Greer: Give Christians a chance


Photo: William Deaton/Iowa State

Jackie Schmidt, sophomore in kinesiology and health and member of Salt Company Student Fellowship, helps second-grader Zaria Seward try to solve a math question and gives some tips on spelling words during a study time at Kate Mitchell Elementary on Dec. 5. The Salt Company is a ministry of Cornerstone Church and a group at Iowa State, and some members of the group volunteer their time to help teachers at Kate Mitchell Elementary. Schmidt helps second-grade teacher Ashley Hokel with her class on Wednesday mornings.

Sam Greer

“What about you, Sam? Any juju you buy into?”

“Me? Yeah, I’m old school Christian. You know, hymnals and aca-”

Chaos breaks loose in the dining hall; my friends explode backward out of their chairs, hissing and spitting like frenzied felines as they overturn tables and take cover. I blink, only mildly perturbed; this is not the most volatile reaction I’ve witnessed after revealing my faith.

I have always been a very privately spiritual individual, so I am accustomed to people’s discomfort, even incredulity and ridicule, when I confirm my Christianity. They expect me to (in no particular order) harshly judge them, shove scripture down their throats, threaten them with damnation, water-board them with holy water and then perform an exorcism, just to be thorough.

I am perceived through a lens of scrutiny and distrust that can never be wiped clean; I am instantly labelled a fanatic and a freak.

Things weren’t always this way; there was a time in history when Catholic Europe, under the pretense of religious duty, waged war against any other faith they encountered. The lens of scrutiny was reversed, and the freaks and fanatics were those who did not submit to the tyranny of the church.

These days, religion has become a nostalgic notion, something our parents dragged us into during the early years of our lives. To most, religion is becoming a thing of the past, and the norm is declaring ourselves the higher power.

But when something becomes the societal norm, it doesn’t mean that those who disagree should be cast out. The church was once considered a structure of persecution and ostracism, making outcasts of anyone who didn’t abide by their law.

Now Christians are the outcasts, socially alienated because of a personal decision, as though each and every one of us is identical in belief and practice.

A question arises that has troubled me since high school, when I was first scorned for my faith: Why are all Christians considered the same?

Is it because of the radicals that stand on sidewalks, screaming about eternal hellfire? Or is it because your “Christian” roommate brings home a different guy or girl each Saturday night? What is it about all of us that makes us coalesce in people’s minds? We are as diverse a faction of society as any other; I cannot speak for anyone else, but I will try to clear away the shrouds of mystery adorning my personal faith. Allow me to explain what I truly believe.

My religion is love. Above all else, we are meant to love and support one another. Some who claim to be followers of God have so completely forgotten this basic command that they are reverting to the condemnation of anyone who doesn’t constitute their idea of “normal.”

Frankly, Mr. Stand-on-the-sidewalk-and-tell-people-they’re-going-to-hell, your hatred is stunting everyone’s spiritual and emotional evolution. Your hatred is driving people away from Christ.

Additionally, your volume alone motivates us to take tedious detours across the street, through bushes, under fences, etc. Tone it down a notch. Mr. Sidewalk-hellfire-and-damnation, when you claim to practice the same faith I practice, I get positively nettled. You are as narrow-minded and discriminatory as the crusaders of centuries past, and your antics express an inaccurate image of Christianity.

Open the good book and consider the way Jesus actually lived his life. He didn’t associate with men whom society deemed “holy.” Instead, he supported and befriended the morally and spiritually destitute. When he was chastised or questioned, he responded: “Healthy men have no need of a physician,” and kept on healing the sick and loving the wicked.

So many people have been turned away from Christianity by the “hellfire and damnation” message, and I apologize on behalf of the people that spread that message; they are wolves in sheep’s clothing.

I follow in the footsteps of a man who taught love, sacrifice and acceptance; that is my religion. So don’t be afraid when people claim Christianity. It’s highly unlikely that you will be judged, forcefully baptized or exorcised. Give us a chance, because we may just be some of the most loving and accepting individuals you will ever meet.