit.

beck 2As a converted Mormon, Beck is still big here in Utah.  His fans here and around the globe look upon him as … well, the next biggest savior to God, the Son, and the Holy Spirit I suppose.  Beck’s still got a nice gimmick going now that his Fox days are gone.  A steady application of Vicks Vapo-Rub around the eyes for that teary effect will do that.

With that knowledge, I was an evil person for questioning God’s modern-day messenger.  Once again, religion and political beliefs came into the picture, this one from a lady named Karen P. (who, oddly enough, just happens to be a cousin to a guy my lovely wife went to high school with who said she was going to ask her cousin how he knew “this moron” … me) who was concerned for my spiritual well-being because I choose not to bow down at the altar of Glenn Beck.

I see Glenn (as) a man that truly loves God and wants to share what he knows with everyone. God knows each and every ones heart. Its a good thing because I think you are a mean, ugly person. Put your slippers way under your bed so when you get up in the morning, you have to get on your knees to find them. And while you’re down there, start your day with prayer.”

That particular statement by Karen P. didn’t end there.  It ended with the most truly profound statement anyone made in that whole long and silly thread which was started by one silly comment I made, not expecting anyone to reply.  Karen said the following …

Don’t aspire to make a living, aspire to make a difference.

It was then that I chose to show Karen P. and everyone out to hate me that that’s just what I’d like to do, something very Christ-like, even if it’s coming from some “heathen liberal.”  I gave them a link to a GoFundMe campaign I’d started not long before that time.  It’s something that was inspired by the most popular article ever posted in the history of this blog.

A Day In The Life Of The Homeless

I’ll talk more about this GoFundMe campaign in the days, weeks and months to come, however long it takes to raise more than the paltry amount of money that’s already been raised.

That’s another reason why I’m feeling a bit sick and tired lately.  A campaign like this hardly gets a sniff over a matter of weeks or months when it’s designed to do something that Christians are counseled to do — help the poor.  At the same time, a pizza joint in Indiana brings in over $800,000 over a two-day period because the owners refuse to cater a gay wedding (like anyone’s ever going to ask a pizza joint in Indiana to cater a gay wedding in the first place?) before that campaign is shut down.

When did Jesus ever say, “Blessed are the pizza makers, for they shall know the sin of providing slices to supporters of homosexuality?”

Yeah, I’m growing sick and tired.  I’m growing sick and tired of the perversion and twisting of Christianity for political purposes.  I’m growing sick and tired of seeing people — including my oldest son — choose to walk away from Christianity in part because of the twisted, confused messages they find out of “leaders.”

I’m fighting hard to hang on to my own Christian beliefs.  That’s not easy these days.  And it’s getting harder to defend Christianity to those who either flat out don’t believe in it or who are straddling the fence over it, when they see how ridiculous Christian “leaders” are becoming now that politics and the Christian faith are becoming such strange bedfellows.

I have a hard time believing that I’d ever have seen a day when I would agree with the late ultra-conservative Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater, but his words have proven to be downright … prophetic.

God help us.

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