James Neal

Life is a series of choices. 

One choice I never had to make was whether or not to be Christian.

I was baptized as an infant, and raised attending church. As I grew I continued to grow in my faith of my own accord. You could say I was, like most Christians today, born into the faith.

But, what if I had to choose? What if I had no experience whatsoever with Christianity? Would I, given all the options, choose to be a Christian?

Faced with this hypothetical situation, I have to assume I’d turn to the source of all information in our society: the Internet. 

Search the Internet for Christianity, from the perspective of a newcomer, and there’s no shortage of content. 

Countless blog posts and articles, from sources of wildly varying credibility, analyze, pontificate on, and acclaim Christianity from every possible angle. Some of this content is good. Some, not so much.

Wade into this Christian narrative with the eyes of a newcomer, and you will inevitably fall down the rabbit hole that is the comments section.

Here you will find hatred, bigotry, exuberant vilification of anyone with the slightest difference in opinion or theology — it’s all there in abundance. Look hard and you may find a sprinkling of love and compassion mixed into the mire, but not in a measure that would lead you to believe these are the defining characteristics of our faith.

There’s plenty of information to educate a newcomer to Christianity. But, unfortunately, the dominant portrayal of Christianity online bears no resemblance to Jesus Christ. We take up the name of Jesus — the rabbi who said “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone...” — and in his name we merrily set about clicking stones at everyone in sight. 

Need an example? Peruse the comments on a story we ran Monday about the growth of a local church. There’s plenty of stones that have been cast about (all in the name of Jesus), and very little that resembles the Gospel teachings of our faith’s namesake. 

So, back to the question at hand. If internet comments made in Christ’s name were my only source of information, would I join? No. Emphatically, no. I would not, and do not, join any movement that delights in sowing hatred and strife among God’s children. 

That’s the choice increasingly being made, both by newcomers and those born into the faith. People are turning their backs on the church, not because they reject Christ, but because they reject Christians and a Christianity that look increasingly unlike Jesus.

So, what choice do we have? Well, we can continue to vilify our neighbor in Christ’s name, and be Christian in name only. Or, we can set aside our egos, and instead selflessly and fearlessly follow Jesus’s commandments: to love God, and to love our neighbor. That’s a choice we all must make. 

Neal is a News & Eagle staff writer and may be reached at jneal@enidnews.com

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Neal is education and health reporter for the Enid News & Eagle. He can be reached at jneal@enidnews.com.

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