Aprops to some of our most recent discussions, I thought I’d share with you a short excerpt from my 2006 book, I’m OK–You’re Not: The Message We’re Sending Nonbelievers and Why We Should Stop. That book ended up becoming known for its look at the relationship between the Great Commandment and the Great Commission, but that topic only comprises the first one-third or so of the book. Two-thirds of the rest of the book addresses those dynamics at play in the relationship between Christians and non-Christians that are necessarily problematic. Here’s a bit from that part of the book:
HOW WE CHRISTIANS CAN STOP FEELING AND ACTING SUPERIOR TO OUR NONBELIEVING BROTHERS AND SISTERS
The easy way for us rid ourselves of whatever sanctimonious self-importance may have attached itself to us [Christians] is by simply (and constantly) remembering that we’re not better than nonbelievers. What we are is luckier than nonbelievers. We didn’t do anything to get saved. We didn’t deserve it. It’s not like God was holding auditions for an open spot in heaven, and we just so wowed him with our killer rendition of “Oklahoma!” or “Go Tell It On The Mountain” that we won.
Being close to God is something to be grateful for, not proud of.
And that God saves us through no effort of our own is hardly a surprise to we Protestants, ‘eh? If there’s anything we know, it’s that we are saved by the grace of God, and by that alone. That’s the single shape of brick from which we build our entire home. That’s how we live. That’s who we are.
If we Christians know nothing else, we know that being arrogant—much less being arrogant about our relationship to God—is about the last thing we’d ever want Jesus to catch us being.
And yet all too often there we are, acting like since Jesus himself isn’t present, we will certainly do in his stead.
Well, some Christians act like that, anyway.
I don’t, of course. But some do. Lots do. But I don’t, because I’ve chosen to put obeying Christ’s Great Commandment ahead of everything else in my life.
I’m just … better, that way.
God is especially pleased with me that I … sfKI;;;pwofdkd flfljfdj d MY haANDS I CAN’T AOSLS MOVE MYH ANDS RIGHT!!1 [[Mmy Fingers!! s ccsx crazy I wtylggmghoiox alos.w!!
Oh. Whew. Here we are. Cool. I can type again.
What in the heck was that about?
Oh, well. Life’s a mystery.
Anyway, we Christians really aren’t any better than anyone else. For some reason we may never understand we became a great deal more fortunate than many others—but what sort of fool takes credit for his own blind luck? Being saved should make us insanely humble, not proud. “There but for the grace of God,” and all that.
And let us not (ever) forget that the people we consider unlucky don’t consider themselves unlucky—and not by a long shot, either. Normies [a word I use in the book to refer to normal, everyday people who (though they may consider themselves “spiritual”) don’t ascribe to any particular religion] like their lives. They’re content. They’re having fun. They’re living rich, emotionally rewarding lives. They’re not looking in from outside the candy store that is our lives, wondering why we get all the breaks. They think we wouldn’t know a break from a pitchfork. They think we’re soft-headed dupes.They feel sorry for us—just like we feel sorry for them.
So it all kind of works out.
Well it can, anyway.
And here, ultimately, is how: We need to radically change our paradigm relative to how we relate to Normies.
And I mean, radically.
Out with the old, in with the new.
Let’s be bold, or let’s be blue.
We’re out in the cold; it’s time for a clue.
What we’re selling’s been sold; now what do we do? (And you just got a preview of my next book: Mother Goose Goes to Seminary.)
Serious business, now: Our Whole Entire Thing toward Normies has got to stop being “Let’s change them!” and start being, “Let’s not change them!”
Let’s not change them.
Let’s stop worrying about changing the minds of people who don’t want to believe what we believe. Let’s stop pushing our religion on people who are perfectly content doing whatever it is that they’ve chosen to do, who are happy to travel down whatever course they’ve chosen for themselves.
Let’s really respect people, instead of just saying that we respect them.
Let’s respect people; let’s love people; let’s let people be.
It’s like Sting said: “I can make love for eighteen hours straight.”
No, I mean: “If you love someone, set them free.”
Right on, Bee Boy! That’s exactly right: It’s time to set the Normies free. And I mean really, truly, absolutely free. In our hearts, minds and souls, it’s got to be perfectly okay for non-Christians to be non-Christian.
That’s it. That’s the singular, whole point of this book: It’s got to be perfectly okay with Christians if other people aren’t Christian.
It works practically (they’re not listening anyway); it works emotionally (finally, we can quit stressing over this relentless pressure to convert others); it works theologically (it allows us to fulfill the “Great Commandment”).
It’s time. We’ve preached enough to people who don’t want to hear it. It’s time to give them, and us, a break.
[I then go into how a Christian can arrange in his or her own mind and soul to really and truly be okay with someone else really and truly not being Christian; the chapter following the one from which the above is excerpted is titled, “Shall we Dance,” and includes a section called, “Seven Handy Dandy Tips To Bear In Mind About Any Given Normie When You’re Interacting With Them So That It’ll Be Easier To Love Them In A Way That Might Not Come So Naturally Once You Find Out They’re Pagan Nonbelievers.” I’ll maybe run a clip from that section next if anyone’s interested.]