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:
- Don’t judge a you-know-what by its you-know-what (The Reluctant Baptist)
- The challenges of blogging, and how to overcome them (Mabel Kwong)
- A blogging evolution (Opinionated Man)
- How to starve a troll (Daily Post)
What judgements do you make when blogging? What do you think about blogging and competition?