17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
– II Corinthians 5:17
One of the earliest seeds of doubt I still recall is when I realized that sometimes Christians were jerks too.
I was 18, still in my happy, DayGlo, recently saved and washed-in-the-blood honeymoon period. But it was late on in that phase, starting to get down to day-to-day living. After service I was heading for the parking lot, when my ear caught two women arguing. And not nice arguing. They were shrieking at each other, really fighting, arguing about some relationship changing issue they had between them. A man was with one of the women, the other alone. And I say that not to make implications, because I have no memory what it was actually about, but to give you an idea of how vivid the impression still is, 31 years later. Both women sounded nasty and unreasonable, like they were trying to do damage rather than work out a problem.
I was shocked. I remember thinking, “Whoa! We’re Christians! How can people who are fervent believing Christians act like that toward each other? We’re supposed to be different!”
Christians are supposed to be different.
In a previous article, I touched on the fact that fundamentalist theology (Evangelical/Baptist/Inerrantist/etc.) held that that human nature was made up of three parts, body (physical self), soul (mind, will, emotions), and spirit (the part of a human that is able to interact with god.)
The theological concept of Regeneration states that all humans are born in a fallen state, meaning that while we have a living body and soul, our spirit is dead, and in need of resurrection, this as a result of Adam’s original sin. When a person then makes a proactive choice to “receive or accept” Christ (phraseology found nowhere in the bible, by they way) that dead spirit within is regenerated. It is resurrected. It is once again alive and the believer is now connected directly to God. At that moment of regeneration, in fact, Christians are taught that the Holy Spirit indwells the believer, takes up residence within their hearts. No longer will they be severed from the God of all the universe who made them and everything (and some denominations who adhere to the doctrine of Eternal Security say they never can be severed.)
The verse quoted at the head of this article is at the center of this doctrine. If anyone is in Christ (has accepted Christ, in the modern interpretation) he is a new creation. The old is gone, the new has come. This is viewed as a permanent, one time transaction.
Before diving in further, I’ll fill you in on a related doctrine called Sanctification. According to this doctrine, while the spirit has been resurrected, is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and is a new, pure creation, the body and soul are still in a fallen state, and it takes time and spiritual practice to have the body and soul conform to the nature of the spirit.
This doctrine varies a LOT in how it’s conceived, perceived, and practiced, but the dichotomy of Paul’s old man and new man of Romans 6-9 at least keeps all different views in agreement that there is an internal battle taking place in every believer. So there’s a little wiggle room for imperfect Christians.
But if Christians truly are different, if a part of them that is dead in the non-believer has been made alive, if that part of the was made newly alive so that the believer is now fully connected to the vast resources of heaven in order to do good work in the name of Christ, then their mode of operation should reflect that. The Christian’s indwelt Holy Spirit should bring some of the winsome nature and that perfect love to the conversation.
But if you’ve spent any time on the internet, you’re already laughing at that.
Mind, Christians aren’t any worse than anyone else, really. The internet is the Asshole Whisperer. It brings out the inner asshole in many, many people.
I didn’t need much help to begin with, surely, but it still brings out the worst in me.
Look, I don’t care if Christians are assholes. Because they’re people. And people are assholes. I would just ask them to stop pretending they’re not assholes, or worse, that Jesus gave them permission to be assholes, but only to atheists and Muslims.
But I’ll tell you, if you really want to see Christians being assholes, all you have to do is threaten their elistist Christian privilege. That will send a good number of them stark raving mad. When they can’t impose their religion on you, can’t force you to recognize that Jesus is Lord, and all else is a lie, they lose their ever loving shit.
Case in point: Christian Love in Action, my personal title for a very sad article by Valerie Tarico.
You see, Christians, in this diverse nation, you aren’t allowed to force other people to believe your religion. You’re not allowed to force them to follow it, and you’re not allowed to coerce them in any way using government resources or by requiring it of them in their employment.
You’re not allowed to do that. It’s called Freedom of Religion, and it’s in the Constitution. You know, that big ol’ paper you think Jesus wrote on the Mount of Olives with Thomas Jefferson, Moses, and Elijah? The one you cry about when somebody won’t let you oppress another person on religious grounds, but then conveniently forget exists the moment you want to discriminate against others for your religious purposes.
Oh yeah, that Constitution.
Well, the military has for decades been a cesspool of Christian coercion and discrimination and oppression of non-Christian soldiers. Mikey and Bonnie Weinstein decided to do something about it. They formed the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) to stand up for non-Christian soldiers who were systematically subjected to religious proselytization by superior officers and subject to punitive measures when they resisted such coercion.
What was the Christian response? Other than being shocked that they don’t get to turn the military into their own private theocracy, the believers themselves decided to write the Weinsteins some friendly letters.
Well, the Weinsteins weren’t surprised, but neither did they take the systematic verbal abuse lying down. Bonnie gathered best of the best (worst of the worst?) into a tidy little book:
So how do you think the Christian internet activists responded to this very candid look at their very, very, very poor behavior? Did they look at their horrible, hate-filled rants and say, “You know, that wasn’t right. The Holy Spirit did not inspire that, and we’re going to repent of our vile words?”
Hardly. Instead they responded… (The following quotes were reproduced from the inimitable Valerie Tarico‘s blog, where the article resides.)
Mr. M Weinstein I am a spirit-filled ordained pastor of The Gospel from the great state of Nebraska. Stop your attack on God Almighty and His only Son our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! Stop your attack on His holy Christian wariors in our armed military forces! My congregation includes many military from the nearby air force base. We pray as one for you to die tonight in your sleep leaving a bloody mess for your family to find at daybreak.
That’s a pastor, apparently. Pastor – leader of winsome Christians who are called to be love, light, and salt to their communities:
And there’s this:
Eat shit and don’t die. Just keep eating shit Michael Loser Weinstein. Fun to watch you eat shit. For all time. Since you and your little family of mfrr shit eaters are nothing but shit anyway. Your only hope is to surrender to Jesus Christ. Your a stiff necked jew so you will not (Exodus 32 and verse 9). Thus you have no hope. Keep your shitty self out of Christ’s military and Christ’s nation you dirty shit bag.
And what about this gem:
Fuck your crybaby slut ass wife and fuck your crybaby spoiled children. Who got their fancy air force academy educations all paid for by the GRACE of Amercan CHRISTIAN taxpayers. And just look what we got for our tax money. The family Whiningsteen jew traitors from HELL. Cry cry cry cause you have it so bad in a CHRISTIAN made country. You know what you all happier in North koria or back in Jewsrael. get OUT of our country! Here Jesus is KING and if you dont like it than fuck you.
And you have to adore this example, where the Asshole pretends any of this has anything to do with love:
Christ will slay Mikey Weinstein with The Sword of Righteousness. Your serpant husband will be cut down by Jesus and mutilated for his evil doings. Then him and they all will be cast wiggling and screaming into the Lake of Fire to burn for all time. See John 3:36 and Revelations 20:14. You still have time Bonnie and so do your kids. This is ‘Truth’ mail from those Christians who love you so much and your kids and grandkids too.
I’m sorry, either be an asshole, or be loving. Don’t pretend that making vapid threats like an asshole somehow shows your love.
Now, are all Christians like this?
If you like, I’ll trot out examples from my own life of Christians who wouldn’t be caught dead acting out like this. You don’t need me to, because believer or non-believer, you have your own examples in your life too.
Yet these quotes are from Christians who, I guarantee you, are in church every Sunday, Bible Study every Wednesday, read their bibles, go to Sunday school, and believe they are living spirit-filled lives of righteousness in the name of Jesus Christ.
How can they be connected to the same Holy Spirit of these other good Christians we know and still be such vile assholes at times like this?
Because they’re only people, that’s why.
They’re just people like you and me. They don’t actually have a mythical third part of their person that has been made alive and is intimately connected to the Supreme and Holy God of the Universe. They don’t have access to the power of Christ to move mountains and part seas. They have not been transformed. They are not new creations. The old has not gone, and there is no new to come.
That is a thing they believe because they’re taught it from an interpretation of scripture. That is a thing they convince themselves is true by emotional wish-fulfillment. They’re just imperfect people.
Those who become better people become better people because they have within them the ability to become better people. They respond to the religious motivation they receive and make changes in their lives. Those who get off drugs because of Jesus do so because they had it within them to get off drugs with their spiritual mindset – one that takes their minds of themselves and focuses elsewhere, one that gives them perspective and the support network to make it through.
People do transform, not because they’re reborn, but because they, as people, are able, and, in the end, finally do something to change their own lives.
Some people are winsome, even on the internet. Some people are total assholes, especially on the internet.
The inclusion or exclusion of Christ is irrelevant.
Well, except that it does help to put one more lie to the assertion that Christianity is true and relevant for today.