Yesterday, my wife and I were blessed to participate in a program our local middle school does where one of the grades comes to a church, then to a temple, then to a mosque, to learn about these three religions. One thing we did was to ask the students to write questions they had for us to respond to.
One of the questions (and I did not take a picture of it – just Photoshopped text to bring in a key portion) has stuck with me for the last 24 hours. This student first asked about why God is always shown to be a man – an excellent question. But the student then went on to write about how God doesn’t seem very merciful and loving and then closed the note with three chilling words…Christianity scares me.
That absolutely broke my heart to hear that. It broke my heart to think that this faith of love and grace that Jesus shared with us has been experienced as something to be feared by this student. I don’t know if it is just the whole “hell” thing that did it or the many other reasons that the church has given for people to be afraid of this beautiful faith. I responded to the question by noting how all religions have histories of doing things that do not reflect the teachings of respective holy books (Bible, Quran, etc) and that what I hope that is in my own witness personally and in the witness of the church I serve, that people see us as expressing love and grace rather than damnation and punishment.
But where does this Psalm come in? Verse 6 specifically jumped out to me as I continued to wrestle with this student’s question. Verse 6 says:
Stand up angrily, Lord!
Rise up with raging fury against my enemies!
Wake up for my sake and execute the judgment you have decreed for them!
I understand the context of this lament from the Psalmist – David is running from enemies who are seeking to kill him and we have all cried out against our “enemies” – however, I wonder if it is passages like this and the ways that we have mis-used and mid-understood them that lead to students like this one to say, “Christianity scares me.”
If I did one thing yesterday it would be to hopefully shine a different light on Christianity for this student than s/he has experienced to this point.