Saturday, April 16, 2016

What Does a 'Good Christian' Look Like?

Today was a solemn and difficult day, especially after all the medical doings of the day before. I woke up drained and listless after yesterday's blood tests and skin cultures, feeling like I was down a quarter. Not the best way to start a day you know it going to be sad and emotionally draining on many levels.

Today is also the day that we buried Jim's coworker and friend Glenn. The funeral was this morning at a mortuary near the college our daughter Laura works at. It was quite a drive from our house, well over an hour. You'd have expected that the traffic would be lighter on a Saturday near the Beltway but that annual vehicular surge started happening this week since it's the peak of cherry blossom season. Every single tourist with an RV is making their way towards D.C..... where there is zero parking for something as large as an RV and no RV parks withing easy distance of the city. Yeah, I know, I gripe every year once spring hits and the people that don't live in major cities clog our overcrowded highways, making some of the worst traffic in the US just a bit more unbearable for those of us who live here.

There's not much I can say about the funeral other than it was sad. I cried quite a lot, many others did too because Glenn's death was a huge shock to everyone who knew him. Out of the blue happening to a man in his early fifties. I spoke to his mother and told her how generous and big hearted her son was. The service was beautiful and quite touching. "In my father's mansion there are many rooms" has always been one of my favorites among the words of Jesus.

After the service I found myself standing near the older priest that conducted the service. It was clear listening to him during the service that he didn't know Glenn, and he spoke of the deceased based upon the words of those that knew him well. Still it was a good service, very touching, the words of the priest both comforting and inspiring.

We ended up making polite small talk, the kinds of things you say when you're stuck in awkward proximity to strangers in polite society. I told him that I found the words and rituals of the Catholic service he gave comforting, drawing strength from the familiar words of my childhood. The priest was gracious and kind, giving me a blessing before moving on to issuing a 'Come to Catholic Jesus'. I was kind of aghast because it wasn't really an appropriate time or place, I'd only seen evangelicals tone deaf to moments that were exactly the wrong moment to place a call for salvation. I smiled, thanked the priest for the blessing but told him that my husband was a true Methodist and I was merely following the lead of my husband and attending church where he wished me to go.

But later I started thinking about what the characteristics of someone who truly follows the words and examples of Christ and how those that shout out what great Christians they are are usually the farthest from what Jesus modeled.

Glenn wasn't someone that was a regular church going kind of a guy, but I know he was extremely kind to others, beyond generous with his time and money and did lots of different things to help others. He was involved with the local suicide prevention. I know he did believe in God, but he wasn't running around thumping the Bible bragging on he was going to heaven. But to me the way he lived, his care for others and overwhelming generosity speaks more of the goodness that I automatically think of as real, much more real than the actions of most self-professed Christians.

Today's priest didn't offend me with his trying to nudge me back to the Catholic church at all. I could tell by his sensitive handling of the service of someone he didn't know, his demeanor, his actions that even if he's wearing the high collar of a priest that he is what I would term 'real' too. He cares for others deeply. No matter the scandals of the Catholic church there are still some priests that have a selfless caring for others.

While I don't think I could ever return to the Catholic church as a serious parishioner there are things I still love about it. When I was a kid there was an interconnectedness between families, children, the nuns at the schools, the priests. Woe be it if you misbehaved, did poorly in a class or just struggled in general. For good, or for bad many would know and the great thing about that was that many would reach out to help. I love the social works of the church. I love that nuns are teaching, running shelters and rescues for those without and that the priests I've known through the years were mostly a loving and accepting lot. I love that the new pope seems to have a spirit of loving others more than himself or power or position.

Sometimes I learn good things from people like Glenn and those I've known in the Catholic church. Sometimes I've been inwardly shamed by them because I'm not nearly as generous as they, or I stumble and don't realize sometimes that those put in front of me need my help, or my encouragement. I whine about my petty pathetic warped body or about the inconvenience of tourists clogging the roads instead of seeing the beauty of a early spring day or the love of those gathered to celebrate Glenn's life.

I know I don't love like I should. I need to work on that. Trying to be a better person no matter what your personal religious beliefs are is a day to day thing. Like so many things in life you have to be absolutely intentional about it.

I know what a 'Good Christian' or even a 'Good Person' doesn't look like? It doesn't look like someone arriving in a place of broken hurting people and trying to hurt them more by using the words of the Bible to beat them up. It's not sending nasty emails to someone when they give you the natural consequences for your actions. It's not repeatedly sending someone messages calling them a 'bitchwhore'. (Laura and I got a huge huge laugh out of that last bit. We've both embraced this silly quasi-curseword by a self-proclaimed 'Good Christian')

Because of everything I've been through and the continued nasty of 'Good Christians' I think I'm going to have to come up with a new moniker for trying to be a better, kinder, more compassionate, generous person that is trying to follow the words of Jesus because the modern fundamentalist evangelical Christians have forever ruined the word 'Christian' for me. I never want to be lumped in with shouty guys calling women they don't know 'bitchwhores' or claiming there's a demon under every bush, or that believe all women owe them something. It's just too much.

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