Fight that urge

The other day on Community I was having a conversation with a young Christian woman. She writes about religion, church, and Jesus as humanity’s saviour.

An interesting point came up: whether it is correct to describe Christianity as a religion.

She corrected me that it isn’t. Yet to me that’s as clear as daylight: of course it is. Her response, although I do not fully agree with nor understand, argued that Christianity isn’t a religion. I’ll try to rephrase her point: religions are man-made constructs. Through religion alone, one cannot reach God. Rather, God reaches out to man – which is what Christianity is about. Therefore, Christianity is not a religion.

My post isn’t about the intricacies of our discussion or the slip in logic. What was interesting were my feelings while I tried to digest what she was saying, subsequently interpreted what she was saying, and finally devised a rebuttal.

My first thought: how arrogant.

Who’s to carve out Christianity as something special and exempt it from being linguistically characterised alongside all other world religions? In her reply, ‘Christianity’ stands out as a genre of its own. To call it a religion is beneath it. I came up with a handful of popular religions (including Sikhism because of its exotic spelling – I had to look it up), prepared my reply to lump Christianity with them all. No, it doesn’t deserve special treatment. The majority would agree that Christianity is a religion and there’s nothing wrong with calling it such.

Next I thought: how inarticulate.

I suspect she was trying to bring home the point of grace, poorly argued. It is widely preached, at least in the Protestant world, that works (actions) will not bring one salvation. It is by the grace of God that salvation is complete.

I judged her based on her one reply: her thoughts convoluted, her writing unclear. She didn’t know what she was talking about!

My (rather mean) thought process had me thinking:

Behind the niceties, encouragement and acknowledgement when it comes to our writing, how do we deal with differences? What’s our method of handling disagreement? How do we perceive and treat those who think worlds away from us?

It dawned on me it was me who was arrogant. Equally amused, yet angry when thinking up my response. I wasn’t merely defending, conversing – I wanted to teach her a lesson. My mind was filled with the image of a young woman living within the bubble of church, surrounded by people who parrot her thoughts and encourage her loyalty to fellowship and God. In my imagination, she is oblivious to how the rest of the world works, including the usage of common nouns. The image was also of someone placing Christianity – her prized religion – on a pedestal. Since she refuses to call it a ‘religion’ like a normal person would, surely she would fail to see its many contradictions and doctrinal imperfections.

I don’t think she fully understood my reply, and I didn’t bother writing back to further our discussion. Instead, I half-heartedly clicked the like button, and decided no more time was to be allocated to such folly. Case closed.

It’s easy to make judgements in the online world. There are no solid identities. Sometimes there’s a profile picture to put a face to the words. But truth is, we know nothing about the person writing the post. They may be struggling to articulate. English may not be their most natural language. They may be juggling many ideas. They may have the best intentions, but poor presentation. They may not know yet know who they are.

I knew very little about Christian Girl. But based on a verbal sparring stint I judged her, and did so quickly. I deemed I was more intelligent, eloquent, worldly. I was simply, better. She was not worth my time.

Knowing this, it’s something I fight every day. We have the freedom to think what we want, say what we want, but for all the different people to coexist peacefully in the world, we must be tolerant. Even when someone thinks worlds apart from us.* There are days when I forget. The mean spirit and self-righteousness creeps up. And I have to fight it once more.

Fight that urge. That compulsion to judge, up, fix someone. That instinct to be the best, the cleverest, the know-it-all. We can’t be all things to all men, we each have our tastes and specialties, our strengths and weaknesses. We can choose what to read and how to respond. There are enough places of hostile competition. The battlefield, the workplace, the courtroom. But not here, not the blogosphere.

I am sorry, Christian Girl, for having these thoughts against you.

 

*There are limits to this tolerance, which is why we have laws that prohibit and punish the most extreme of behaviours. 

Related posts from this blog:

Other blogs on first impressions, judgement and blogging:

What judgements do you make when blogging? What do you think about blogging and competition?

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19 comments on “Fight that urge

    • That I can be a mean bean? 🙂
      It’s not easy to recognise the mal intent within oneself. I’d rather paint the rosy picture that I’m loving, tolerant and unconflicted. But I’m not always, and know the bad side is just lurking in the shallows. Must be kept in check.
      Thanks trb, I had guessed you’d understand. When writing this I had your Martha story in mind, so thanks for sharing that.

      Like

  1. I like your honesty. I was an atheist 2for 20 years because the Protestant church I attended, trying to find God, told me that faith was a gift of grace from God. I didn’t believe the stories they were telling me about God and creation and virgin birth etc, as hard as I tried, and so i thought even God didn’t love me. It was quite painful, especially since they told me I was not “chosen.” Balderdash. Many years later I was in a 12 step program and required to come to terms with the idea of “Higher Power.” Eventually I noticed how I felt by the Ocean, and in the mountains, and Nature became my Higher Power. Many people refer to god as D.O.G. to indicate there is a Something that they cannot name, but Which was benign, powerful and beyond the self.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s interesting, I had forgotten about the ‘being chosen’ bit about Christianity. I don’t believe every denomination preaches the same thing – from my understanding of the Christianity I know, anyone in the world can receive God’s grace if they so choose – it’s free. As for being chosen, I don’t think it makes sense. If the price of unbelief is death (hell), and you have to be chosen as “God’s people” to be saved, then for those unchosen there’s not really much choice? The take-away would be there are many different denominations of Christianity out there. One church’s interpretation of something does not represent every other church’s stance.
      True – nature is glorious and full of wonder. If we look beyond our planet and contemplate the rest of the galaxy, the universe, it’s even more evident that we are so very small.

      Like

  2. Very, very interesting post, Pixie. I’m glad you came to respect Christian girl, agreeing to disagree (I hope she respects your thoughts too). Religion is a sensitive subject. For some of us, religion is the thing that keeps us going and gives us strength. I’m not religious but I do have friends who are very into Christianity and have tried to convert me to the religion many, many times. I’ve always responded by asking questions about the religion to get an insight as to how and why they believe in what they do.

    Coming onto WordPress, I told myself to be as open and as honest as possible to what I read here. For me, “anything goes” here unless it’s discriminatory and insulting. On the subject of “liking” posts, I do that after I have read the post or if I know they are photo blogs/posts I will “like” it from my Reader. As for “liking” comments, that’s something I’ve not warmed to. Too much like Facebook :/

    I’ve never seen blogging as competition. We’re not in a race here, unless we’re trying to reach a certain amount of views before the other but I doubt many do. It’s easy to forget to be “open-minded” – all of us have been brought up with certain beliefs and have our own perspectives, like what you mentioned in the last paragraph.

    Thanks for the link to my post, I really appreciate you spreading the love. And just from reading this post, now at some point I think I’m going to write about religion and this whole thing about commenting etiquette. Thank you 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love your posts about blogging and multiculturalism. I see you as promoting more understanding between people, and also really appreciate you writing about Asian in a predoninantly white environment. You are right – being open minded is important. While we blog about what we see and our own views, blogging is also about understanding new things. Without an open mind it isnt possible to learn.
      I’m not sure about Christian Girl…But I will remind myself to first think, digest, and think some more before placing any judgements!
      Look forward to your new posts on this issue Mabel 🙂

      Like

  3. Pixie there is nothing left to say for me except that I admire your writing and honesty to write on such sensitive subject, but you handled it so maturely. I absolutely adore this about you. To write a strong piece like this one needs a deep insight into world and one’s own-self. Marvelous piece of writing A huge round of applause for you and A standing Ovation

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Yeah but sometimes people are just morons.

    The fact is that she will wilfully ignore mountains of evidence to preserve her religion and then try to argue that it isn’t a religion at all. The fact is you presented an argument that she didn’t like and rather than engaging on your terms she gave up.

    If you turn on a light in the darkness the first reaction of many is to close their eyes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • hahaha, well ‘moron’ comes across quite strong. I’d rather think of it as people who have been taught to think one way and for some reason they’ve prohibited themselves from seeing things any other way. I respect people with religions. As @MabelKwong mentioned above it is sometimes the thing, or the only thing that keeps us going.
      I won’t really try showing anyone light per se. Everyone can think for themselves independently. It’s fine if we have a conversation, each side’s story presented, and we both walk away unchanged. Sometimes the only conclusion is to agree to disagree. I only hope, that for everyone who has certain way of thinking, that some logic has been inputted to derive at that result. Reason, kindness, open-mindedness and sound judgement are some elements to thinking that will help us nurture tolerance, and cliche as it is, peace.
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

      Like

  5. This was interesting, and interesting to read the comments. Your post wasn’t really about religion, right? It was about how we are quick to do the things we judge others for. I think she was being high and mighty, and judging her religion to be above all others. This act of narrow mindedness made you feel narrow minded. The one difference is that you recognized it in yourself and got rid of it. That shows real insight. I like it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks rocketdow, couldn’t have said it better myself. True, I don’t think it’s specific to religion. The judgement can come at any time really. Whenever someone holds an opposing view, and all the more so if the view is presented from a highground. It’s so easy to jump straight into critical or defensive mode!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Such a great post Pixster. As a Christ-follower myself i thought she was going for the ‘It’s not a religion, it’s a relationship’ angle so at least that was fresh but yes at the end of the day semantics… even within my own church, i used to be part of a Vineyard church and there was this huge emphasis on the idea that we were a movement and not a church except that to everyone else outside we looked just pretty much exactly like another church – and it can be the words or ideas like that that lift us above others, in our own minds at least.

    However none of that was really what your post was about and i loved the humility and introspection that occurred and the way you translated that so well to us, your readers. Also challenging us gently in the way that we respond to those who think differently from us.

    So nice. I enjoyed reading it. You can stay.
    love brett fish

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi brett fish – thanks for gracing me with my very first nickname, Pixster! I like it, it’s a concoction between Pixie, Pixar and perhaps, hipster =) And thanks for sharing your personal experience, adding another dimension to this discussion. That’s very interesting, I haven’t heard of a church calling itself a movement before, but it isn’t inaccurate: Jesus did start a movement, arguably a massive revolution. If the church is trying to change the way people behave and bring new ways to living purposefully, I don’t see why it shouldn’t be classified as a movement.
      And you’re right – at the end of the day, if it’s a name or identity that helps the people in it become better people, I don’t see how it can hurt. To outsiders though, unconventional usage of language and terms can cause confusion, and sometimes be perceived as arrogant or unreceptive of reality. I’m thinking Gwyneth Paltrow calling divorce “conscious uncoupling”, or certain cults (FLDS…?) calling themselves a religion when to the common person its practices are perceived as criminal, perverted and dangerous. Those are mere dramatic examples to illustrate the value of sticking to the common meaning of terms. I don’t think Vineyard Church’s usage of “movement” goes anywhere near these extremes at all. A general thought: while people, or a whole community is free to use language to classify themselves however they like, language itself and the accurate usage of such is valuable in helping us understand our own in society, and understand others’ perception of the world. But at the end of the day, we are unique individuals and it’s not possible to communicate in a way to allow another human to understand us 100%. Language itself is imperfect; our best bet is to learn how to express ourselves as accurately as possible.

      The lesson of humility – it’s one I struggle with often. It’s easy to forget where another person is coming from sometimes and give a bit of slack to behaviour which I otherwise would think of as a bit off. Thank you for the encouragement, thank you for stopping by and commenting. I’m interested in hearing your perspectives as a Christian living in today’s world. Glad I can stay!

      Pixie

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I don’t think blogging should ever be reduced to the arena of competition, and please make no mistake about it, to place it in the realm of competition is indeed to reduce it, belittle it, make it less than it was before. The bloggosphere, or whatever you wish to call it, draws its very strength from the fact that it is a place where everyone can be themselves, express themselves, in whatever manner they are most comfortable doing so. Some people write prose, others write poetry, some people take pictures, and still others draw or paint, or construct images in some other fashion. Is any one of these activities to be judged by onlookers as being better in some way than any of the others. Is my poetry, if it is the best I can do, to be judged against, shall we say for the sake of argument, Leonard Cohen, and if so, how many voices will suddenly be silenced, and how long before the Bloggosphere dies a quick and painful death. No, there is no room at all for judgement of another person’s contribution to the Bloggosphere,and unless it is in the area of encouragement directed at those who may lack a certain amount of faith in their own abilities, and any competition should be of only the friendliest sort, again with the idea of encouragement at the forefront, so that in the end, the Bloggosphere only continues to grow as more and more people see in it, a warm inviting, non-judgmental vehicle of self-expression and socialization. But I’ve been following you now for quite some time Pixie, so you should know that I offer these thoughts only IMHO. Thanks for listening.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi David

      Very true – the blogosphere should be an open place for discussion and sharing different views. It’s where minds meet, and where thoughts and ideas can be propagated, moulded and challenged. “…..any competition should be of only the friendliest sort, again with the idea of encouragement at the forefront, so that in the end, the Bloggosphere only continues to grow as more and more people see in it, a warm inviting, non-judgmental vehicle of self-expression and socialisation.”, yes, well said. It should indeed be one of those places, and I think this is in line with what the WordPress staff strive for when facilitating Community and discussion boards. It is also the type of culture I’ve seen in a lot of the blogs I admire and support.

      Thank you for following through the months, and I’m very grateful for your thoughts!

      Liked by 1 person

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