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Why People Can’t Stand Christians…

Mother Teresa (Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu) courtesy of Wikipedia

Over the holidays we spent time with some close family friends, and one of the topics that came up during our conversation was a seemingly growing distaste for Christians and Christianity in general.

Through our discussion, it was obvious that the reasons for this perception are legion. However, one of the examples given during the talk shined a stark light on the issue.

A Tale of Two Speakers

One of the individuals participating in our discussion had attended a series of talks at Harvard University several years ago. Two of the featured speakers there were Rev. Jerry Falwell as well as Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu better known as Mother Teresa.

Rev. Falwell had spoken to various Ivy League groups dozens of times, but on this particular night he was roundly booed and hissed throughout his speech which lasted about 20 minutes.  Our friend couldn’t even remember what Falwell was trying to talk about through the catcalls and disruptive behavior.

Conversely, an aged Mother Teresa shuffled to the podium. A step stool was brought out to assist the diminutive nun in reaching the microphone. According to our friend, the hostile audience gave the Nobel Peace Prize winner a respectable deference of silence before she spoke. Mother Teresa’s opening question to the auditorium was, “Have you no fear of God?”

She then went on for nearly an hour challenging the listeners about what they were doing individually to help the poor around the world and around the corner. She criticized the cash and comfort that kept the audience complacent. She chastised the attendees for willingly wearing blinders to the needs of the neediest.

The room was silent for the entire duration of her speech until she finished, when she was then met with a thunderous ovation.

Practice What You Preach – Literally

I’ve been thinking a lot about that anecdote, and I think the difference between the response to both speakers is due to how each practiced their faith while they were alive.

Prior to Falwell’s death in 2007, when he was found collapsed on the floor of his office at the university he founded, Falwell had received dozens of death threats daily for years.

This animosity was fueled by a variety of reasons including allegations against his ministry of financial fraud in the 1970s; legal battles that Falwell engaged with Penthouse and Hustler magazines; his blurring of religion and politics with the creation of the Moral Majority; his self-promotion and willingness to be a talking head on any controversial issue that was televised; as well as head-scratching assertions he made that one of the Tele-Tubbies was gay or that US pagans and atheists should be blamed for the 9/11 attacks.

By contrast, prior to her death in 1997, Mother Teresa and the nuns at the “Missionaries of Charity” she founded in Calcutta, India served the poorest of the poor. Everyday she and the sisters got up before 5am, prayed and ate together then they took to the streets and slums providing food, education, comfort and help to everyone they could. It didn’t matter if the person was an orphan or leper – they mattered to Mother Teresa. She lived that way for decades.

Lip Service is Not the Same as Real Service

With all due respect to Rev. Falwell and his legacy, his life was imprinted and remembered by the things he said. The difference with Mother Teresa is that she’s remembered for the things she did – but that makes all the difference.

I’m not talking about earning your faith, I’m talking about living it. I’m first to admit that I’m guilty of putting my words over my works. Having said that, if Christians hope to have any relevancy in the future they might consider trading less lip service and a pointing finger, for actual service and a helping hand.

Question: What’s your general impression of Christians?

[Note: This is a re-post of an original article I published January 7, 2012]

 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Amanda-Sachs/203802439 Amanda Sachs

    Actions speak louder than words. Hands down.

    • TorConstantino

      I think you summed up my entire post in five words….thanks Amanda!

  • http://www.adjuvancy.com/wordpress Roy A. Ackerman, Ph.D., E.A.

    Ah, I know he true definition of Christianity is the belief that Jesus is savior. But, there is a vast difference between those that call themselves Christian and those that meet the definition above. For starters, as was shown in a survey of “Christians” in Iowa and New Hampshire that were planning to vote in the primary- they exclude Mormonism from Christianity and, while averring no reason why a Mormon couldn’t be president, their clear choices indicated otherwise.
    Falwell in particular practiced a version of Christianity that involved more hate than love. Which is the avowed principle espoused in the New Testament.
    Mother Teresa was more Catholic than Christian- which is an issue that various Popes have tried to employ to divide rather than unite.
    The problem with religion (including mine) is that it often serves to divide rather than unify. And, religion clearly differentiates between “us” and “other”.
    The “bad publicity” that seems to envelop “Christians” is related to the fact that the self-described Christians (which are only a small minority among the believers) employ the concepts of the last three paragraphs more than the first sentence.

    • TorConstantino

      Great points Roy, as always you provide worthwhile perspective and insight – thanks for that!

  • http://www.bellybillboard.com Gutmeister

    Absolutely. I think there are those that use their religion to improve their standing in society’s eyes, improve their financial holdings and improve their own position in the world. Then there are those who are used by their religion to do the things that truly matter.

    But don’t get me started on the Amish…they’ve had it too good for too long.

    • TorConstantino

      Wonderful comment Mr. Gut (I assume you’re a guy since I don’t think a woman would dub herself GutMeister) – you’ve perfectly blended serious commentary with a playful swipe at a bunch of peace-abiding pacifists….bravo!

  • Amethyst Mahoney

    Actions DO speak louder than words. So when the majority of Christians I have personally known (being raised in the fundamentalist South) as well as the majority portrayed in the media slander those who don’t believe or live differently and show no respect for others, the question isn’t why do people think ill of them, but why shouldn’t they?

    I’ve seen kids thrown out of their homes and completely ostracized for being gay, people being beaten up or killed because they are transgendered, and even people punished for wanting to dance or sing (in some churches I went to).

    Knowing what many people believe where I am from, and being one who believed it as a child, I look forward to the day when Christians stop taking actions in the name of their faith.

    • TorConstantino

      Excellent observations Amethyst, thanks for sharing your insights!

  • http://www.dyingground.typepad.com/ Thiagoreis

    The truth is, you can only live out this faith if it truely is alive in you. I’m not talking about the religion people put on Sunday’s or anyother day for that matteer, as you mentioned Mother Teresa and her sisters lived their guaranteed faith daily. If people who profess christianity are truely set free, they will live a life according to the resurrection power of God in Jesus Christ, not to point fingers but to be light and hope. Not to judge, but once examining themselves and facing their own frailty realize the value of who they are and what they have. Only when treated and cured will they serve as true christians, those who are like Christ in all aspect of His life.

    • TorConstantino

      Well said! Thanks for elevating the discussion here!!!

  • Cindy

    Great points! It’s all about the love.

  • http://www.actionherofitnessinc.com Tonja Davis

    Part of the concern (in my limited view) is a matter of our culture and 24/7 world. In today’s media platform (by which I mean a lack of meaningful news) the world is ruled by soundbites. Interesting soundbites get viewers. Viewers beget ratings. People flock to that which is controversial or emotionally charged. Hence more viewers and thereby better ratings.

    Does this mean your points have no value? Absolutely not! They are astute and valid! What I hope to do by making this observation is perhaps shine the light on our own contribution to the issue.

    There are hundreds of thousands – nay even millions upon millions – of good Christians out there. The problem is, they are not controversial. They do not add to the sound bites or viewers or ratings. They are good, honest, delightful people who live their life – and the precepts of their religion – in such an unassuming way as to be declared “Angels on Earth”.

    But these individuals do not get our attention, they do not get our applause or gratitude (nor the negative counterparts thereof) because they are not the extreme. That is a shame. Perhaps, part of the way to correct the problems inherent in the view taken on Christianity is to correct our own perceptions. Instead of railing against the extremists – perhaps we should celebrate the angels.

    In the interest of full disclosure – I’m not Christian :D I’m a practicing Witch :)

  • http://perichoreticlife.blogspot.com/ Michael

    God shows up in our relationships. Until we recognize the vital connection between our spirituality and our service to others, we have yet to truly understand how “conversion” supports the “conversation” we are trying to have with the world. Much of Jesus’ core message in the Beatitudes and the parables speaks to this very issue. The “Good News” is all about how the Kingdom of God re-establishes our conversation with God through powerful relationships with “the least of these”.

  • Smokestewart

    I will pray for your soul and understanding of the gospel.

  • http://www.evanforester.com Evan Forester

    We talk a lot about how Christians are known more for what they’re against instead of what they’re for. When people think christians, they don’t think lovers of Jesus. They think hater of gays and judgmental. That’s a problem, and Teresa did an incredible job showing us what she was for.

  • Brock Fletcher

    You hit the proverbial nail on the head.

  • BKB

    Never liked ‘em myself.

  • http://www.thechurchofnopeople.com/ Matt Appling

    Holy cow, Tor. Thanks for hitting me with a ton of bricks. Just what I needed to start my Wednesday. :)

  • Michael Romeo

    Wonderful blog. Mother Teresa is one of my heroes.