One of my favorite exchanges of lines out of all the movies I’ve ever seen with religious overtures comes in the film “Saved” starring Jena Malone as Mary, Mandy Moore as Hilary Faye, and Macaulay Culkin as Roland, and it goes as follows:
Hilary Faye: “Mary, turn away from Satan. Jesus, he loves you.”
Mary: “You don’t know the first thing about love!”
Hilary Faye: [Throwing a Bible at Mary] “I am so filled with Christ’s love! You are just jealous of my success in the Lord!”
Mary: [Mary picking up the Bible] “This is not a weapon! You idiot!”
So, why do I consider this one of the best exchanges of lines ever in a religious movie, even if this one was in a religious comedy? Because it’s such a great depiction of why I don’t label myself a “Christian” anymore and why I maintain that I am instead simply a follower of Christ.
First of all, I just have to say this, in my humble opinion, Jesus Christ’s message wasn’t, “Hey, let’s create a whole new religion called Christianity, where we’ll have this book with a bunch of new chapters that we’re all going to follow. And hey, we’re going to use this book as a weapon at times for those we judge aren’t following it or doing things the way we think they should!” But sadly, that indeed is what much of Christianity has become and what many other religions have become as well around the world.
That’s why when I’m asked now what my faith is, I tell people I follow the true teachings of Christ to the best of my ability, which at their bare essence was not to follow a set of rules and laws, and create judgments and opinions from them. Rather, it was merely two principles.
“To love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind and to love others as much as you love yourself.”
But, somehow, our world has drifted so far away from this and instead created a complexity that Jesus himself came two millennia ago to abolish. And sadly, now I’m seeing this complexity even in this presidential race.
Everyone seems to be waiting with baited breath presently on who’ll become our next president for the following four years, and many of them who label themselves as Christians are angrily shouting to the masses about who Christ would want as our next president and who carries the best values of Christianity. But do you know what I think? I think Christ wouldn’t have cared less about who our next president is going to be. He’d tell us all that the real work is not at that level and instead is within us to love each other no matter what our differences are.
That’s why every time I watch this Republican versus Democratic battle play itself out on the news or in social media or even amongst friends and loved ones, I think of Mandy Moore in Saved throwing her Bible at Jena Malone. The fact is, none of this is practicing the unconditional love that Christ came here to spread. Judging someone by saying, “It’s in the Bible” isn’t being unconditionally loving and doing so only makes the person sound like they’re speaking on behalf of God. I know many Christians who think it’s ok to do this, simply because, “The Bible says so.” But, no matter what way you put it, condemning a person using the Bible, or any other spiritual book for that matter, isn’t being unconditionally loving, it’s judging.
So, how did we all get so far away from truly loving and embracing each other like Christ once asked from all of his followers?
My answer would be fear, as to embrace everyone just as they are, no matter what walk of life they come from can be quite difficult for many, especially when it feels so different from what one’s mind thinks should be the norm. That’s why I feel the Bible has become such the tool of segregation and division in the world these days, as it’s sent far too many people into great places of darkness when passages get thrown at them, when they’re told they’re sinners in the eyes of God. I often feel that it’s religion itself that continues to drive our world into the very darkness that many religious people want to prevent.
Because of that very reason, the message I do my best to live now is to love all people, from all walks of life, to love followers of Trump and followers of Biden, to love both the gay and the straight and everyone in between, to love not only those who worship like me, but those who may not worship at all or worship quite differently, and to even love those who don’t or won’t ever love me because of who I am, because in their eyes I’m an abomination to God.
So, until I see Christianity living out the true message that Christ brought of loving each other unconditionally and until I see all those Bibles and those passages from it not being thrown anymore at others like Mandy Moore did so comically well in the film Saved, I remain simply a follower of Christ and won’t label myself as a Christian. And, you know what, I think God is quite ok with that, because Christ wasn’t the one who created Christianity anyway, human beings did.
Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson