Tuesday, November 24, 2015

One Reason Why People Don't Go To Church - Christians are Judgmental

My post 10 Reasons Why People Don't Go To Church struck a chord with many. The first reason I gave for why people don't go to church is because, frankly, many think Christians are judgmental, negative and critical. I want to ask you, is it true?

One young lady once said, 'I don't like working in the cafe on a Sunday, because that's the day the Christians come in.' I had to double check that what she was saying was true. She wasn’t making it up. I wish she was. She was adamant. When the ‘Christians’ came into the cafĂ© in which she worked, they were demanding, picky, negative and demeaning. I was thinking I could argue and say, ‘Well, that’s just your perception of Christians.’ I could have argued that point, the problem was, however, that her perception was an accurate view of reality.

We have all seen the bad caricatures of Christians in secular media; depicted as outdated and irrelevant people, wearing weird clothing. Well, this lady’s view of Christians was true. In this particular incident, Christians were negative and rude. Now one desires to defend the Christian faith, and its poor representation, but at times, one must simply admit, that these followers of Jesus let the team down.

Sometimes Christians are very judgmental; sometimes we simply appear to be so.

Let me clarify for you, before you move on to washing your car, making dinner and putting the kids in bed. People of Christian faith are regularly making moral judgments about what is going on in their reality and in their world. 

Though one must surely distinguish between being judgmental and making judgments. 

See, to make a judgment is to merely discern the appropriate action to a particular problem and to form an opinion. Being judgmental is technically one who is simply making a judgment, but is usually used with a negative connotation; that is, ‘someone is being judgmental.’

When a Christian makes a judgment that need not mean she is being judgmental in the negative sense. For instance, I recall a time a few of us were sitting in a local fast food restaurant and we were chatting about leadership. Then we got on to the topic of allowing people to become Christian ministers, and the process in which that happens. The topic got quite heated as we discussed what really mattered in the scheme of things when it came to ordaining someone for Christian ‘Full-time’ Ministry. Then some blurted out, ‘Well, it’s not our place to be judge!’

I thought about this for a moment. Wait a minute, it is someone’s place to make a judgment. Say Johnny Smith puts his hands up to become a Clergyman, after some of his previous professions hadn’t gone too well. He’s out of work and sees an opportunity. Now, I’m not saying Johnny shouldn’t be able to become a Priest, but the fact is, someone needs to make a judgment call at some point. Should Johnny be able to become a priest? It is not judgmental in a negative way, to go through the right processes, of prayer, background checks, psychological testing, interviews and the like to make a ‘judgment’ about Johnny’s capacity or otherwise to do the job he feels called to do.

Christians make judgments. Well, we all make judgments. We make decisions on whether we will buy that new jumper, or wear the old one in the cupboard. We decide if we’ll take out that loan or not, and we decide whether we’re going to eat out and cook at home again for another night. Employers make judgments about employees. Politicians make judgments about new policies. Farmers make judgments about how they’ll prepare their crop. Dancers make judgments on their choreography.

The issue then, is not that Christians make judgments or are judgmental (in the strict sense of the word), but there’s something else at play.

Could it be that what infuriates unbelievers the most, is not so much that Christian’s have a say about a particular topic, but rather it’s the content of what they say that annoys them. So, it’s then, not so much that Christians make judgments but it’s what they find to be so important in life that drives others crazy.

Let me go down this rabbit warren for a moment. Most people, in secular democratic societies today are big on free speech. You have a right to speak your mind, and you have a right to a particular ideology. You have human rights and that affords you the luxury of choosing which way you lean politically, creating your own view on the environment and making an opinion about the latest music.

Though you have a right to speak what is important to you, that doesn’t mean people are going to like what you say. Often when someone hears something that challenges their foundational belief system, one feels offended and taken-aback. That’s when you hear, ‘Stop being judgmental.’ 

Wait a second: If your belief system is challenged, the other person may not be intending to be ‘judgmental’, but is probably just them making particular comments about the aspects of the beliefs to which they have a different view.

So there’s a difference from being negative and judgmental to offering up an opinion that runs in stark contrast to the one listening.

Here’s the challenge for communities of faith today. Our views and forthright opinions that we express in church communities can come across as judgmental to those listening. That may not be because we are purposefully being antagonistic, but rather, that what the listener is hearing, is so at odds with their own world-view, it appears judgmental and harsh.

How do we deal with this issue? Is it simply the work of the Holy Spirit to convince those that hear what we say has validity? Does that then mean it doesn’t matter how forthright we share the message of Christ and the Kingdom of God to a yet-to-be-Christian?  

If we head down the track that it is entirely the work of the Spirit to convince someone of the credibility of the Gospel story, then we excuse ourselves from any part that we play. One has to admit, we surely play a part. We are responsible for:
  • What we communicate to others 
  • How we communicate that message to others
  • How we conduct our day-to-day lives
  • How we express compassion to another
  • How we respond to negativity ourselves
  • How we introduce aspects of our faith story with an unbeliever

It is the role of the Holy Spirit to guide people into all truth[i] but it the role of the believer to creatively and compassionately live out and proclaim a message of hope to the world. Christians cannot abdicate their responsibility to be salt and light in the world, and cannot shirk from the accountability God puts on us to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God.[ii] 

People would surely seek to be part of churches if they were places that overflowed with respect, love and compassion and were communities that acknowledged people are on a journey of discovering the truth of God. We must show respect and love in the process.

I don't mean to judge, but Christians can be negative, pessimistic and judgmental. We need to show another way. 

The way of Christ.

[i] John 16:13
[ii] Micah 6:8

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