The world has got a pretty messed-up view of what Christianity is. For that matter, so do a bunch of people that think that they’re Christians.
It seems that whenever I see a secular movie portray Christians these days, the stereotypical Christian is a hypocrite who is obsessed with the idea that we must do works to be good enough to get us into heaven. It’s “do this” and “don’t do that.”
Christians are portrayed as closed-minded bigots who are full of hatred over homosexuality. They are portrayed as reactionary hate-mongers who abuse their children by not allowing them to choose who to love, or how, or when.
They are portrayed as backwards, anti-science hicks who “still believe” that the earth is flat. As people that never saw a good idea they liked, who would rather beat you over the head with a bible than read it.
They are portrayed as out of step with the times, as judgemental, self-righteous prigs, as immoral pedophiles who can’t be trusted with the minds of our youth. As hicks who play with rattlesnakes and bilk money from widows and the crippled. As (to borrow a few lines from Disney) rascals, scoundrels, villains, and knaves, devils and black sheep, really bad eggs.
If that isn’t enough, Christianity is portrayed as bare spirituality devoid of meaning. The way to heaven is portrayed as “living a good life,” being kind to dogs, cat’s and children, of not being the greedy, selfish CEO of a company that exploits people and instead allowing a woman to set up a Christmas Tree lot on the sidewalk outside the store.
Christianity is portrayed as a way to “solve your problems,” to be absolved of your responsibility, as a scam to gain sympathy for a criminal who “found the Lord” in prison, but really found a way to seem respectable.
This, it seems, is the view that Hollywood and Hallmark have of Christianity. And it’s all wrong. Worse, many who claim to be Christian reinforce these stereotypes.
Christianity is not any of this.
Christianity recognizes some rather basic and simple truths. The world is messed-up today. Most people have grievances against other people. We see injustice and decay, death, sickness, fear, hatred, and selfishness. We almost universally recognize that these things are not good. Christianity calls them evil and declares that their source is sin in the heart of man, and not just a few men, but all men.
Point to a problem in the world. Any problem. At the root of that problem, I can pretty much guarantee you that you will find sin. That sin may not be what you think it is, but it is there. And it originates in the heart of man.
The true Christian believes that all men are sinners, and that as such we deserve nothing less than death at the hands of a righteous and just God. Make no mistake, there is no exclusion here. We include all men, even ourselves in that judgement. The Christian is just as much a sinner as the murdering pedophile who just ate his grandmother. And just as much deserving of hell. And he knows it.
A true Christian knows that there is nothing he can do about it. He cannot swear to do nothing but righteous deeds for the rest of eternity, and indeed follow up on that oath, to earn his way into heaven before the righteous judge. For one, he knows he is incapable of fulfilling the oath, and for another, a mans righteous deeds will never blot out his sin.
The homosexual and the homophobe alike belong in hell. Cisgender, transgender, whatever – has nothing to do with getting a man into heaven before God. The murderer, the thief, the liar, and even their victims all face the same fate. Not because of their deeds, but because of what they are – sinners. The color of a man’s skin, and how he views others who are not of the same shade of melanin induced coloring, has nothing to do with what is in another man’s heart.
All have sinned and come short of the glory of God. They have all become worthless. There is none who seeks God.
The true Christian knows this. In their heart, at some time in their life, it’s likely the case that every man knows this.
Hollywood doesn’t like this view of humanity.
The true Christian acknowledges God. He knows that God not only exists, but that he created the whole world, even the whole universe of space and time. He knows that studying that creation is a worthy task, because the whole of creation declares the glory of God. Science isn’t a problem for the Christian, rather it’s a useful tool to understand the mind of God and the things he has made.
If the Christian rejects anything associated with science, it’s not the scientific method itself, but rather the philosophical naturalism that denies that God can even exist or have had, or continues to have a hand in his creation. Philosophical naturalism isn’t science, it’s a world view that colors one’s interpretations of science.
The Christian believes that God, the God who created the entire universe of space and time is himself outside of his creation. He never changes. He is always faithful, always true, and his word is as well. It is not his righteousness that is out of step with the times, the times are out of step with him. If he has declared something to be true, that truth does not change because time has passed and proven him wrong. Rather man’s rejection of the truth is inevitable over time because man has forsaken him.
We are broken, and we cannot fix ourselves. We don’t have the blueprints or the power. We have all rebelled against God.
But God can fix us. God knows how we are made. And God will forgive us if we repent of our sins and turn to him. Jesus died for the sins of the world, and he was raised from the dead that we too might one day be raised and live with him.
That’s what Christianity is about. Not rules and regulations and earning our way into heaven, but trusting in the one who made us to forgive us, to fix us, to make us new, and to give us life. Christianity is about sharing that good news.
And as for rules… don’t do this, don’t do that? Do this, do that? Once you’re saved, doing what God wants and avoiding what he doesn’t want will be natural. And it will be evidence that your salvation is real. But never the cause of it.