There’s this guy I used to work with. I’ll call him Mike to protect the innocent…
Mike was a super nice guy. He was my age and had a couple kids. We got along really well. At a couple of work events, our wives met each other and seemed to get along really well too.
And then, I heard from another person at work:
Her: Pssssst… [Leaning in] Did you know Mike is a Christian?
Me: No, really?…
Her: Yeah, he’s, like, kinda ‘out there’.
Now, this was five-ish years ago. And five-ish years ago, I was NOT a self-proclaimed ‘Christian’. I was spiritual, but not religious.
I mean, I liked Jesus. But I’d have never claimed to be a ‘Christian’.
Christians, in my opinion, were those kinds of people. The ones who were all in-your-face with pamphlets trying to convert you and whatnot. Yeck…
I veered clear of Mike at work. We crossed paths several times and engaged in small talk, but that was about it. Mike went his way, I went mine, eventually left the company, and here I am today, writing about… Mike.
I’m writing about Mike because, thinking back, my personal experience of him wasn’t ‘out there’ at all. He never once tried to push any kind of conversion process on me. He only mentioned his faith to me once when he told me that he and his wife went to a Christian couples retreat (after I had said discussion above with our co-worker).
As I said, I liked Mike...
But then, I judged that guy. I judged him hard. And it was all based on the viper-like tongues of the rumor mill at work. None of it was experiential. I put a big ole’ X on his name and avoided him like the ‘weirdo’ that I (and so many others at work) pegged him to be.
Recently, one of his Facebook posts (not about faith) appeared on my feed and I decided to click through to his profile. I wanted to get a lock on just how ‘out there’ Mike really was…
Low and behold, Mike and I follow a lot of the same authors and thinkers. Yes, these people are Christians. But they are not (at least, looking through my progressive lens) ‘out there’. People like Rob Bell, Peter Rollins, Flannery O’Connor, Frank Schaeffer, and… Me (yep, he follows my work).
That’s when it struck me…
How many people out there — ‘nice’ and ‘good’ people (as I’ve always thought of myself to be, both pre and post-Christian) — are reading my stuff thinking I’m one of those Bible-thumping, neo-conservative, end-of-days proclaiming, conspiracy-theorizing, guilt-tripping, out-of-touch ‘weirdos’ that I used to think ALL Christians are?
Probably a lot.
When I tell people that we go to church and I’m even considering the seminary, I’m sure they’re mentally writing me off to be someone they either want to avoid or never want to get to know (I live in Chicago, for crying out loud. If I lived in Memphis, this would be an easier conversation; though even THEIR assumptions of my path would likely be wrong).
I’m having one of these moments where I’m realizing a lot of good, reasonable, nice people don’t really like me.
And I get it. I really do.
Because I once stood in their shoes.