SixEight Life

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Ashamed of Jesus

If you’re reading this right now, I suppose that means I finally had the guts to post it. I want to preface this by saying that this is one of those posts that may offend you, or you may relate to it. Or you may be ambivalent. But, its me, raw and honest. I’m not always raw and honest, and I realize I need to practice that more consistently. So I hope you extend grace if you disagree.

I just finished watching “Blue Like Jazz”, the film based on Donald Miller’s self reflective book from a few years ago. I read the book “Blue Like Jazz” while working in Indonesia in 2005. It was certainly a hug stepping stone for me in my journey of faith. Well, the movie certainly does the book justice, and may serve to be yet another stepping stone, as it has inspired this writing. The main character in the movie is Don, a conservative Christian who has just enrolled in a liberal arts school in Portland, Oregon. He was raised in a similar environment as me, a Southern Baptist Church in the South. He had his faith challenged and essentially denied his faith for much of the first year of his higher education.

Towards the end of the movie, Don tells his agnostic friend that he has been “ashamed of Jesus”. It is a powerful moment that helps bring Don full circle in his faith. He ran from God, but God wouldn’t let him.

The phrase “Ashamed of Jesus” stuck with me. I was raised to be bold in my faith, to go door to door, to always have an answer, especially if it was an acronym to lead someone to Jesus. It didn’t matter who that person was, as long as I had ACTS down pat, or had FAITH memorized with my five fingers, I was good to go. You SBC people probably know what I’m talking about.

Then I went to college. And then I went to Indonesia. Then I checked out India and Sudan, and Lebanon. Then I started hanging out in Clarkston. I met people from different backgrounds. I met people who had different beliefs. I learned that ‘different’ doesn’t always mean ‘wrong’.

But somehow in the midst of this a new culture war started. Or perhaps the culture war was already going on and I was oblivious to it. Regardless, I noticed a huge, nasty culture war that really embarrassed me. While my colleagues, friends and classmates were fighting for the rights of trafficked groups, immigrants, and the poor, it seemed that all I heard about was our country’s lack of morals and gay marriage. And personally, I feel like the first group is more Biblical than the second. Don’t get me wrong, in the midst of this I came to know a tremendous group of Christians fighting for trafficked groups, immigrants, and the poor as well, but the other group seemed to be louder. They got air time, and somehow have managed to ‘represent’ all of us. And I noticed people around me outside of the faith have been getting their perception of Jesus-followers from hate filled churches, cruel media personalities, and senile television preachers, while most of the reasonable, kind and compassionate followers of Jesus sit on the sidelines or stay quiet for fear of retaliation (including myself).

I’ve felt embarrassed. I’ve felt awkward. I’ve felt labeled. I worked and still work with people from all sorts of backgrounds with all sorts of belief systems. I hated the thought of them assuming that I shared all the opinions of the more vocal sect of my religious faith. Granted, most of them are incredible critical thinkers so I doubt that was the case, but I did have a co-worker tell me that she was a little nervous after I self identified as a Christian. She was afraid I was going to thump my Bible on her desk and tell her to “turn or burn”, ha. Fortunately for her, that was not the case, and our faith dialogues were incredible.

So along the way I guess I felt some shame too, just like Don. I never denied Jesus, I love Him greatly, but there was a bit of apprehension in my heart. I want to be known as someone who loves God and loves people. I want to be known for my mercy, my fight for justice, and my humility. I don’t want to be known for what I’m against, but rather what I am for. And I want to be known as an intelligent, critically thinking, passionate, compassionate individual who just happens to love Jesus and puts HIM as her priority. I fail at it, but I’m getting there. I’m ashamed about the shame I’ve felt, but I’m just being honest. I could be completely wrong on all of this, but I don’t think I am. And maybe I’m not alone.

Christians, have you ever felt ashamed because of how Christianity was represented?

If you aren’t a Christian, do you shy away from Christians because of how someone has treated you or because of the way Christians have been portrayed?

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11 thoughts on “Ashamed of Jesus

  1. I really like your blog, Emily, and I LOVE this post. I admire your courage to speak from your heart with conviction as it is not an easy thing to do. As such, I would like to share my story with you. If anything, to show you that you are not alone in feeling this way.

    I joined a Christian sorority in college. It was fun and I made a lot of friends. One night at our weekly Chapter meeting, the topic of having a weekly dinner at a nearby fraternity came up. We were voting on whether or not we should do this weekly event, because the guys in the fraternity drank beer with their dinner. The impropriety associated with breaking bread (while beer was on the table) was far too great than any witnessing opportunity, so we vetoed it. I began to question whether these women really knew what Jesus was all about. They dated boys who treated them like dirt, but it was OK, because these boys went to Campus Crusade. No boy was worth your time unless he identified himself as a Christian. Just turn a blind eye to his character, it’s OK as long as he’s a “Christian”. And it got worse.

    When I became engaged to my husband, we decided to move in together our senior year of college. One of the tenets of being a sorority sister was that you saved yourself until you were married. I saved myself for my husband, I just didn’t wait until our wedding night. Nonetheless, having high standards for myself, I de-sistered, because I didn’t want to be a hypocrite and live a lie. I spoke honestly and openly in front of the girls, and told them that I still wanted to be friends. I was still a Christian. They were Christians. We had that in common, right? Suffice it to say, I lost a lot of “friends” that day.

    I have seen a lot of Christians do ugly things. Am I more attuned to their shortcomings because they identify themselves as “Christians”? That can’t be it, because I fall short all the time. Rather, it’s the lack of compassion, the lack of humility that makes for an ugly Christian. You have to earn the right to talk about Jesus. I want to earn the right every day to tell people about Jesus by being compassionate and forgiving, humble and honest. I don’t want to get lumped into a group of people who think I will lash out in judgement, turning my heart cold as I spew platitudes from my lips. Jesus wants so much more from me.

    Keep on writing. Our faith needs people like you.

    PRH

    • Thank you so much! I think its so easy for us to get caught up in the little insignificant things in our walk with Jesus and miss the big picture. I’m sorry those girls in college acted so harshly towards you. And yes, I think we need to earn the right to talk about Jesus too. Thanks so much for the encouragement!

  2. I completely agree on a lot of points. People have been seeing the worst parts of religion in the news, but there are lots of reasons for that. The rise of the Moral Majority and the Religious Right pushed religion into politics in an unprecedented way in America, which served to get faith-based opinions on politics more into the spot light. Add on to that the polarization of our politics and the 24-hour news cycles that need to be constantly filled, and we get a potent reinforcement of even the smallest controversial personalities and issues. If more (as I see them) religious moderates stood up and said that this is not what we agree with, then it’d work to combat these things. Social pressure within a community works. Enough people make their voices heard, and a focus on the messages of hate will eventually lessen. More people should do this, because it’s giving them a bad name. I think it’s the number one reason that the younger generation is far less religious than the previous one. Kids are seeing these things, and they don’t want to be apart of it. To quote Ghandi, “It’s just that so many of you Christians are so unlike Christ.”

    In my opinion, more Christians should feel like you do. More than that they should be up in arms with a concerted effort to change their public appearance. It strikes me as tragically ironic that these are the same people asking, “where are the moderate Muslims to shout down the extremists?” yet they won’t examine the plank in their own eye to push back their own extremists, but I completely understand why this doesn’t happen more. It’s often that those extremist elements are using the Bible and it’s verses to support what they are saying. They give the appearance of having authority on their side. It becomes hard for moderates to disagree with them without looking like they are disagreeing with the Bible. It forces them to question whether everything in the Bible is good. Like slavery which had vocal supporters using versus to say that God both approved and disapproved of the practice, society will eventually settle the issue whether or not the religious elements do.

    Q: If you aren’t a Christian, do you shy away from Christians because of how someone has treated you or because of the way Christians have been portrayed?

    As an atheist, I’d say that, yes, I am wary of those who profess too loudly to be religious. They are more likely to try to interfere with my life and be combative or confrontational when I really have no desire to be engaged in that way. Sometimes they aren’t trying to be confrontational, they are attempting to legitimately understand how I could reject belief, something that is very important to their life. Generally, I take a wait and see approach as I do with all people. They tend to prove who they are after long enough. I did notice that I find myself judging people through the lens of their own religious profession. What I mean is that I expect a person to act a certain way when they profess their religion, then I look to see if their behavior matches what they profess to believe. For instance, one of my bosses is Catholic, but he doesn’t act like what I would expect a studious Christian to act like at all.

    • Thanks for your comment Justin. I agree with you about the moderation comment, I hadn’t made that connection before. We cry out for moderation in other areas of life, but refuse to have civil conversations with people who may disagree with us. And yes, I think some people are truly inquisitive and not trying to be confrontational, but sometimes we don’t realize how harsh and judgemental we come across. Anyway, thanks for commenting. Hope you have a great day!

  3. Love this blog. I have definitely felt ashamed in my walk. I grew up in church my whole life but it was because of my upbringing not because I wanted too. It wasn’t till the Passion conference till I dedicated my life to him and changed my whole life around. Since doing this the way I life my life is completely different and I mean different. I don’t claim to be perfect or not a sinner, I just claim to be a follower of him. I have lost friends and been de-friended on Facebook because of my beliefs. Many people can’t believe the change and don’t want to hear how God has transformed my life. For a while I didn’t talk about Christianity because I felt ashamed until I realized that if I just show his love to everyone instead of trying to convert everyone that I will be showing what Christ is really like , and how he lived his life.

  4. I’m definitely on the same page as you; that’s why I love that Casting Crowns song, “Jesus, Friend of Sinners.” And while I hate acronyms as much as the next formally-jaded southern Baptist, the whole WWJD thing had a quite a good point–because I simply can’t fathom Christ treating others the way you described above. We’ve discussed before that the Church seems to pick and choose which sins to harp on, while never addressing much more prevalent misdeeds that are often more harmful than the sin itself. Sadly, I feel more confident sharing my face outside of the United States than in it, because I really feel the enemy has used this growing problem to turn the average American against Christians.

    And I honestly believe the majority of the Bible-thumping Christians you talked about have the right heart, but while their intentions may be pure, their impact is damaging to the Kingdom. I’m not certainly not excluding myself from the judgmental group of Christians, because I’ve been there; my prayer recently is give others as much grace as Christ has given me, because without it, we’re all condemned.

    Let’s start a movement to get other Bible believers to act with kindness before they speak with words of hatred, develop relationships before they judge, and love as Christ loved us! (I know you’re already there, but I have a long way to go to live up to what I just wrote!)

  5. I’m definitely on the same page as you; that’s why I love that Casting Crowns song, “Jesus, Friend of Sinners.” And while I hate acronyms as much as the next formally-jaded southern Baptist, the whole WWJD thing had a quite a good point–because I simply can’t fathom Christ treating others the way you described above. We’ve discussed before that the Church seems to pick and choose which sins to harp on, while never addressing much more prevalent misdeeds that are often more harmful than the sin itself. Sadly, I feel more confident sharing my face outside of the United States than in it, because I really feel the enemy has used this growing problem to turn the average American against Christians.

    And I honestly believe the majority of the Bible-thumping Christians you talked about have the right heart, but while their intentions may be pure, their impact is damaging to the Kingdom. I’m not certainly not excluding myself from the judgmental group of Christians, because I’ve been there; my prayer recently is give others as much grace as Christ has given me, because without it, we’re all condemned.

    Let’s start a movement to get other Bible believers to act with kindness before they speak with words of hatred, develop relationships before they judge, and love as Christ loved us! (I know you’re already there, but I have a long way to go to live up to what I just wrote!)

    • Ha, I don’t know if I’m already there or not! I’m working on it though, we just have to take it day by day. And I agree, I think there are good motives, but just really bad approaches. We sequester ourselves away from “the world” and forget that Jesus walked with EVERYONE. I hope we can start that movement! Just living it out best we can is the best way to start, and practicing openness and compassion. Thanks for commenting friend!

  6. Great post Emily! This rings so true for me. I have had similar experiences and have wrestled with much of the same shame. Thanks for putting this out there. I think it’s important to reflect on and start talking about!

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