Christian exceptionalism pisses me off. American exceptionalism also pisses me off, actually… exceptionalism in general pisses me off, but Christian exceptionalism really gets to me. The idea that because I’m Christian I am therefore somehow better than others has done more damage to the cause of Christ than possibly any other single heretical belief, and it is a heretical belief. Scripture has nothing good to say about pride, and a lot good to say about humility, so why do we spend all our time thinking about how wonderful we are as Christians?
In the beatitudes Christ tells us that the meek shall inherit the Earth. Proverbs tells us that God destroys prideful men. Zephaniah tells us that those who are meek follow God. Peter and Paul both tell us to humble ourselves, repeatedly! Today, I had someone tell me that because he grew up in a Christian household he didn’t fall for crap (in context this was a discussion about how Americans simply take in information without assessing it). He may have meant that his parents taught him to analyze the information that was presented to him, or he may have meant that Christians have a natural immunity to crap. If he meant the former then I applaud his parents… but I’m guessing he meant the latter.
The idea that being Christians somehow makes us inherently less gullible, more virtuous, less responsible for our actions, or more worthy than others is utter hogwash. Many of the Christians that I meet have no real conception of their own sinfulness. They may say that they are sinful, may even mouth the words about being utterly wicked and needing God’s grace to save them, but if you look at their lives, especially at the way they look at others, talk about others, and act towards others, they don’t believe it. They are interested in judging people, interested in looking down their noses at people, interested in proving that they are better than others, but they aren’t interested in loving people or in helping people.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not claiming to be above all this. I’ve done my share of judging, and I still do sometimes, to my shame. However, I think a lot of people confuse my unwillingness to take their bullshit excuses for their sin as judgment, and it’s not. I have plenty of my own bullshit excuses, and I generally won’t take them either. Actually, I know there are a few people who think that my calling them on sin is the same as my judging them for that sin, and I have no place to judge anyone. I’ve been a thief, I’ve tried to kill people, I’ve left some people permanently hurt, I’ve looked at truly massive amounts of porn, and at some truly and deeply sick porn. I am a prideful, lustful, jealous, wrathful, foolish, and ultimately destructive man. I’ve done things that I don’t like to think about, and certainly don’t like to talk about because I am ashamed of them, and I should be ashamed of them… well, perhaps not anymore. I am forgiven and redeemed, and that’s what matters. I won’t let the people I care about sin and not say something, but I also won’t stop loving them because of that sin. Our sin can’t change God’s love for us, and so it shouldn’t change my love for people. It took me a long time to learn that, and I’m still not perfect at it. There are too many times that hurt proves my love for someone to be phileo love and not agape love.
Being a Christian doesn’t mean that I’m better than anyone else, it just means that my sinfulness is covered by Christ’s righteousness, and that God isn’t going to stop working until he makes me worthy of that righteousness… and trust me, that process thoroughly sucks sometimes.
There is nothing that makes me better than anyone else, and there are probably plenty of things that make me worse. That might not be entirely true… humility is not simply being down on yourself, which is what we turn it into far to often. Humility is about seeing the truth, and letting yourself go. In Romans 12 Paul tells us to think of ourselves as we ought to think, and to think with sober judgment. Humility is knowing where we fit, what we can do, what we should do, and what we are worth. It goes hand in hand with honesty and integrity, and it doesn’t have either a high view or a low view of self. It’s not worried about self.
And that’s the problem, isn’t it? We’re so worried about ourselves, making ourselves look good, making ourselves feel good, that we forget how to be humble and loving. Even our selflessness becomes selfishness because we focus so much on feeling selfless that we forget to actually care how someone else feels, and that in itself is selfish.
Anyway, that’s probably a rant for another time. Go out and give two craps about someone else.