I sat next to a man on a plane once reading, Why I am not a Christian and Other Essays …by Bertrand Russell. I leaned over and asked, “Does Bertrand Russell provide a compelling argument?”
The man looked up a little surprised and said, “Yes, actually. He is pretty compelling.”
I further inquired, “Are some of his main arguments against Christianity really more focused on Christian followers than on the person of Christ.”
“Yeah.” He replied. “The reason he’s not a Christian has as much to do with the Church as with anything else.”
In fact in his essay (originally a talk given in 1927 to the National Secular Society in London) he says, “I think that there are a good many points upon which I agree with Christ a great deal more than the professing Christians do.” Russell goes on to cite how Christians do not really believe the “turn the other cheek” teaching of Christ (Russell was a strict pacifist) and then lists other ways Christians don’t really take seriously Jesus’ teachings on providing for the poor or not judging others.
“Humph,” I grunted in agreement. “Yeah, Jesus certainly does attract messed up people to Himself. He said that he came for the sick and not for the healthy, so I guess that’s why the Church is so full of sick and broken people.”
The fact of the matter is that more jerks enter the faith than well-put-together people. I’m talking about people with serious issues. Not only is the church full of them but the Bible is as well! Abraham was a liar, Moses was a murdering hothead, David was a womanizer, the apostles all had issues (even Jesus’ very own great, great, great, etc. grandmother was a prostitute). Who would make up such stuff? The Bible is so full of such incredibly flawed people that one of the reasons I am a Christian is that ancient near eastern mythology would never invent people like Abraham, Moses, David, Rahab, Peter as heroes unless there was some kind of objective historicity to them.
The Church is full of sickies. But the fact that there are seriously flawed people following Jesus (I include myself here) should not be so disturbing to us. In some ways it makes a lot of sense that only those who are struggling, messed up, and hungry for wholeness manage to limp our way to Jesus and enter into his big, fat, dysfunctional family. We should expect a Church with a decided lack of emotionally whole, socially adroit, intellectual geniuses who have no need of a Savior. What is missing from the Church sometimes is our ability to admit that we are all broken beggars clinging to a mysterious Savior whom we understand imperfectly and follow even less perfectly.
So for all the flawed people out there who have avoided the Church because Jesus’ followers seem so … so … well twisted, I welcome your own bent, messed up soul into this company of followers as we seek simply to draw near to and love with our sick, twisted hearts the only Unbent One I know of.