Thursday, March 26, 2009

We're Sorry

This is important, and so I'll say it first; this entry is not for Christians. It is not to be answered with scripture references or church terminology. We're going to step outside of the believer's mindset (or at least try to) and look at things from the other side of the table. This is We're Sorry's namesake, and the whole reason it was started in the first place.

This entry is for the nonbeliever. This is for the person who doesn't believe in God, Jesus or any of that salvation hooha. This is for the person who isn't sure what they believe, or is sure that they don't believe at all.

That said, I promise you that I will not try to “convert” you. I will not try to convince or coerce you to my way of thinking. I will not force anything on you, and I will do my best to be sincere, and express my thoughts in a way that makes sense outside of a religious context. If I fail then I can only ask you to understand – I don't see things the same way you do.

Christians believe what they believe for a lot of reasons. The easiest one, and perhaps the most common is the “I was raised to” argument, which holds little to no water when debating the existence of God with someone who was not raised to. You can be raised to do just about anything, from hating black people to liking sauerkraut. I think religion is especially easy, because when it's presented to us from a young age, and (as it was in my case) is a positive thing, it is easy – too easy – to hang onto the belief of it for the rest of one's natural life. Kids break away from a lot of things that their parents tell them, but you put a kid in a class room on a weekly basis and tell him that an all knowing and all powerful being has a plan for his life, and you really convince him that it's the truth, then that's probably the belief he's going to roll with (it even says that in the Bible).

But you weren't raised that way. Or maybe you were, but it was presented to you in a way that repelled you, even disgusted you, and now you see the concept of Christianity or belief in God in general as being ludicrous. Or maybe you saw how nasty the world is, and decided that a REAL god, a LOVING god wouldn't let that kind of stuff happen. All of these attitudes are logical, reasonable, and make practical sense. A lot of us will never admit it, but it's not fair for us to say, “you're wrong, God is real”, when we don't understand how you feel and why you feel that way. I can say to an immigrant, “you should speak English, that's what Americans speak”, but if they don't speak English to begin with, they won't understand me when I say it. And I'm not from where they're from, I don't know what they've been through. Assuming otherwise makes me an arrogant bigot, and the same is true of us. We’ve no right to admonish you.

We cannot convince you to a mathematical and scientific certainty that God exists, and I know that for many people, this is reason enough not to believe. I think that even if we could, to do so might be to invalidate the entire experience, but that’s beside the point. It is not knowledge, nor logic which makes the thing we call faith. There are aspects of faith and belief which are very “logical”, but this alone simply will not suffice. It is inadequate, and a poor vehicle to convey the existence of something that cannot be touched, felt or seen (believers need not comment here - we are speaking in physical terms). There is something which runs deeper than "here is what I can prove", and it is difficult to describe.

I have never been an atheist. I've never experienced a life apart from a belief in God. And while I cannot say that I wish I had, I DO wish that I could relate. I do wish that I understood what that feels like. And allow me to apologize on behalf of us that can't understand how you feel, because we, the haughty and proud religious, find it hard to view things from an atheistic standpoint. We see the world in a manner that is quite often black and white, this way and that, with little to no middle ground, where every question can be answered with, "God says so" or "It must be his will."

But for those who don't believe as we do, these answers are simply not enough, and we shouldn't expect them to be. You who don't believe what we believe deal with and understand things in a way that is difficult for us to grasp. It frustrates us, and we are bad at hiding it. This frustration manifests itself in a variety of distasteful ways, and I don’t think I need to name them.

I do not say this to patronize or condescend. I do not condemn or criticize you. I cannot say to you, "you're wrong", because I am so often wrong myself. I can only offer my apologies on behalf of myself and those like me, for we have crafted a religious subterfuge that may very well be our undoing.

I am sorry for being a part of a group that makes you feel unwelcome. I am sorry for being a hypocrite. I'm sorry for being weird, unrelatable and irrelevant. I apologize for the times you've felt alienated, uncomfortable and awkward around us. We are sorry for trying to "evangelize" and "save" you, without first getting to know you, understand you, and take the time to invest in friendship with you. We are sorry for the crusades, inquisitions, the Salem witch hunts, the gaybashing, hate mongering, justification of slavery, and other atrocities too numerous to name. We are sorry for coming at you with rules, agendas, underlying intentions and false promises. We're sorry for bubble-gum superficial Christian pop sub-culture and an almost xenophobic fear of things that we don't understand. We are sorry for being overly defensive and closed to other mindsets. We're sorry for assuming that we know everything while being so ignorant. We're sorry for judging you, and expecting you to change without giving you a valid reason. We’re sorry for replies to this entry that detract from the point its message or dampen its impact.

It's an easy thing to say, and perhaps you've heard it before, but I'll say it anyway - none of this is what Christianity was ever supposed to be about. Jesus' message was simple; Love God, Love People. Doing the both of these, and doing them with honesty and humility, comprise the entirety of what we believe. We fail so often and so loudly that I wonder if you can see it at all.

I'll say this only to clarify; we cannot, and will not apologize for what we believe. The reasons that we have found to believe in God are myriad, and while I can think of a counter argument to any one of them, I want to make it clear that it is not WHAT we believe that we (or the very least I) want to apologize for. Rather it is the miserable way in which we've chosen to express it.

Normally this is the part where we might try to "convert" you, or convince you to "give God a chance." Not today. You've had enough of that. This is nothing but an apology, pure and simple, devoid of agenda and outstretched offering plate.

I will say only this; we desperately want to share the things we've come to believe with you, not to bolster our numbers or bring more money into the church. It's not so we can win brownie points in heaven or say, "I SAVED someone today." While these attitudes do exist, and should be done away with, they are not indicative of what we truly believe. We only - and I promise you - only want to show you what we've found because it's made our lives better. A lot of us (this may be hard to believe) care about the people in our lives (all of them) and this serves as our primary motivation in wanting to spread what we believe is the truth of a loving and real God. We just don't know how to show it yet, even after 2,000 years of trying to figure it out.

And for this, we are sorry.


Ben said...

I'm sorry too.

Murex Brandaris said...

Bravo. I don't think you need to apologize, but this message is beautiful and moving. Bravo. Again.