I am a straight white Christian male from the Buckle of the Bible Belt, but I swear I’m not an asshole.
Please don’t stop reading.
I know that for many folks, the characteristics listed above can be used to describe someone who is scary as hell. And rightfully so. But I promise you; I’m not one of “those” Christians. In fact, I’m doing everything I can to help people like me start treating others with genuine decency and love.
It feels like our world is crumbling. Somewhere out there, Chicken Little is running around, yelling, “The sky is falling!” And depending on where you get your news, you might believe him.
And maybe you should.
For writers like me, stories like Orlando, Dallas, Charlottesville, and Kaepernick provide us with content for days. Is it just me, or do my writer friends and I seem like vultures at times like this?
But what do we do after we click “publish” and share it a few times with our closest 1,500 friends on social media? Do we actually care? Does it matter? Are we going to do anything?
The answer is a resounding “hell no.” By my silence and inaction, I prove that I don’t care. I wonder how many other Christians are just like me? I haven’t done anything since Orlando. Those people are still dead. And I still sleep soundly at night.
I may be a Christian, but my silence has made me an asshole.
I do a great job of checking on my black friends and my gay friends right after tragedy strikes, but then I move on. Just like they said I would. Before the Pulse shooting, I had never done anything to “reach” the gay community, and suddenly I cared. I wept and wailed and mourned on social media.
And now? It’s over. Charlottesville has moved out of the news cycle, and out of my prayer life. I hate to sound insensitive, but I’m pretty sure I am numb. Maybe it’s the media. Or maybe it’s the fact that I live in a broken world and I don’t care like I used to.
Social media seems to connect the whole world, but I rarely allow myself to connect in tangible ways with vulnerability. I can’t remember the last time I picked up the phone and made an uncomfortable call to check on someone who doesn’t have as much privilege as me. I don’t write the note I intended to write. I wouldn’t dare inconvenience myself enough to drive two hours out of the way to check on a friend.
Because I’m not just a sorry excuse for a Christian, I’m a sorry excuse for a human being. You know, resounding gongs, clanging cymbals. That stuff.
Honestly, I’m ashamed of myself. But I don’t intend for this series to be a shaming. I want it to be a call to action. I want to turn this heavy load of survivor’s guilt into something helpful. For the next few posts, I want to take you on my journey from being an Evangelical Pastor (and a Christian Asshole) to embracing those who have lived in the shadows for far too long.
We can do better. We can be better. We can love better.
I look up from my cozy corner of the coffee shop, and the heavens are crying. The tears of a broken-hearted God soaks the parking lot. This God of Love and Justice is as sick of my lip service to the black community, the gay community, and all the others who have heard my empty and rehearsed phrases long enough.
I’m a straight white Christian male, and I am acutely aware of the disheartening truth that my words mean nothing to so many. They’ve heard it all. Those who are hurting know they can count on people like me to continue to let them down. For many years, I have continued to talk a great talk, but sit my ass in the pew on Sunday and forget my commitment to love the least of these by the time I clock-in to work on Monday morning.
Hurting people have bet against guys like me. And if God were a betting man, I think He’d cast lots against us, too. Our privilege has made us so damn predictable. And our silence has made us culpable.
It’s time to openly acknowledge and apologize for the pain we have imposed on others in the name of God.
Instead of saying, “I’m sorry for your loss,” let’s show up at a vigil. Instead of offering, “Peace to you, my friend,” let’s lock arms with our LGBTQ neighbors at the next Pride parade. Instead of “Let us know if we can do anything,” let’s write a letter or donate money to the family of Michael Krohl, or Heather Hayer, or Amanda Alvear, or Kimberly Morris.
I can start by taking a gay friend out to lunch, just to show him how much I value his life and cherish our time together. I can thank a police officer, or buy them a cup of coffee. I can hug my black co-worker and tell them I am grieving for their community because we all belong to the same family. I can donate blood or plasma. I can write letters to my congressmen that support gun control legislation.
We can all do something. I must do something. Will you join me?
Jesus commanded that I love myself, my God, and my neighbor.
Love compels me to go to the outskirts of society and welcome everyone into the fold of God. Love expects me to act with kindness toward those who don’t think, act, vote, talk, dress, worship, or look like me. Love reminds me that a lack of compassion is in direct opposition to the message of Jesus, who told us to come as we are. Love demands that I put aside childish pride, in order to become a servant of all.
Love calls me to embrace “the least of these” and that includes those I disagree with and the ones I just don’t understand. Love makes space for differences, dysfunction, disease, and doubts. Love heals my hurts, embraces my questions, and shines Light on the darkest places of my soul.
Love beckons me away from the Christian Machine and empowers me to walk my individual journey of faith with boldness. Because when I know that I am loved without condition, nothing can hold me back or shut me up.
This Divine Call to Action comes with no strings attached and no exceptions.
If you find encouragement in these words, it’s time to do something about it. If my writing stirs something within you, let’s work together. If you’re allowing your perspective to shift and your compassion toward the marginalized of society to grow, it’s time to step up and speak out. Let us wrap ourselves in garments of unconditional love and unwavering justice as we begin to impact the world around us. If you want to stop being a Christian asshole, it starts with love. And love does something.
P.S. Have you ever met a Christian asshole? Reply in the comments, or email me directly. I’d love to hear your story.
Steve Austin is an author, speaker, and life coach who is passionate about helping overwhelmed people learn to catch their breath. He is the author of two Amazon bestsellers, "Catching Your Breath," and "From Pastor to a Psych Ward." Steve lives with his wife and two children in Birmingham, Alabama.
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