Column: Negative image of Christians can be combatted by loving widely, deeply

The Rev. Luther Young

The Rev. Luther Young is a pastoral leader at Woodland Christian Church on the Near East Side.

Years ago, we had a pair of neighbors move in next door to us. I remember seeing them come and go but didn’t have the opportunity to meet them.

I came home from work one day and my partner told me he met one of our new neighbors. He learned they had just moved from California and were starting to get settled in. After some time, she revealed that they were apprehensive about meeting us because they heard a minister lived at our residence. She wasn’t sure how they would be received because they were a lesbian couple. 

At first, I chuckled at the irony of this encounter given that I identify as a member of the LGBTQ community. But then I became incredibly sad. I thought to myself: Is this the reputation that precedes me as a minister … or even as a Christian? 

This interaction with my former neighbors highlights an unsettling but important reality. Christianity today does not always have the best reputation. Christians are sometimes viewed as hackneyed, judgmental, close-minded people who condemn those who hold different views and attack those who refuse to conform to their beliefs.

When people learn that you are Christian, they may assume you are homophobic, sexist, transphobic or otherwise hostile toward those who do not fit the standards traditionally imposed by Christianity. This is not true for all Christians, of course, but for this reason, people may be wary of interacting with Christians for fear that they may be reprimanded, ridiculed or rejected.  

Some might say the fact that Christianity is unpopular in the mainstream is proof that we’re doing something right, that people dislike Christianity because they do not want to hear the truth. They may point to the scriptures recalling how early Christians were persecuted.

To be clear, the negative perception of Christianity today is not some badge of honor. It is not proof of our moral superiority, nor is it confirmation of our righteousness. 

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