While my faith is important to me and while there are convictions I have based on this faith, I also like to think of myself as a fairly decent, accepting person. I don't begrudge anyone their religion (or non-religion) or personal preferences. I tend to take the approach that while I believe this way and my life is a reflection of that, you also have the right to believe and live how you want. That being said, as a Christian, there is a certain "code" I live by and expect others who claim to be Christians to live by as well. Some of that includes helping those in need, working hard, and generally treating others how we would want to be treated. There is a verse in the Bible, in the book of Matthew, that states, "Truly, I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me." I take that seriously and think that we as people, but especially as Christians, need to treat people better. All people. Not just those we like or those we agree with, but people we may not like, or people we may completely disagree with or even struggle to tolerate.
This past year has been very bumpy for us personally and professionally and the people who I would have expected to offer support didn't. (And by this "support" I am not referring to anything tangible. I'm referring to emotional support, checking in, etc. As a disclaimer, let me also publicly state that I am not referring to my family. They have been wonderful and amazing and things would be unbelievably worse were it not for their help). While this hasn't rocked my faith it has caused me to take a hard (and painful) look at the church to which we belong and those we considered our church family. While there was initial concern, after a few months we heard nothing from anybody there. Nobody checked in to see why we hadn't been to church in a while (serious health issues with our son and my husband's work schedule being the two primary reasons) except for a really snarky email from our pastor after missing a few weeks of services. I had made mention to the pastor early on that as a result of what we were going through we were feeling rather depressed. He never once followed up with either of us to see how we were doing. Outside of one man who was wonderful to my husband in the early months not a single other attempt at outreach was made.
While I have pretty thick skin this hurt a bit. The other part is that it made me wonder if this was really a church I wanted to be a part of. If other people are hurt or struggling or ill do I want to be associated with a church that is viewed as cold and callous? The irony in all of this is that this church (and many religions in general) criticize the government and always advocate for private charity, church help, etc. This argument presumes that the church is willing or able to help. It was very disappointing to me, after hearing all my life, how Christians are supposed to help others, care about others, treat others as we would treat Christ, etc, that the church put none of this into practice. It will be hard for me to sit through another sermon hearing about how we as Christians are supposed to behave and treat others when I have witnessed and experienced the hypocrisy first hand.
This is not an indictment of all Christians, of all churches, of all religions, or even of all people in the church I am referring to. My husband and i had attended a few services at another church a few weeks leading up to the start of our "year from hell" and when I opened my email I had offers from people to bring meals, offers from people to help watch my other kids while I was running all over town to doctor's appointments, offers for people to do my grocery shopping, etc. These offers came from women I had met briefly and in some instances never met. These are the types of people that epitomize my perception of Christians. These are women with a servant's heart looking to treat others as they would treat Christ.
I have been a member of my "brand" of Christianity all my life. Considering leaving is not something I take lightly. There have been incidents throughout the years that keep bringing me back to a place where I really feel I need to make the move and start over. This may have been the final straw that serves as the catalyst for that move.
I am interested to hear your thoughts. Have you left a church or religion altogether? If you are not religious how does my experience match up with your impression of Christians? If you are a Christian how would you handle this situation?