The Other Side of Christianity

In theory, Christianity is almost benign. “Love your neighbor.” “Serve one another.”

In practice, Christianity is one of the most judgmental and dishonest groups in the world.

This weekend I watched “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” about the late Tammy Faye Bakker.

A documentary look, mostly through the eyes of Tammy Faye Bakker Messner, at her rise and fall as a popular televangelist with husband Jim Bakker.Traces their rise: her teen marriage to Jim; their children’s TV show (she was a puppeteer and singer), success founding the 700 Club, co-founding the Trinity Broadcast Network, and starting PTL Network; her nondenominational version of Christianity reaching out to all; and, their building of Heritage USA, a theme park. Things fall apart as money woes mount for Heritage and for Jim, as Tammy takes pills, and as Jerry Falwell takes PTL. Jim goes to prison; she remarries, finds herself alone again, yet remains unsinkable. [From IMDB]

In one of many poignant moments, Tammy Faye talks about her experience re-entering church after her divorce from Jim Bakker. She said she didn’t want to attend church because she’d been so harshly judged by Christians after her divorce from Jim and their money scandals. And, the film shows people feeling disgusted with Tammy Faye as she re-enters a church to sing.

What some of us may not have seen until this film was the predatory way that Jerry Falwell came in and took over PTL when the news of the sex scandal with Jessica Hahn hit. Or earlier, when Jan and Paul Crouch booted them out of the Trinity Broadcasting Network.

It’s easy to see from the film that Tammy Faye was naive, and trusted those who called themselves Christians. And why shouldn’t she? They’re the kindest group in the nation, right?

Tammy Faye learned firsthand what Pat Boone was quoted as saying in the film,

“It’s so true that Christians are one army who kill their wounded.”

I’ve experienced this, though on much smaller levels than Tammy Faye. I’m not 100% convinced that I was ostracized from my church friends just because it’s a cult-ish church. I say that because later, when I met Christians in college, I got the same treatment. When I shared with some family members what happened to me, I got the same treatment. When I started blogging, again, many Christians (and Christian bloggers) treated me the same way.

The bottom line is if you’re wounded, they will try to kill you.

There’s nothing more frightening to Christians than a person who’s outspoken about the faults of their pastor and their religion, and they will attack to kill.

There’s a dark side to Christianity. A side that only the departed have seen. A side you’ll never see until you’ve walked away from the church, or become dissatisfied with lip service, or find out about the financial indiscretions of the people in ministry you so respected.

That dark side of Christianity is the other side–their true colors. The “we’ll kick you when you’re down” and “we take no prisoners” kind of mentality. They won’t leave many to talk about their wickedness, their hatefulness. They want to cut out your tongue so you can’t speak ill of them.

For a group who loves the truth, they love to silence those who want to SAY the truth.

There are, and it should be noted, a few, caring, devoted Christians that I know. I like them, but they’re decidedly not fundamentalists. They drink alcohol, and curse, and they are usually “outsiders” in their own religion.

I talk about Christianity as a whole here because I’m not sure what has happened in our country, our world, but it seems that fundamentalists have overrun the entire religion. Not that they’re the most outspoken, that they are the majority, and their ideology has infiltrated most Christian sects.

Upon leaving a fundamentalist cult, I felt it was important to differentiate between the cult and the “normal” Christian church. And then later, distinguish a difference between a “liberal progressive” church and the fundamentalists I knew.

But what is the real difference?

Upon further study and observation, and yes, even how I was treated by them, I find that the problem isn’t with fundamentalists or not. The problems lie in the religion itself. It’s a faulty and violent ideology. Those who say Islam is violent, should take a much deeper, introspective look at Christianity. In many ways, they mirror each other.

Fundamentalism is easy to embrace because the Bible is easiest to interpret literally. I blame preachers, yes, but I also blame the Bible for being contradictory. It takes a very enlightened mind to embrace today’s culture warmly and still believe in the Bible. Those who can embrace our culture and the Bible simultaneously feel comfortable with accepting the Bible as stories and suggestions, not rigid law or a map to follow. The Bible presents contradictions within itself and teaches values that are oppressive to many groups (slaves, women, etc.). To embrace these contradictions, one must be comfortable with uncertainty, doubt, and being contemplative rather than absolute.

To be honest, I have a real problem with stating that Christianity is a violent ideology, because I believe that people should have the right to freedom of religion. So, can I support freedom of religious belief and still believe that Christianity is violent? It’s complicated, but yes.

While complicated, those ideas can live together just as we humans can live together in [sometimes] harmony. Although we’re different, if we choose to be hopeful [and hope for the best in our neighbors] and introspective and thoughtful, a lot of good can come of it. We may not agree, but we can be cognizant of our differences and approach our differences thoughtfully. We can be honest about ourselves–where we came from, where our ideologies stem from, what are the strengths and weaknesses of those beliefs. We can embrace those who are different from us in peace, not in war.

Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding. Albert Einstein

2 thoughts on “The Other Side of Christianity”

  1. Very thought provoking Lisa! 🙂

    And for the record, just in case, it’s pretty stupid to argue about this with somebody who has actually been treated like this.

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