Randy Milholland, writer, artist, and overall brilliant creative mind behind Something*Positive
, posted a challenge to Christians here
It's interesting. And it's a fair question. And I'm going to do my best to explain my stance on obnoxious Christian fundamentalists as a left-leaning Roman Catholic Christian.
The first thing that non-Christians need to understand, though, is that we don't all hang out. I don't see Pat Robertson at Sunday dinner and have just taken a pass on telling him what an embarrassing bigot he is. I haven't refrained from smacking Billy Graham upside the head just to keep peace in the family. There is no Christian clubhouse, there is no secret handshake. Really. Think back to Western Civ. I and a little to-do historians like to call the Reformation. We spent several hundred years trying to kill each other over various dogmatic, theological, and political issues, and there are Christians out there who still would consider me a godless pagan because I am an idolatrous Catholic who worships the pope and Mary. Hell, Protestants and Catholics only just stopped trying to kill each other in Northern Ireland. So telling me to stand up and speak to Christians because they'll listen to me because I'm also Christian is not nearly as constructive as it sounds.
Another problem arises when you consider rifts within individual denominations. I'm Roman Catholic, and for many people, that statement raises images of people who don't like sex, who walk in lockstep with an old, out-of-touch Italian (or Polish, or German) man, and who are virulently insular. If you know me, you know that's not me. That's not a lot of Catholics. But there are Catholics who are like that. Many of the more politically-talented of us are entrenched in trying to reform our religions, like in the crisis facing the Episcopal Church over homosexuality. My father is nominally a Republican, but he's been so caught up in working for reform in his order
that he doesn't have time to work for reform in his political party. My point is that the best people to speak up often have other priorities that take precedence.
So, I hear you saying to yourself, "Self, Icewolf is doing a bang up job of making excuses for Christians." I'd call it background information, but I see your point. To that end, I will make some suggestions.
Churches who oppose the "vocal minority" need to cross denominational--and even religious--lines to work together in the community. The "good" Christians have always been bigger fans of action example over rhetoric, so let's put that belief to work, so to speak. Those pesky corporal works of mercy, you know. We're never going to out-scream the other side: it's neither possible nor becoming. It's certainly un-Christian.
But, even more importantly, we must be proud of who we are on an individual level. We need to work for peace and understanding in our communities, in our country, in the political arena, and in the world, and we need to be perfectly transparent about our motives: "I'm doing this good/understanding/peaceful/constructive thing because my faith tells me it's the right thing to do." Many of us avoid saying so because we're afraid to be lumped in with the crazies. We're frightened and embarrassed by our faith in front of our political allies, so we keep it under a bushel-basket. Then we go to church, and sometimes are told we're not good Catholics, Baptists, Lutherans, what have you, so we stash our political principles under the basket, too.
Maybe it's because I come from a family of religious dissenters. I'm the latest in a long line of rabble-rousers in the Catholic Church. But I remember my confirmation. I was sprinkled, anointed, and given a new name, Brigid. I was also given a light, symbolic slap across the face by the bishop. The gesture stood for the possible persecution I must be willing to face as an adult in the Church. Jesus never promised us a rose garden--He got Gethsemane himself. But He absolutely does require us to have the courage of our convictions. All of them.