Friday, October 7, 2016

Don't be a "Bubble Christian"

"Bubble Christian" is a name I have given a type of Christianity where people only do christian things & only hang out with christian people. American/Western Protestantism has a lot of this which has always stuck out to me and bothered me. It felt wrong on many levels and I am now beginning to understand how to explain why.

The number one important thing that I think most Christians agree on when it comes to being a Christian is "Love your neighbor as yourself." So, the first thing I think of when I am analyzing a common Christian practice or attitude is: "Does is hinder your ability to love your neighbor?". I believe that the ability to love your neighbor comes from getting to know your neighbor and that alienating yourself from any certain type of people prevents that. Thus: my notion of "bubble Christianity"; You can not love someone, a group of people, or a type of person that you do not know. Jesus wandered and talked and met with all kinds of people; the outcasts. 

So, here's the issue I see. A community on it's own is good. I believe that people were made to be together and a community, even and especially in worship or for religious purposes can be very good. Where people go wrong is when they start thinking about themselves first. "I am going to be saved because I did my part in spreading the word of God". Perhaps it takes a group of like-minded individuals which create this atmosphere which turns into something which is not healthy, positive or inclusive, and people close themselves off to the outside world because it's "safer" and mostly, "easier". I think the worst part of this is how so many people are raised to be closed off to other parts of society. They are brought up going to Christian schools, listening to Christian music and only being allowed to hang out with other Christians. Often parents in this category will build up a list of things that a "Christian" child should do and should not do with more "should-not"s than I think anyone should have. This is the issue I have so much problem with.
People learn from experience. If they learn that they can take risks and that there may be a consequence and that if there is, they will have to figure out how to deal with it, they are much more set up to be a successful member of society and be able to take care of themselves in their life better as well. Long-story-short, I think that controlling is never a healthy answer. Especially if you want your children to continue believing in that faith. To me it is crazy to think that anything would appeal to someone which forces them to do or be anything. You can not be a true Christian or a true person if you can not be your true self.
This is something, that as an Orthodox Christian, I am very thankful for. In the Orthodox Church, honesty and authenticity has always been something that is rewarded and looked highly upon. I learned at a young age, that being genuine and being a Christian can and should go hand-in-hand, but when I see other protestant denominations, I feel fear because it doesn't feel like being genuine is even accepted in some cases. I see things that look like they encourage people to be cookie-cutter replicas of each other and it is one of the most distasteful things in this world to me. When people are pressured into being friends just because they are both Christian, that is when I get up and walk away.

Unfortunately, I have even seen Orthodox Christians get into this mindset of what I would consider to be closing yourself off to other types of people and thus hindering your ability to get to know and love them. In this case, rather than people being totally in their own world, what I really see a lot of is this surrounding yourself with lots of Orthodox Christian things; books, music, practices etc. This, on its own I think can be very good. And many of these people have a lot of Orthodox Christian friends (or maybe even only Orthodox Christian friends) (which on some level, I may envy or judge because I have never been able to fit myself into a category or befriend numerous people of my same religion). These people, if given the opportunity, will welcome people into their group like most Christians would say they would. And even, I think with much more sincerity and honesty of heart.

The point I am arguing is that you can't be inclusive and open to different kinds of people if you don't go out yourself and get to know them. Different kinds of people aren't going to come to you. More often than not, they aren't.
But I do want to say, there is a significant difference between what I see in Orthodox Christians and Protestant Christians when it comes to this. With Orthodox Christianity, I think the concern is more about getting too much pride and forgetting to reach out to people who are not Orthodox Christian like you. I think it is safe to confidently say, this concept of "bubble Christianity" is much less common (and on a much smaller scale when it is) for Orthodox Christians because in America, we ourselves are minorities. I can't imagine being an Orthodox Christian who won't be friends with anyone who isn't Orthodox. If you were going to a public school, you wouldn't be making friends with anyone. If you were really lucky, you may have one friend, but you may not even get along. I think in every case, it is stupid to force friendships. I think that you can still "love" (in a Christian way) or respect and care about (in other terms) someone without being their friend. That is something that I think you have to do to be a healthy person. I also think public school is beneficial for people to learn how to work with people from a young age who are different.

Remembering to reach out to people who aren't necessarily like you and don't have the same religion or beliefs is important. On another note, it is important in humbling ourselves and not letting ourselves feel that we are better because we are Christian. Thinking that you are better because you are Christian or that all Christians are magically saved by being Christian defeats the whole purpose of being a Christian. It is so easy to go wrong here, and so dangerous and when I witness this go wrong, it makes me sick.

I think that for Orthodox folk, this can be an important reminder that we should not only be genuine with ourselves first, but also be grounded enough in our faith that we can reach out and connect with people who are not necessarily Orthodox. For me, that has been essential in my life, and connecting with other Orthodox Christians is a new thing for me despite going to church on Sundays growing up.

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