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Saturday, April 02, 2005                                                                                       View Comments

Hit and Run Christians

sent in by Jack

One thing I have noticed is that many Christians seem terribly insecure. That is, they will not engage what they perceive to be an "unbeliever", or a "fallen" or "backsliding" Christian in open discussion or debate, but that does not prevent them from dropping a bomb on you at the moment when they feel they can escape before you have a chance to reply or to refute what they have said.

The first incident of this I can recall was when I was probably about 18, hitchhiking through the Detroit area. A guy picked me up and gave me a ride. As we rode we talked about many insignificant things, none of which I can even remember now. But it was what happened at the point where he dropped me off that stuck with me. Literally just as I was getting out of the car, he handed me a tract, and said something along the lines of, "Here, you look like you could benefit from reading this!" Now mind you, we had not discussed religion at all, so I was a bit taken aback. I said to him something like, "I have been riding in your car all this time and you wait until I'm getting out to hand me this? If you wanted to talk about your religion, why didn't you say something when I first got in, then we could have talked about it?" He really didn't have an answer for that, just suddenly looked very uncomfortable like he wished he was somewhere else. I could almost hear the sign of relief as I closed the door and he got out of there. As I thought about it, I really felt offended that he had apparently sized me up as a heathen that needed conversion, but was too cowardly to broach the subject directly.

In the years since I have seen several other examples of that, and I am ashamed to say that during my years in a fundamentalist church I probably did the same thing a few times (not so much with tracts, I pretty much always considered them a cowardly way of "witnessing", but I did say things to people in situations where they did not really have an opportunity to question or discuss it). Sometimes the technique is as simple as laying the "zinger" on the person you want to lay the message on, then turning your back to them and walking away - people have done that to me right inside the walls of the church.

In case it's not obvious to anyone, this may be one of the most unloving things Christian can do to each other. Most of the time it's based on being judgmental of others and very often the person doing the judging has incomplete information - that is, they are judging a person based on what little contact they've had with that person (or worse yet, on hearsay from others who ought to have kept their wagging tongues silent), and often don't know the full story, not that it makes any difference because one of the basic tenets of Christianity is supposedly that we are not to judge others lest we be judged ourselves, using the same measure. Yet judging others is often a Sunday sport in some fundie churches.

I'm reminded of this "Hit and Run" technique by something that happened on Friday. I was in a bakery thrift store buying a loaf of bread, and ran into a lady that I had barely known many years ago as a casual acquaintance (to the point that she had to remind me who she was). Anyway she started asking about other members of my family and to make a long story short, we somehow got on the subject of organized religion, and I was trying to explain how the churches lie about certain teachings, even using the Bible as a reference. As the conversation went on, I was trying to explain how the most churches had perverted the doctrine of tithing, how the Bible says that "Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion" (from 2 Corinthians Chapter 9) and yet the churches very often try to compel their members to give more, for example when the pastor needs a new car or the church leaders decide that the church needs a new building.

I also tried to explain that first of all, tithing per se was never mandated by the New Testament, and that most churches do not feel the need to follow old testament laws (we don't sacrifice bulls and goats) but for some strange reason make an exception where it comes to tithing. But beyond that, they do not teach how tithing was originally practiced in the old Testament. That is, the common people never gave ten percent of their income to the temple priests - you can search the Bible long and hard and you will never find any instance of that. Rather than go into it here (since most are probably not that interested), I'll simply leave those interested with a few web links:

http://www.blessedquietness.com/journal/housechu/tithe01.htm
http://www.harvestnet.org/articles/truthoftithe.htm
http://www.nomoretithing.org/
http://www.agape.com/tithe.htm
http://www.religionquest.com/CC/ccunderstandtithing.htm

Those are just five links more or less randomly selected, there are many other web pages that basically say the same things. Anyway, I am trying to explain this to this lady and of course her first question is "where did you hear that?" and I explain that I've read it in several pages on the Internet, and immediately she says, well, you can't trust everything you read on the Internet (I also discover that she doesn't even have Internet access). So I say of course you can't, sometimes it's hard to determine what is true and what isn't, but this is something you can look for in the Bible - nowhere is tithing taught in the Bible the way it is taught in traditional churches.

I feel at a disadvantage because I realize that this woman has probably sat under church teachings for years and here I come trying to explain that they aren't telling her the truth, and what evidence do I have? It's not like I have any of those URL's memorized, and with her perception of the Internet, I doubt that even if I could write down a URL for her she'd bother to look it up. But that's not the point of this story. As this discussion was ongoing, we moved up to the checkout counter with our purchases. There were two ladies working in the store, plus one couple ahead of us making a purchase.

As we were talking the lady (of the couple) in from of us started looking at me, but I didn't pay much attention. She had a pretty large purchase so it took them a minute or two to ring her up, and in the meantime this other lady and I kept talking. Finally, after her purchase was rung up, and literally as she was on her way out the door, the lady of the couple turned to us and, apparently unable to contain herself any longer, delivered The Zinger: "Just remember, you can't outgive God!"

Now I must admit that I probably had a more negative reaction to that than I should have, simply because that particular phrase had been part of nearly every coercive sermon on tithing I had ever heard. And since the lady was on her way out the door, I had like one half second to deliver a response, which came out something like "You're just believing what you've been taught by organized religion." And she responded with something like, No, it's the truth, whereupon the "Amen corner" (the two salesladies) kicked in with "That's right", allowing the lady of the couple to make her escape. At that point I realized we probably should have ended our discussion before moving up to the counter, but I explained (to the salesladies and the lady I had been talking to) that I probably shouldn't had said anything, but that since leaving the fundamentalist church I was much happier and in particular had no fear of the type I had when I was in the church (I'm sure some of you will understand what I mean when I say that Christianity is a fear-based religion). I probably should point out that by the time I said that, I myself was finished making my purchase and on the way out of the store, but the difference is that I had been engaged in this discussion for several minutes whereas the lady of the couple didn't really join the discussion, she simply wanted to deliver her "zinger", what I'm sure she thought was her bit of light to the apostate, and then leave without further discussion.

I'm not as anti-religion as some on this board; I do believe that some people really do need the sense of community that organized religion offers, although I feel bad that they basically are required to swallow a bunch of lies just to have that community. Why cannot people join together and have fellowship and still respect each other's different beliefs, or even their lack of belief? But I also know that many here were at one time church attenders, just as I was (for over 20 years), and I wonder if anyone else has noticed the "Hit and Run" technique being practiced in the churches they attended? Is that something peculiar to fundamentalism, or is it a problem throughout the organized churches?