I am not exactly what you would call a news junkie. I catch the local evening news every once and a while, and I try to read a few headlines on the Internet when I can, but I don't really keep up with all the goings on. In recent weeks, I remember hearing something about someone burning Korans somewhere, but I really didn't give it much attention--until this last Friday morning. I was watching the morning news shows and nearly all of them were highlighting the story of Reverend Terry Jones from Gainesville, Florida. As I crunched on my Wheat Chex, listened to the talking heads on the screen, and saw the images (including signs from Jones' church that said "Islam is of the Devil" and "Burn a Koran Day"), I felt it in the pit of my stomach. I have to say, at that moment, sitting in my living room, I was ashamed to be a Christian. I know that sounds extreme, but that is the truth. Let me clarify. I was not ashamed of Christ or my faith in Him as my savior. I was not ashamed of the Bible or even the fact that I attend church regularly. I was ashamed to be known as a Christian because of how I saw that word being represented on the screen before me. I sat there and wondered how any good for the cause of Christ could come from either Rev. Jones' demands that the mosque be moved or his threats to burn copies of the Islamic scriptures. As I walked to work that morning, I thought, "If that is what people will think of when they hear that I am a Christian, I am not so sure that I want to be known as a Christian." I was...ashamed.
This is not the only time I have felt this. In recent years, I have found myself wanting to be more and more disassociated with the American Christian sub-culture. When I hear about things like Rev. Jones and his Koran-burning, I feel ashamed. When I read on the Internet about a church in Kansas that protests the funerals of soldiers in the name of God, I feel ashamed. When I hear of churches whose greatest badge of honor is their fight against Contemporary Christian Music or women wearing pants or the use of certain English translations, I feel ashamed. When I see churches and the people in them investing such time, effort, and money into winning culture wars like the gay marriage issue or the teaching of evolution in public schools, I feel ashamed. (Not because I support gay marriage or the teaching of evolution, but because I think that approach misses the point.) When I hear of families where the father no longer attends church because of the way he has been treated by some autocratic pastor, I feel ashamed. When I hear the stories of young people who have rejected their godly heritage and upbringing because of a graceless, legalistic approach to the Christian walk, I feel ashamed. When I watch a film like Lord Save Us from Your Followers and see what most Americans think it means to be a Christian, I feel ashamed...and sometimes I even feel angry.
But then, I start thinking about myself and my life. That is when the tables begin to turn. When I think of all the times I have failed my Lord and my family, I feel ashamed. When I think of all the times I have been prejudiced, proud, or arrogant in my beliefs, I feel ashamed. When I think of every instance when I have allowed lust to rule my mind or my eyes, I feel ashamed. When I think of all the impatience, laziness, selfishness, anger, materialism, and every other vice that has worked its way into my heart, I feel...ashamed and discouraged.
Then I remember. All of us who claim the name of Christ as our banner (including the Rev. Joneses of the world) are just broken, frail, fallen, confused, and scared sinners who have been rescued by the grace and mercy of a loving and patient Father. All of us have shortcomings. All of us bring our own unique set of baggage to the cross, and carry it with us as we make our pilgrimage through this life. All of us have failed and will do so again in the future. All of us as Christians are mere humans and are subject to the frailties of being such.
So then...I pray. I look to God and ask for His help. "God, help me to be what you want me to be, so that I can show those around me what it truly means to be a follower of Christ. Mold my thinking and my conscience to conform to your way and your logic. Teach me what it means to know you and to walk with you in every moment of life. Produce in me and through me the fruit that you desire to see. Help me, God. I cannot live as a true Christian on my own. I know that one day I will see you face to face and give account for the life I have been given by you. Do in me today what you must so that, on that day, I won't have to feel...ashamed."