Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Pond Scum (come join the club)
"In addition to holding down a newspaper job, I was teaching a Reporting 1 class at the University of Oregon when I encountered the most irascible student I've ever taught. She questioned nearly every grade I gave her. She claimed I was not doing enough to help her succeed. She berated me in front of the class. Enough was enough. I asked her to please stay after class.

"You don't seem to like me," I said. "Can I ask why?"

"Because you're part of the liberal media," she said. "You've got the rest of the class conned, but not me."

"And why's that?" I asked, puzzled by what I was hearing.

"Because I'm a Christian," she said smugly. To which I wanted to say: "Uh, let's just keep that our little secret."

In that instant, I knew what it was like for non-believers to encounter Christianity at its ugliest. I knew what it was like to be "The Enemy." In fact, I've been a Christian for more than 30 years, am an elder in my non-denominational church, and have written four books and dozens of magazine articles with Christian themes."

Sad, isn't it? But I've known far too many Christians like this. I've BEEN like this, I'm ashamed to admit. In at least two ways:

1. If other people who are indeed also Christians don't fit our mold of what a Christian is or does or has the type of acceptable Christian job (plumbing or management, but not working for the wine industry or "liberal press"), then we automatically assume they just can't be Christians, can they?

2. It's easier to attack people as groups (ie, "liberal media" and "pro choicers" and "those gays") than it is to get to know and love people as individuals, even individuals with dramatically different choices and beliefs. (I'll add that this one goes both ways, of course -- it's equally easy to attack dismiss people as "those wacko fundamentalists" rather than getting to know individuals.)

From my vantage point as a journalist, I'd say a large reason non-believers view Christians negatively is simple: Christians often behave negatively.

Nothing to add here. So true.

A news aide at our paper says the most difficult people to deal with are church secretaries.

Ha. No offense to any church secretaries out there, but I can attest to this. I used to have to call them all the time in order to reach my contacts back when I was working at NAMB. Some of the rudest people I've ever talked to -- EVER -- have been church secretaries (but there I go, catagorizing and not learning my own lessons... Sigh).

A youth league basketball coach I coached against was a buzzer-to-buzzer screamer and pouter. After one game, I asked someone what the guy did for a living. "Oh, he's a pastor."

A high-ranking official from a Christian institute our newspaper had featured called and, for ten minutes, berated me for the story, which I had edited. I mentioned that a man who works at the same institute-let's call him Greg-attended my church and had really liked the story.

"So you, uh, go to the same church as Greg, huh?" the official said, obviously surprised.

"Yes I do."

"I'm sorry," he said. "I didn't realize you were 'one of us.'"

It was fine and dandy for him to treat me like pond scum when assuming I wasn't a believer; but when he realized I was, he pushed full throttle on the charm-thrusters. And what of my student? Would she have treated me so cruelly had she known I, too, was a member of "The Club"? (emphasis added)

From a fellow member of pond scum, here, here.

That's how Christians will lose their negative reputations: by seeing non-believers as Christ sees them, not as "The Enemy" or people unfit for "The Club," but people like us. People who need a pat on the back, salt to season life's staleness, and light to see through the darkness.


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