When I was living in France I met a Christian who didn’t turn my stomach the way most Christians did, and who talked about God in the most peculiar ways – like they had just had a friendly, intimate chat. It was easy to forget that Nadine was talking about the same god who people say hates fags and loves war, the same god who condoned the Crusades, the Inquisition, and gay-bashing. I just didn’t see any of that in her. After awhile it became obvious that comparing Nadine’s God to the fundamentalist variety I had grown up with was comparing apples and oranges.
I had a lot of issues, though, that I needed to work through before I could believe that God was real and good. I don’t even remember how it happened first, but somehow it just struck me. I was sitting across from Nadine in a chair in her room that I had cleared off. A pile of her clothes was lying on the floor next to me. She knew something was up, so she was just sitting there silently, letting me take my time. I couldn’t look at her, just at the white streaks of paint on the dingy walls. I thought and talked about God all the time since I had met her. I couldn’t help myself and it was getting a little annoying.
I took a deep breath. “Just because people who did horrible things to others were called Christians doesn’t mean that God did those things or even condoned them,” I said. “In fact, I think a lot of that made Him really angry.” I turned away from the wall to see how she would react.
She sat there looking at me for a moment or two longer, her legs crossed beneath her. She was holding a pillow against her chest, her dainty chin resting on top of it.
“I think you’re right,” she said. She paused a minute pondering, her large green eyes moving up toward the ceiling. “And the hard thing for me is that I have to work really hard not to be like that.”
I shifted on the squeaky, sticky vinyl chair. “Nadine, don’t be stupid. You would never do anything to intentionally hurt another person. No matter how much they deserved it.”
She shifted her gaze from the ceiling to me. Her eyes were cat-like, piercing. “It’s actually scary because I can’t see myself doing that right now; I’m young and don’t really have a whole lot to lose. But who can say what I’ll be like with 20 years of work under my belt, a house that I’ve paid for, and a family?” She let out a sigh and hugged her pillow tighter. “I hate to admit it, but I’ll probably be pretty wedded to the system that secured all of those things for me. I find it hard to give away my extra coat or turn the other cheek now, can you imagine what I’ll be like with a bunch of stuff I’ve worked my whole life for, and a way of life that I’m trying to protect? Who doesn’t lash out at those who seem to be trying to take that away?”
“Oh come on, Nadine, you’re the nicest person I know, I don’t want to think that you could do that or there’s no hope in the world! Seriously, you’re not like that.”
Nadine chuckled. “Penny, please. Don’t flatter me. Seriously, from our perspective it makes absolutely no sense that God would choose sinful people to be His presence on earth, but that’s exactly what he did. And I, for one, do a very poor job of living out that calling most of the time. So it doesn’t take too much of a stretch of the imagination to believe that I am also capable of doing some of the awful stuff that has been done in Christ’s name in the past.”
“Okay….” I said, still not believing my ears. But all I could think was, Are you kidding me? If God doesn’t fix us then what the hell’s the point?