Christian friends often call the non-profit that my husband and I run a ministry. I know they mean well, but I would like to explain why we are not, and never will be, a ministry.
First of all, The Nations is a non-profit organization — not a religious organization — that works with awesome people who happen to be refugees from the Middle East, because they are amazing humans who our society tends to screw over, dehumanize, and often be straight-up jerks to.
Ministries are usually run by churches or religious organizations that generally have particular goals in their work that we do not.
You see, our goals are to love, serve, and learn from our neighbors who are refugees. It’s that simple. There is no hidden agenda or deeper purpose.
Some of y’all might think, “Lots of ministries in our church try to learn, love and serve, so what’s your problem with being called a ministry?” That’s a valid question.
The term “ministry” is often used in our White-Jesus Christian nation in a manner that implies there is an underlying secret (except everyone knows) agenda: conversion.
To be honest, this idea of converting makes us wildly uncomfortable. We are in no way about the manifest-destiny-like conversion life. We are point-blank trying to love, learn, and serve others, not bring people to religion. To be real, we are not into religion ourselves.
However, we do try to follow the ways of Jesus because he’s a bad ass.
And the thing is that Jesus straight-up said that his greatest command was to love God and LOVE OTHERS. He didn’t say, “Hey guys, don’t just love people, you need to sneakily plant “seeds” of salvation (conversion) into their minds. Keep your head in the game; we need to make more Christians.”
Yes, I am aware that Jesus said to “go and make disciples,” but I cannot comprehend how we got “subtly manipulate others into Western Christianity” from “go and make disciples.” I know that may sound blunt, but seriously guys it’s these four words that are central to the ideology of White-Jesus Christianity. And it is these four words that lead to weird hidden agendas.
For one, you can’t tell me that you know one hundred percent what Jesus meant by “disciples.” We don’t truly know what Jesus meant when he said that, but we (White-Jesus Christianity) decided it meant “convert.”
In addition, the words that follow the disciple making verbiage are “teach them all I have taught you.” Okay, cool. So if Jesus taught conversion tactics, I could totally understand the conversion interpretation. But he didn’t.
Jesus taught us to love more boldly and self-sacrificially than we ever knew was possible.
I know what you are going to say next: “Well the most loving thing we can do is to try and get others to convert to Christianity and save their soul from eternal hellfire.”To which I would like to say: God doesn’t need you to save souls, I am not sure why you think he does.
A lot of White-Jesus Christians deny that climate change is a real threat because of the idea that God is more powerful and will have our backs when our grand-kids need SPF 10,000, so therefore there is no need to try and stop global warming. It’s hard to follow the logic that God doesn’t need us to work to reverse climate change, but he still needs us to save souls. It’s arrogant to think he can’t handle whatever “saving souls” actually means without us.
Seriously guys, why can’t Jesus’s Great Command — love others — just be the point?
The reality is that by supporting and participating in these sort of White-Jesus ministries with the goal of conversion what we are really doing is putting ourselves on a pedestal, trying to be little messiahs for all the “poor non-believers.” As a result, the people your ministry serves are dehumanized to the point of being projects.
That’s not love. That sort of self-elevation is the opposite of the ways of Jesus.
I understand how ingrained manifest destiny theology still is in much of American Christianity. Though it’s usually not publicly stated, the White-Jesus church pretty much says “make converts or die” to organizations such as ours. We regularly lose support because we refuse to play the conversion game.
Regardless of it all, the only thing that is truly relevant is trying to love boldly first with literally zero ulterior motive because that is the way of the Jesus of the red letters.
This is why our non-profit is not a ministry. It’s why we will never be called a ministry. To White-Jesus Christianity, it lacks the conversion tactics needed to be a worthy ministry. And though we may be considered heretical, our desire to let love win by simply loving others is bigger than any rules of religion.
Photo by Sheri Faye Rosendahl.
Sheri Faye Rosendahl is a writer, lover of bold love, the Middle East, Yoga and cookies. Currently Sheri is working on her first book, Not Your White Jesus, which will be out Fall of 2018. You can find more of her writing at NotYourWhiteJesus.org, the HuffPost, or find her on Facebook. Sheri and her husband, Rich, also run a non-profit called The Nations, doing peace and humanitarian work with refugee neighbors from the Middles East, both domestically and abroad.