After the mass shooting at an Orlando gay nightclub, Pastor Roger Jimenez praised the massacre, saying that it’s a tragedy more “predators” and “pedophiles” didn’t die.
You know that terrible feeling when someone is singing out of tune? Like really bad. In front of everybody (and they have no clue how bad it’s going?)
That’s called Fremdschämen – A German term which describes the process of being vicariously embarrassed by someone else. “Tom was completely wasted while he held the speech on Mike’s wedding party.” Fremdschämen in perfection.
That’s how I feel 98% of the time I watch Christian TV. Or see a Christian Bible verse with a cheesy flower background on Facebook. Or hear a 90’s sounding Christian song playing on the radio (in 2016). Or watch a Christian movie in the theatre.
Or worse (as we have seen recently from this pastor in California and many others in the last few days) when I watch a Christian talk about current events in the news.
Yes, I hate the critic in me! But I can’t deny it: I’m embarrassed by my spiritual family.
So I’ve decided to stay as far away as possible. I’m choosing Netflix over GOD TV. The Tonight Show over the 700 Club. Jennifer Lawrence in Catching Fire over Nicolas Cage and/or Kirk Cameron in any Left Behind movie. Because it is so hard to put myself through that misery.
It is a burden I cannot bear!
Now the problem is, that I feel like I am contradicting Scripture. The Apostle Paul said in Romans 1:16, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes.”
But I’m so ashamed! I can’t help it. And the worst thing about it is that as a pastor who has done multiple live events, recorded worship music and has been on Christian TV – I am most ashamed of myself! (The worst kind of Fremdschämen!)
Good news though, I’m starting to realise that the Gospel is very different to Christianity. That Gospel Paul talks about is God’s perfect statement of love and grace. Christianity is just our response to that message. The Gospel is the Good News of Salvation, to all people, everywhere. Christianity is the imperfect expression of the people who receive and acknowledge that news. The Gospel is the finished work of Christ, Christianity is the unfinished work of men.
I am a Christian. 100%. No doubt about it.
But my faith has little to do with Christianity, It has everything to do with Christ Himself!
You see, Jesus was not a Christian. Neither did the Early Church called themselves Christians. There are multiple stories in the New Testament of people who received Salvation (and will meet us in heaven) who never once called themselves a “Christian.” Never did the sinners prayer. Never heard Newsboys or Third Day. Never watched War Room. Yet they’re doing pretty great.
I know it’s human nature to highlight the negative; so I intentionally remember and honor the millions of Christ-Followers who are loving their families and being a light in their communities, all over the world.
So it’s ok for us if an expression of Christianity does not suit our style, or age, or preference. That’s the beauty of family! We can honour and celebrate each other without having to be exactly the same.
Yes, I’m a pastor in a superb Christian church (shout out to my Catch The Fire family). I love my Christian friends and coworkers. I’m excited to serve in a global Christian ministry.
Nevertheless, I will not settle for the expression we are currently expressing.
Jesus did not die to create a Sunday Morning Gathering, He gave his life for everyone you encounter Monday through Saturday.
Our main message is not to defend Chick-Fil-A for closing on Sundays. Our core message is to share God’s love with the Strip Club down the road.
Our voice is not for deciding who rules in the White House. Our true power is when we serve our cities and our leaders and our enemies.
TV and media and politics are a good place for our message, but our best platform is with our own families, and in the gutter with the homeless, with the orphans and the widows, with the poorest of the poor.
I want to keep my heart sweet. I don’t want to be the judge of what is cool, or valid or properly “Christian” (God knows I’m getting old and cheesy myself) What do I know anyway?
Our Christian Family is a 2,000 year old organism that is constantly changing and shifting. And I am honestly excited for the diverse ways that the church is maturing and uniting and rejecting its own religiosity. Yes, the road is long and tedious but, it requires critics like me to invest more time loving and honouring to see the unity necessary in the body.
Still, change must come.
That’s the perfect tension.
We love the church despite the stupidity, but we will not be ok with staying stupid.
The world has to know the true and living Christ. The One who was a Friend of Sinners. The One who was the enemy of religion. The One who loved people more than events. The One who was embarrassed with the religious/spiritual expression in His own era and came to show us a new (and better) way.
So next time you feel Fremdschämen rising up in your heart, just smile. Thank Jesus for the person/movie/show/preacher who is making you cringe on the inside and get excited for the change you and they will bring to the system. The truth is that they are on TV/Stage/Radio because they have put the time and effort to follow what they thought was right.
Now, let them become an invitation to you that says, “It’s my time!” And let us all use the energy we have been wasting on pointing the finger and turn it into an investment of creativity and radical transformation.
It’s not a sin to be embarrassed by an expression of Christianity that does not look like Christ.
The sin is in judging them, while doing nothing ourselves.
I’ll finish with the words of Jesus when faced with “different” members of the family, “Do not stop him, for whoever is not against you is for you.” Luke 9:50
+ So if this post does NOT give you Fremdschämen – about me and my writing – share it with your weird Christian family and your cool non-Christian buddies.
Read more on Learning to Love the Church you Hate.