I heard someone express shame in their Christian faith this week saying that he didn't want to be identified with "those" kinds of Christians. I know what this person meant by "those:" those evangelical, conservative, Bible-thumpin', gun-totin', ignorant Christians.
Christians pitted against other Christians? Lord, have mercy.
This is not a new thing. Religion has served to divide us much more than bring us together. This happens for three reasons: 1. I know that I am right. 2. Because I know that I am right, I know that you are wrong. 3. God tells me that #s 1 & 2 are true (hint: if God is always telling you that you are right, it might not be God doing the talking).
Luke 23:33-43 tells the story of Christ on a cross being mocked as the King of the Jews. In the light of this mockery, Christ is confronted by the two thieves hanging next to him and we begin to see what kind of savior Christ really is. Both thieves recognize Christ's authority and Lordship. The one thief desires a cheap salvation saying, "You are the Messiah. Save yourself and us." The other simply wants to know and be known by Christ and says, "Remember me."
No matter how much we may try to always be that second thief, I believe we all succumb to the temptation of the first thief - "what can you do for me today, Jesus?" (Either way, we're still thieves.) When we see our faith as a self-serving means to an end in this world or the next, it becomes very natural that we point fingers at other people and judge their faith against our own. We judge entire groups and say to them, "I don't know you! You're one of "those." We become the very evil we deplore.
In the end, Christ demonstrates and calls us all into kinship with all people - and all means all. We are called to know and be known. We are called to embrace our fellow Christians even if we make each other squirm. We are in this together and it's high time we acted like it. And lest we ever forget what "acting like it" means, I refer us to this: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind - love your neighbor as yourself. Get these two things right, and the rest will fall into place."