I am finishing up my first semester here at Houghton College. Was it what I thought it would be? To a degree yes. The professors, the atmosphere, etc. Sure. Exactly what I was expecting and hoping for. Do not get my wrong, I love a lot of things about this school, I am not going anywhere. I have a criticism, but it is not unique to this campus. It is really a criticism of all small Christian schools and colleges, and even communities of other sorts.
The criticism is simply, why are Christian communities so destructive? No wonder non-believers want nothing to do with church and Christians. The church is where they feel least accepted, most judged, most looked down on. With exceptions, but as a whole: That is the message we are sending.
Why is it that the Christian community is so destructive? Of all places, shouldn't a Christian community as small and close knit as Houghton be uplifting and loving if the majority of the population claim to be Christians? It is sad to me that I can honestly say I felt more acceptance at my public university than here. What do I mean by unacceptance?
Here are some norms I've seen at Houghton:
A lot of the students on this campus seem incredibly naive. "The Houghton Bubble" is not the faculty or staff here--who really are dead on with their stances most of the time. Those bubbles are brought from home by students who maybe grew up in their Christian bubbles and failed to notice that it is a fallen world. (Even among Christians. We are all fallen.) We all have struggles. Why do some Christians like to pretend they do not exist? When they meet someone with a REAL struggle, a serious one, be it alcoholism, depression, cutting, porn addictions or something else, they do not band around that person and help pull them out. It's like they think Christians do not sin. That sins that big are shocking and rare. As a body they ostracize them. WE OSTRACIZE THEM! Are we not called to love others and help them through real struggles? Why is it that they are avoided? Why are we shocked? Why do we run the other way?
There seem to be a lot of people afraid of talking to these people. I understand the importance of surrounding yourself with good people. Your closest friends that you take advice from and really draw from should be ones who lift you up spiritually. Of course. But Jesus hung out in the bars, with the alcoholics, with the whores. He loved everyone. He did not dodge people because they might bring him down, or they didn't want to be seen with that person, or whatever. Those are the people we should be going to.
People are not born liars, whores, priests, heros, acoholics, theives, etc. Their lives take them there. And you will not understand why they are at this low in their life unless you take the time to talk to them and get to know them. Everyone has a story worth listening to. I have to believe that these are the people who need Jesus the most. And that it is our responsibility to LOVE THEM! That was God's greatest command - love one another. And believe me... All people crave is love. Compassion. Acceptance with someone. All they need to hear is that one person took the time to talk with them, and knows how sinful they are...and loves them anyway...believes in them that they can make it out of it. Heres the kicker: Is willing to help them make it out.
People criticize me often for being to open, to straight forward and outspoken about my struggles, basically...too honest. But I believe with everything in me that it is about damn time that people stop being fake and start showing their true colors. I think the world will respect Christians more when they are geniune and open about their lives. They know we're all hipocrits anyway---pretending to be holierthanthou but in all reality being no different and just as sinful as the next guy...
That is why I choose to be an open book, no matter how much it hurts. If someone wants to know something I tell them. I am honest about my mistakes, because I made them. And for everyone person they offend, it might help another person who is too afraid to speak up about a similar struggle but appreciates someone finally bringing it up and not being scared to talk about it.
I came into this semester with the attitude that I would simply try and show kindness to others. Take the time to get to know as many people as possible. Really talk to them. Unfortunately for me I took my good reputation at home for granted and a combination of misunderstandings, how I come across to people, and probably a mix of totally false rumor and even deserved rumor maybe---I developed a less than stellar reputation here. Maybe it is my fault for not taking the time to establish a good one. I'm not really concerned about that. I'm not going to get into anything related to that because frankly it's unimportant. The only reason I bring it up is because it caused me to discover something that for whatever reason I was naive too and did not expect---Destructive Christian Community.
I actually mean this as an encouragement and a call so understand me when I say:
The details are unimportant but I first hand for the first time noticed how destructive a tight knit community of believers can be. It goes beyond gossip and talking, beyond ostracization. Granted there are many people here that are uplifting and do not fit these cliches at all. But I can say that a lot that happened this semester truly hurt me.
What disheartened me more than anything that this of all places could be so damaging. I expect more. I expected more. I came here for the standard set here, for the community and yet the community has its negatives and faults. I began to think of others struggling with things that may feel ostracized. And I could not bare to think they were being hurt by fellow Christians. That can be damaging to a person's faith guys. Guard yourself because you could be doing more damage to the kingdom of God than good.
*** This is a call for change, an encouragement that despite the hurt I felt this semester I still deep down believe in God's people, in Christians, in this school and this community. There is so much potential and opportunity for us here to love one another. SHOW LOVE! Be willing and open to others! It is our call! If nothing else that is clear! ***
I'll end with an offer. I want to talk to you. Get to know you. This next semester and beyong know my door is always open. But regardless is we ever talk---over the next few semesters please, seek out others who are hurting, and love them.