Earlier this week I saw a TikTok duet of this guy asking how Jesus, in the Middle East in 20/30CE was able to find guys named Peter, James and John. Pretty white/modern sounding names for that period and place huh? Of course, if you are more involved in a Christian community/have done some study/regularly read your Bible etc. you may know that their names were not in fact those anglicized versions. In fact, even Jesus’s name isn’t Jesus, but Yeshua. Rather than dive into the etymology of names we find in the Bible I want to talk about something related that regularly frustrates me as a modern day follower of Jesus.
Because Christianity is such a wide-spread religion and particularly popular and prevalent in America, there are a lot of generally accepted things about the faith that are popularized by the culture, even in secular society. For example, lots of Americans celebrate Christmas, even some that are agnostic or even atheist. As a Christian, (one particularly interested in the theology and history of Christianity) this can be frustrating at times. Not because I’m upset at people celebrating a Christian holiday at all — I’m not, I don’t want to gatekeep AT ALL. But there are a lot of misconceptions floating around. Like, Jesus hanging out with a bunch of white sounding dudes. Or Jesus being white at all which is really prevalent because of the popularity of European art depicting religious scenes.
I’ve noticed a trend, really a deep-rooted problem in the church, of white-washing Jesus, or American-izing Christianity. This well-spread phenomena makes it not at all what it is. I am not qualified AT ALL to talk about the deep rooted issues founded in this. I would much rather point you to better resources, like the decolonized Christian on Instagram. But I do want to say that, the “popular version” of Christianity in my opinion, is not at all what it should be.
Christianity is a message to the oppressed. Christianity is a message to the outcast, the downtrodden, the impoverished. It is not a message of control, but of freedom. Not a message of tyranny, but liberation. Not a message intended to exclude or to ostracize, but one of acceptance. God is not some man in the sky telling you what to do or what not to do. God is our shepherd, leading us in the way of love. The Bible is not a book of rules, but a book of magnificent stories of the human spirit, the quest of pursuing the divine, and Divinity pursuing us. It’s a book of God’s overwhelming love for His people.
For too long now His message has been twisted into something used to oppress people, to put them into boxes, to tell them they are not welcome. This is not the truth. Jesus wouldn’t do that. He says, “Come to me all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.”
My generation, in my opinion, is spiritually starved. I see so many of my peers turning to nihilism– believing that they do not matter, that their life and the life of their friends and family and the legacy of this planet is simply a blip in the universe. Something that burns and then will be extinguished forever. They long for meaning, for purpose, for a goal. It breaks my heart because one of the most redeeming aspects of my faith is that it doesn’t leave me feeling like that. When I read Paul’s letters to the early church I am filled with admiration and honor that I am apart of something timeless and powerful. I am never alone in the universe and humanity is not alone either.
At the risk of sounding too preachy, I will just ask this: Please don’t accept at face value the “popular version of the church”. What is boiled down and presented, particularly to non-believers, I don’t feel like reflect’s Christ’s message. Some Christians and others have this concept of Christianity that I do not recognize nor do I claim. I would never want to minimize the pain and damage that the institute of Christianity has done to so many. Jesus Christ is trying to change your life. To guide you in the path of loving others FIRST and would never abandon or hate you.
I regularly hesitate to call myself a Christian nowadays. It doesn’t feel right because I know, (because it’s happened) people will expect me to not accept them or treat them differently because of my faith. It breaks my heart that the faith that I love has become THAT message. I am sorry that no one explained who Jesus is to you. I’m sorry if the church has left you lost and broken. I’m sorry if you feel dictated instead of liberated. If I could, let me try to be an example of the opposite and do my best to start with acceptance and love.
Thanks for reading, Lauren