No.206: Typical Christian.


I was in the backseat of her Lincoln SUV, 
when my homie’s Jewish girlfriend said,
“Benji, are you religious?”
I asked her, “what does that mean?”
And as she searched for the words,
I took a second to think, 
and wondered if she meant, 
“are you one of the Christians who actually practice
what they preach?”

Or maybe she wanted to know which extreme I camped in.
I spent 4 years at a college with a very liberal campus,
so maybe she wanted to know if I was one of those 
non-church-going millennial super-spirituals, 
or if I was one of those Super Saiyan Saints 
that only sinned twice a week and took every Sunday very seriously,
or maybe she thought I was somewhere in-between,
‘cause I directed the Gospel Choir but didn’t look the part,
I mean, sometimes I, too, question the way I carry myself in the present.
I mean I was/am the preacher’s kid — sorry, I meant “Reverend.”

I know how much the people of God love their titles,
you know, like the Messiah did,
‘cause I mean, if Christ is the prototype,
and we’ve been called to follow Him,
then we gotta snatch every chance we get to flex
just like the good book says He did,
you know, in Philippians 2:6 — oh wait, that’s right, it didn’t,

But that’s beside the point.
I know her question is moments away.
I know have to make a choice.
I can play my faith off cool, 
like church is just something I do when it’s cool 
or when it suits my mood.
Or I could tell her the first half of the truth,
tell her how I’ve played the keys for my church since I was 16, 
tell her how my parents — well, my mom at least — 
would prepare to crucify me 
if I ever again tried to sneak out of night vigil on New Year’s Eve.

I could give her the full spiel,
I could tell her
that I don’t really know how I feel about that word — “religious” — 
or what it implies about how I talk to the Designer of the universe, 
or why I even choose to serve,
but I figured that this short car ride into town 
to cop some shot glasses and Smirnoff 
was maaaaybe not the best time to speak my long-winded mind, but
“Are you religious,” she asked again,
like, is your family devout?”

I couldn’t tell if it was me
or the Holy Spirit,
but I felt one of us vomit at the question. 
I could taste it in my mouth.
I mean, I would hope my faith and relationship with God 
is more than a family tradition.
These archaic words sound more fit for a culture raised in a prison
than a community of God’s children.

I knew, to her, a Christian 
was less like a reflection of the King of Heaven on earth,
and more like just another person
with a really serious hobby,
or a mascot of the biggest theological party.
I could tell from her tone
she was familiar with the term “Christian”,
but not the meaning behind it.
I could tell
because I’ve seen her type before — 
she is the world, 
the one on the outside who observes
the contradictions within the church,

the voice that says I like your Christ. 
But you don’t look like Him.
No, you…you go on missionary trips, 
take selfies with impoverished Africans,
talk about it with all of your friends,
then come back home 
and ignore the kids drinking lead in Flint, Michigan — hypocrite,
let’s talk about it.

I hear this Jesus you speak of every Sunday on Instagram,
but it’s kinda hard to picture Him
when I look at you come Monday morning, complaining 
as if the work He’s given you lacks purpose,
or on Saturday night, before Sunday service, 
twerking for strangers on a Snapchat story,
come on, let’s talk about it.

I heard your Jesus touched lepers and healed diseases, 
I heard He hung with the homeless,
but all I’ve ever seen you do is avoid them.

I heard your Jesus broke bread with sinners, 
I heard He sat among them in open fields and gave impromptu sermons,
but I’ve never seen you with scripture.

I heard your Jesus was God with us,
heard His missionary trip could not end till He died for us
so that we could be forgiven,
so why do I find it so hard to breathe 
and open 
and heal 
around Christians?

Dear Typical, Casual Christian,
your cross necklace looks very pretty,
but is there more to it?
Or are you just another religion?
Either this Jesus is not who He says He is,
or you do not belong to Him.

 — №206: Typical Christian.

Cover Photo by Chris Benson on Unsplash