Is It a Sin to Be a Christian in America?

Warning: Author expresses his actual opinion without succumbing to popular beliefs. Be forewarned if you disagree. And here’s the great part: if you disagree with me, you can do that and I won’t hold it against you. It’s your right as an American.

America was founded on great principles, the freedom to believe whatever you wish and act on those beliefs without government officials knocking down your door and shooting you in the head. We have an idea in this country that if you believe in something, you should be allowed to believe it, no matter if other people do not. For the past two hundred years, however, the major religion in America has been Christianity. And interestingly enough, it still is statically so. We, however, have perpetuated a weird illusion that to believe in something that popular and well-known is to “be ignorant,” to be a simpleton. Why, then, if the majority of Americans profess themselves to be Christians, is Christianity attacked so often?

Let’s get down to brass tacks. As a group, we Christians haven’t exactly been the most accepting sort of people. In the past, The Church has prosecuted non-Christians, but those who did do not represent the whole of the Christian nation.

For the most part, presidents have been predominately Protestant which keeps politics mostly in line with the Christian doctrine. In fact, because of the Christian majority, many laws have been made that somewhat delude the rights of other religions. Before reading on, understand that I understand that. I totally get that the establishment of “The Church” has done some really despicable things throughout history, and because most people do not differentiate between “The Church” and the body of Christ, this makes Christians look pretty bad.

It seems now the tables have turned and it is Christians who are being persecuted for their beliefs. Before you stab me with pitchforks and burn me with torches screaming “There’s no real WAR on Christianity,” think again. The truth is, those in power have a very difficult time coinciding their personal beliefs with their jobs. Think about this. You have very strong views on something, let’s say… anything, but you also have an obligation to listen to the will of the people. Which means putting aside your personal beliefs to kowtow to the wants of the people who put you in power. You are their figurehead, after all, right?

This moral dilemma of doing what one personally feels is right and what others believe is right has caused serious schisms in the political world. And as long as we’re being completely honest, there are really only two groups taking part in this argument: Christians and non-Christians. Those who are Christians say that what they’re doing is exactly what America wants, but those of other religions and those who do not proscribe to any religious beliefs claim that Christian lawmakers force their own beliefs onto the people through public policy. And for the sake of argument’s sake, both groups are actually kind of right.

But now more than ever, in today’s society, it is especially unpopular to be a Christian. Why? Well, it is extremely popular to claim Christianity, to say “Jesus is my homie” and that “God is love.” That’s all fine and dandy as putting a Bible verse bumper sticker on your hybrid car, but saying something isn’t the same as doing something. So, what’s so hard about being a Christian that it causes consternation? Again, being perfectly honest, it’s extremely difficult. When you want to express your opinion as a Christian, which so happens to be what the Bible says, you get labeled as “brain-washed,” a conformist who doesn’t bother to rely on facts. Someone who accepts what he is told.

There is this stigma of Christians as bleating sheep, repeating the same things to each other. But that stereotype simply isn’t true. Just because someone is a Christian  doesn’t make them unenlightened. Forget for the fact I too am a Christian and think of this: if I said that yes, cells are the building blocks of biology, you would not question me. And some people know that as absolute fact who, unlike me, have never studied cells, who have never looked at micro-organisms under a microscope. To believe this, then, takes faith, yes? Some people simply read this in a book and call it fact. So, why are Christians the only seen as the ones believing things they read in books?

Another question we should ask ourselves is this: should we base our political beliefs on our religion? One of my not-really-friends on Facebook once said, “I don’t understand why everyone has to have certain political beliefs just because they have certain religious beliefs.” My response to this is, Huh?! What someone believes about life and about the afterlife, understand, are not at all mutually exclusive. You can’t say, yes, I believe everything the Bible says, but when it comes to politics, I have my own set of beliefs. And the obvious problem everyone will point out is that we’re aligning ourselves with the exact principles of a religion. Which makes us in the eyes of society close-minded. And what ever happened, you say, to the American spirit? So what if your holy book calls a person wrong? They’re entitled live the way they want, right?

Of course they are! But because of that doesn’t negate the fact that Christians too are allowed to hold and voice their own beliefs. I am not trying to say either that people legally restrict Christians from expressing Christian beliefs, only that media construes these beliefs as “bigoted” or “narrow-minded.” When the real truth is that when it comes to beliefs about the afterlife, God, and morality, we are ALL close-minded. That’s right. We HAVE to be, or else we’re left believing nothing. Sure, we’re not going to deny someone a job because of their religion, but that doesn’t mean we’ll agree with them on theocratic doctrine solely because we’re accepting people. No, because no matter what you believe, you BELIEVE that. And by believing that, you are– however unawares you are of it– calling everyone else essentially wrong.

Believe in God? Well, that means that you believe people that do not believe in God are simply wrong. There’s nothing wrong with that. And if you don’t believe in God, that only means you believe those who do believe in God are wrong. And this is a simple example, but everyone facet of life we base on our beliefs: what the purpose of our life is, where we go after we die, who rules the universe, and so on and so on. Only those without any conviction at all are truly “open-minded,” and is that even a good thing? To believe in nothing, flip-flopping, changing opinions based on who we talk to?

Yes, we need to keep open minds. We need to allow others to change us, but that’s a fine line to cross, a difficult trapeze walk. You’ve got to allow yourself room to change for the better without compromising what you know to be true. So, many of you will disagree with me on this and on many other things. If that’s what you believe, that’s fine. If you gain pleasure from shooting down other people for your own amusement, what does that make you?

So, why is that? Why do we claim to be a free country where no one should be condemned for anything, yet Christians are condemned for stating what they believe? The Church is viewed through a skewed lens where it is no longer accepted to act morally. We spend so much time in America defending the rights of those who wish to act immoral that we stomp all over those who want to do any good. Tom DeLay mentioned in an interview by NBC that Christianity is treated as “some second-rate superstition.”

When we approach political debates, like legalization of abortion of gay marriage, and Christians side with what the Bible tells them, people deride them for not being progressive enough. But being progressive for the sake of it means nothing. If people didn’t stick by what they believed, there would be no point in voting on laws in the first place. And it’s not just Christianity, honestly. Almost any religion is seen as a fallback for a belief system when those who believe see it as the truest of belief systems.

Okay, so let’s crack this shell open slightly further. Why, then, does it seem that Christians always side with right-wingers? I have for one hold no political affiliations, and I think one of our problems as a country is that too many belief rely on supporting a party rather than deciding on candidates based on what they personally believe. Because right-wing candidates use religion as a crutch, as if to say, “Hey, I’m a Christian too, so if you’re Christian you should vote for me,” we have an overwhelming amount of Christians voting in the right wing. It makes sense as these politicians have more conservative views. What we fail to realize, however, is that these same self-proclaimed Christian candidates take our votes for granted, then turn around to use their power to make things worse, not better. And if this is an OMG moment for you that, yes, Republican politicians do some very crummy things, then take a big look around.

Christianity has taken a beating in the past decade or so. On television, we’re depicted as Hell-raising fanatics coming from a bloody history. Any Christian character on any Primetime show is there only to show how bigoted Christians are, how hypocritical we are. And because we sin too (of course), we can never really escape that image. We can’t always act exactly how we preach, so when we do preach, it comes across as condescending, even pretentious, a “I know the truth and you don’t” vibe. When really, it should be a “I want to share the truth because I love you” vibe.

Think about this. Around Christmas time, you see a lot of complaints that Christmas displays are too religious. We as a country prefer the secular Santa Claus and his reindeer. But what many people fail to realize is that Christmas is a Christian holiday. We commercialize this holiday to remove the religious aspects from them, pumping it full of sugar and fluff. Why? We hardly ever take other religious holidays and begin making it a secular tradition. The idea of gift-giving and Santa Claus basically override the original meaning of Christmas SO much, that those not celebrating religiously complain about too many religious affiliations with Christmas, even changing its name to X-mas. If you celebrate Christmas for no actual reason, why are you complaining? The entire holiday has been turned-upside-down. This is one more specific example of how Christians are attacked. We have a holiday and are attacked for actually celebrating its true meaning.

If you’re not a Christian, remember to keep an open mind to us as we do to you, and even if you ultimately disagree, don’t hate on what we believe and we will not hate on you for what you believe. As Christians, if you hate others because they don’t believe what you believe, you’re sending a really bad message to the world about us. We’re supposed to be accepting and loving, so think twice before you condemn another to Hell for not agreeing with you.

Again, don’t complain about this being biased. It’s biased because I have something called an Opinion which I’m not at all afraid to voice. Share your thoughts below, but keep it clean.

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About Derek Berry

Derek Berry is a novelist and spoken word poet. Derek is the author of Heathens and Liars of Lickskillet County (PRA Publishing, 2016). He co-founded and organizes The Unspoken Word, a literary non-profit based out of Charleston, SC, which provides an intendent home for the poetic arts through regular readings, workshops, and community fundraisers. He is on the Executive Board of the Charleston Poetry Festival, the inaugural production of which will be Fall 2017. His work has appeared in The Southern Tablet, Cattywampus, Charleston Currents, Illuminations, RiverSedge, and other journals.He has performed in venues across the United States and Germany. He has worked as a photographer’s assistant, busboy, and bookseller. He currently works at a curation facility for Cold War History.

Posted on May 10, 2012, in books, Controversy, culture, Internet, Manifesto, Rant, Religion, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Long and interesting post here. I’m afraid I disagree with some of your points, but this is America right?

    Believing that cells are the building blocks of life isn’t a faith belief whether you have studied it or not. It is a fact that can be tested. If you studied the techniques and had access to the right technologies you would be able to test it and confirm whether it is true. That is different to believing in God or religious beliefs out of faith. That is how we as a civilisation progressed medical techniques, or were able to build laptops, by having principles that others can replicate, confirm or disprove, and build on. If you believe it reading in a book it is not out of faith but out of knowing that plenty of others have looked at and replicated the evidence.

    On a separate point wasn’t America founded on a separation of religion and state, the reverse of the UK, and I think a reaction in part to this? It is primarily for this reason that someone should not bring religion into being elected as a public official. They are supposed to represent the people covering all belief systems. When it comes to political debate and issues around e.g. abortion, or gay rights, then having beliefs based around your religion is one thing. Being discriminatory when you are supposed to be representing the public at large is something else. That is what being progressive is, it is about moving a step beyond your standard belief set to approach those of others. Trying to be fair to all kinds of people.

    All this is aside from any religion vs atheism debate. Fundamentally, a lot of atheists have nothing against people practising religion so long as they are fair and open minded to others. Most realise plenty of Christian groups do good things for their communities. It is just that the is overwhelming evidence that the world developed in a different way. Those which choose to read up on it tend to question their beliefs more. Plus who would believe the bible if it was written now rather than two thousand years ago? – This is just a fraction of the issues. But that said I would agree, Christians do not deserve to be discriminated against, anymore than people on the basis of their skin colour, gays, or people in favour of abortion do.

    • Your second point is really interesting, and I really agree about the politics part. When politicians act on their own whims without listening to the majority, that’s as bad as having absolute rule.
      Mostly I’m just saying, no matter what you believe, you just shouldn’t be derided by those who believe differently. And that goes for every single type of belief about anything.
      Thanks for commenting and sharing.

      • I didn’t want my reply to sound like I was having a go, that was not what I was getting at.

        It actually scares me that anyone wanting to run for president has to pretty much admit to being Christian so as to hopefully secure a lot of votes. For a country founded on the separation of religion and state that should be one of the last things to consider. For the future of my son and others, I would like to see some ideas about creating jobs, improving education, changing to a non barbaric healthcare system. These are difficult and slow things to change but I would rather see ideas on this rather than claims “I will do this” without mentioning anyway how”. Compared to these things, whether Christian or not isn’t really relevant.

  2. Rebecca Winans

    We are all mirrors to each other. I cannot see something I like or not like in you, without that same something also being true and alive within me. Likewise, you cannot see something you like or not like within me without that same something also being true and alive within you. When we see something we do not like about someone else or their actions, that gets over into the BLAME category. Blame is like an anti-mirror. When we blame, we fail to realize that what we are seeing is also true and alive within us. How does this factor out? Something bad happens to me. I want to blame everyone else for what happened. Heck, my job or grade depends on not being wrong – I have to be right. BUT – when I fail to look at my part in this, or to take responsibility for what I bring to this table, then I miss an incredibly huge chunk of the problem, which is ONLY destined to repeat itself. Get my drift here? Blame is a really bad thing. In order to live with other people, we must take responsibility for our own thoughts and actions. When one person wins, the other person loses. We MUST take the thought, time, creativity, and energy to find WIN-WIN solutions – in every instance – EVERY. Problem is so many of our government offices are based on a winner and a loser. The parties function this way too. Our society operates from a fundamentally negative place from the git-go. So, so true in the “church” you describe. And YES – there is a difference between church and spirituality – I prefer (be, do, and have) the latter – spirituality.

    Another way to look at this: Whatever I tell you to do here, do NOT do what I am about to tell you to do. Got it? Do NOT imagine a glass of spilled milk. So – what was the first thing that went thru your head? If you are like everyone else, an image of a glass of spilled milk, and having to clean it up went straight into your screen – and I told you NOT to do that. But you could not help it. That’s the way our brain is wired to work. Our brain takes in positive information best. It cannot sift through words like “not.” Whenever we want to make a positive shift in a situation, we must find positive ways to do so. Had I instead said, “Imagine a shiny red apple,” you would have never gone near that “not” glass of spilled milk in your brain. OK – enough brain aerobics for today.

    You know me, and you know where I live and work. Come find me at Noble Breads for more! Are you familiar with neuro linguistic programming? (NLP)

    PS At the end of the show, I found myself incredibly honored to have purchased your ticket into the coffee house last night. Thanks for asking!

    • Thanks so much for that. I’m glad I got to come. I will pay you back, I promise.
      Yeah, it’s just really interesting too look at our we use different beliefs to shape political movements as well. I understand completely about there being a win-win situation. In a world that was perfect and everyone agreed, that might work. But I think that sometimes two people who believe absolutely opposite things cannot both possibly “win.” There cannot be a compromise that will not cause both to lose in this situation. It’s a hard truth, but it’s true. Sure, it’s totally fine to say “Let’s fine a compromise where everyone is happy.” But that will sadly never happen for the sole reason that people disagree on fundamental aspects of, well, pretty much everything. That’s why I think it’s not even always in everyone’s best interest to find middle ground. It SOUNDS weird to say, but it’s true. For example, in Congress, there’s such a schism between Democrats and Republicans that nothing is ever done. Solutions for education and economical re-building are suggested, but both disagree so much, there’s a constant stand-still. Makes you kind of wish one side would just win a big enough majority to try out their solutions, and if they don’t work, we can try the other half’s solutions instead of squabbling forever over which solution is better. But any time compromise CAN be met, of course, seize it.
      Also, I think we discussed NLP in psychology briefly. I will Google it.
      Hope you enjoyed the performances last night as well.

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  5. The bible refers to christians as being part of Jesus’ flock. So you can refute that christians are NOT bleating sheep, but it is unbiblical to do so. As far as persecution goes, I think the general idea is religious freedom is for ALL beliefs, not just the christian one. I am not a christian, but I grew up into the belief system and understand the language, the evasive comments and all the jargon well.

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