Monday, April 14, 2008


I've been giving a lot of thought to what it means to be a Christian. There are several different ways to define it. I think that most folks tend to go strictly on doctrinal issues. If their doctrine isn't the same as mine then they can't be Christian. It's with this logic that Mormons are accused of not being Christian and are doomed to Hell while Baptist televangelists who have gay affairs are deserving of our forgiveness.
I tend to go with a behavioral definition. In the story of the Good Samaritan it wasn't the pious that reached out and showed Christ like compassion. It was the profane Samaritan. Likewise in our world today I don't think it matters what label you have that makes you Christian. Baptist, Mormon, Muslim or Atheist it's irrelevant. Friend or foe, family or stranger, it's how we treat our fellow man that defines his "Christianity".
As a result of my comments about the movie Expelled I've received several personal emails from self professed Christians. Some of them were vulgar and were deleted before I even read the whole thing. A few were not as bad but were still very mean spirited. Not one of them wanted to discuss the actual claims that I had made, they just wanted to attack me personally. From a behavioral perspective, I've never been treated more unChristlike in email exchanges. You'd have thought I was proposing reinstating polygamy from the rabid responses I received.
In sharp contrast to these emails I've had very open and civil discussions about my Mormonism on discussion boards where the majority are atheist.
A few months ago Aaron and I went downtown to hear the Dalai Lama speak. For over an hour he talked about our responsibility to eliminate the suffering of others. He talked about the power of love curing all of the ailments of humanity. It was one of the most spiritual experiences I'd ever had. On the way out a couple of self professed Christians were passing out cards with a picture of a mutilated body in a wrecked car. The caption carried the message, “If you die on the way home from this event you will go to Hell". How nice and Christian or them to so graphically speak out against peace, love and understanding.
As I've stated before I think Christians get too hung up on the bureaucracy of what it means to be Christian and forget the message that Christ really spoke. A shining example of someone who gets it right came in our concluding speaker of Sacrament Meeting yesterday. An Elder had just returned from his mission to New York City. He told a very personal story about how he just wanted to go home because he felt the people, the city and everything about New York was just filthy. He didn't want to even unpack his bags because he didn't think he would be able to handle it. It wasn't until he reflected on times in his own life that he had felt loved that he turned himself around. Slowly but surely he began to see the people of New York not as a separate group but as part of the same group. He was able to eliminate the “us and them” mentality and learned to love them as his fellow brothers and sisters. He then shared that he even grew to love the smell and the garbage on the streets of New York. This is the best modern example of Christ like love that I have heard from the pulpit in quite some time. Considering the events of this weekend this is the example that I am trying hardest to emulate. He gets them both right, the doctrine and the behavior.

1 comment:

  1. I think you have pegged the problem. People are wound up in the mechanics while forgetting the message.

    I really enjoyed Stanley's talk, as well. It was an honest appraisal of how hard it is to love people, sometimes, until you look on them in the same perspective as the Saviour. I suppose you could call them "Love-colored" glasses! :)