Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Problem With Christianizing Experience

In the past two weeks, I have talked with two friends who live in two different places,; who I have known in different "times" of my life, and who don't know each other. I have been struck with some similarities of experience, and finding that "christianizing" their experience is horrendously cruel. What do I mean?

One friend is married to an alcoholic, who is "in ministry", while the other friend is married, while living "estranged". Both are committed but struggling with staying married, questioning the situation, themselves, dealing with anger, confusion, indifference.... As I talk with them, I listen and try to understand, but I used to try to "christianize" my advice, as I thought that this was the "right" thing to do. I don't do so anymore. I only struggle to help them understand, evaluate, and try to encourage in any way I can.

I find that Christians bring upon these kinds of people trememdous pain, guilt and condemnation, by their patronizing attitude toward their "problems". One of the couples is in a small group and she shares some of her anger and frustration over not being understood and the simplistic way in which everyone else seems to understand their life. Of course, she does not feel free to "really share". Christians are not the first people that one thinks about "running toward".

I don't think that these two friends and their 'problems" are any different from any other human problems in one sense, but in another sense, they are suffering more under the guise of the expectations of "Christians".

These two friends and their "christianized experiences" are not the only ones that have impacted my opinion about Christian faith. My brother many years ago wanted to divorce his wife. My mother would not agree to it, which now she regrets. His marriage was a horrible one, but "good christians" don't divorce. His life ended in suicide. While I am not blaming his marriage as the total cause of his despair, it was a major part. Would he still be living if he had divorced? I don't know, but I wonder how our "christianized" encouragement damned his life!

Christians like to live by standards, which sometimes are hard roads to plow in the real world. The real world is not simple, and real solutions are not christianized experiences. Real solutions are political, moral and ethical questions about values that make up life. What is important to a person needs affirmation, if at all possible, not "christianized" condemnation.

"Christian" in evangelical/conservative terms has meant a "culture". But, that culture can be inhumane in their attempts to christianize experiences in the real world.
I have come to a point where Christian has no meaning, because what the word used to mean has dissappated. And under the circumstances, I think that is a good thing.

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