Benjamin Corey is a theological scholar and author, read by millions each year, who unabashedly speaks out about the types of topics I’ve been wrestling with for years, as a (no longer) conservative Christian. Corey’s beliefs fall, in his words, primarily within the tenets of the Anabaptist network. One of their core beliefs is that the western Christendom era from which we are emerging has left us at a disadvantage due to the distortion of Jesus’s message, which has resulted in the marginalization of Jesus Himself. If you’ve been following my blog, you won’t be surprised that I agree with this conclusion.
I’m introducing you to Corey because he recently wrote a haunting (pun intended) blog post about the Christian practice of Ghosting. In his article, Corey brilliantly paints a picture of what amounts to Christian intolerance. Ghosting refers to the practice of severing ties with folks whose beliefs conflict with mainstream Christian ideology. Rather than debate ideas, some Christians prefer to completely disengage, dropping the “offender” like a hot potato. It doesn’t seem to matter that yesterday they were best friends, praying together, sharing meals, worshiping on Sunday. As Corey describes it, “ghosting is when someone abruptly ends a friendship with limited or no explanation, and when they proceed to quickly disappear from your life.” Sadly, he says, Christians are good at it.
In Corey’s case, it was because he had started to question things…challenge the status quo. To his peers, he had changed; he was different, outspoken – a threat to the flock. Overnight, he said, he lost his entire social circle. What’s worse, his children lost theirs, as well. As upsetting as it was for him and his wife – both adults – children don’t yet have the intellectual capacity to understand why their friends can no longer play with them.
I used the word haunting to describe his article, because it stayed with me, gnawing at me, until I realized why it had struck a nerve. Corey’s words cut to the very core of why Christians continue to “toe the line.” Truth be told, it also explains why cults are so difficult to break free of. FEAR! In a split second, the outcast is left with no social network – no church family, no friends…basically, no support system.
The reason Corey’s words haunted me was because it was this same fear that caused me to hide my Truth for so long, afraid to talk about my evolving theology with my friends or family, most of whom were conservative Christians. I was afraid of being alienated, losing my entire social circle.
Here’s the thing, though. Although the practice of ghosting is most definitely harmful, I honestly don’t think that these folks deliberately mean to inflict harm. “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.” Christians (and when I speak of Christians, be aware that I speak only from my own background – not all Christians are identical), for the most part, feel obligated to spread the Good News. It is their responsibility to, not only stay on the straight and narrow, but to ensure that others do, as well (does gay conversion therapy ring any bells?).
Let’s set the stage: Allison has completely gone off the rails. She writes about reincarnation, mediums, energy healing, and all kinds of other, decidedly non-Christian (scary!) stuff. Now, my friends are faced with a dilemma. Their thought process might go something like this:
Do I want to take the time to converse with her…understand her position…thoughtfully debate those ideas? Well, probably not. First of all, it may take a lot of time and effort to “persuade” her that she is wrong. What if I do take the time to listen? Perhaps it might make sense….I might doubt my own belief system. Do I want to risk that? What will the others think of me? What if we are both wrong? Is it worth risking my salvation? Hell is a pretty nasty place. Nope….I’m probably better off – safer – simply saying “bye-bye” to the relationship. That is, without actually “saying” anything. Disconnect. Ghost. Crickets.
In other words, I believe it is a matter of self-preservation. It is simply too dangerous for many Christians to stray from the flock or support those who do, regardless of the collateral damage.
Kudos to all of you Christians who count atheists among your friends. Hats off to you Hillary supporters who still love your Trump-supporting family members. Thank you, dog lovers, for tolerating us cat people. Loving and respecting those who hold different values isn’t easy. I get it. But, we’re all in this together. No one person, group, religion, race, or political camp has cornered the market on Truth. We are ALL human beings, trying to survive – thrive – in this complicated world. Let’s start making it easier on each other – build bridges, nurture relationships, engage in difficult conversations, and LOVE one another. God knows, we need it!