Sunday, April 12, 2009

Association of Bad Christians

Well, I was outed recently. Actually, I guess I outed myself. I picked up a copy of Diana Butler Bass's new book A People's History of Christianity: The Other Side of the Story and, while reading along, found this "'When someone asks me what kind of Christian I am,' says Brent Bill, a Quaker writer, 'I say I'm a bad one.' He goes on to say, 'I've got the belief part down pretty well, I think. It's in the practice of my belief in everyday life where I often miss the mark.'"

While it's probably not the smartest thing for guy who writes books on spirituality to admit, the above quotation is accurate. I am a bad Christian. By bad, I mean, just not very good at it. In spite of just shy of 60 years of attending Sunday School, worship services, summer camps, revivals, prayer meetings, religious colleges, seminary, being a pastor, reading books, memorizing Bible verses.

I mean, I know what a good Christian should look like -- she or he exhibits the fruits of the spirit:
  • Love
  • Joy
  • Peace
  • Long-suffering
  • Kindness
  • Goodness
  • Faithfulness
  • Gentleness
  • Self-control
But often, when I look in the mirror (even if it is looking through a glass dimly to quote St. Paul), I see a man who believes those things but doesn't always live them out very well. I want to be loving, joyful, peaceful, long-suffering, kind, good, faith, gentle and full of self-control. But I am just not any of those things nearly enough of the time.

Which, in the past, has been awfully discouraging. Every day in every way I am not getting better and better. Or am I?

That's what I've been thinking about these past few days. As I told Diana when she interviewed me for her book, "I see myself as a pilgrim -- traveling the faith path to the destination of being a good Christian -- and into the eternal presence of God." Since today is Easter, I decided that, instead of the faithful women who went to the tomb and heard the GOOD NEWS, I would have been one of the fellows on the road to Emmaus, heading away and thinking about all the happened. It takes Jesus to come walk alongside me and instruct me before I get it anywhere close to right. And I don't think I'm the only one.

A number of us, even on Easter (or maybe especially on Easter) recognize that we are bad Christians. We want to be like Jesus, we try to live in the way of Jesus, we know that we believe in Jesus -- but we mess up a lot.

So perhaps we need to band together and support each other on this pilgrimage together (less for protection from bandits and baddies who would attack us on our way, than from "good" Christians who like to take potshots at us for not being good enough). So I propose forming an "Association of Bad Christians" -- A group for folks who are just not very good at being Christian -- who don't always do do what Jesus would do and aren't always peacemakers, humble, kind, loving, truthful, ... and know it. But who wish they were.

Members must self-nominate. After all, part of being bad is recognizing one's badness. Denominations, theologians (Calvin, Luther, or anybody dead or alive), judicatories, local congregations and their officials are not allowed to name prospective members.

In fact, I've set up a group on facebook for anybody who is interested. Perhaps we'll have a membership card and motto (in Latin? Greek? Hebrew?). An official Bible verse? Who knows? The only thing for certain is that a bad Christian knows he or she wants "to be a Christian inna my heart" -- and does so only by the grace of God. On Easter or any other day.

He is risen. Risen indeed!

-- Brent


E. Peevie said...

Hi Brent,

I really like this. A recent article in CT said, "Christians are often practicing atheists." (

he is risen indeed.


Brent Bill said...

Great article, Eve. Thanks for passing it along. Maybe I'll invite Mark to join the ABC!


Chris M. said...

People can be forgiven a lot when they have a sense of humor. Which you do!!

Of course, God will forgive a lot even if you don't. But humor, coupled with a sense of perspective, makes it easier for us humans...