I gave my first hour-long spirituality talk at the request of a shop owner who wanted to hear how my Christian beliefs evolved after I encountered other-worldly activity at the Goldfield Hotel.
At the beginning of my talk I stated my goal was for others to find their own spiritual path. So a few minutes later when I discussed why God was paranormal, I read a deleted excerpt from my book about becoming a Born Again Christian. This scene, which had taken place decades prior to my night at the Goldfield, was one of the strongest supernatural events of my life.
Days following my presentation, two people contacted me to say they enjoyed my talk, but next time I needed to drop that section about becoming Born Again because I came across as too religious.
I’d deleted this scene from my memoir after an agent told me I was too preachy. She’d read up to that point of the book and stopped. The strange part was, I wasn’t. I merely shared my experience. Further, I followed that story by how that instance led me to a closed-minded, fear-based congregation, unlike any other Christian church I’d attended before.
So why did this segment bother them? I never said they needed to become Born Again. I wasn’t being judgmental. Then it hit me: It wasn’t religion or preachiness that bothered them; it was my use of the name “Jesus.” Repeatedly in this excerpt I used His name. Otherwise, this part was no more religious than the rest of my book.
So why is “Jesus” so loaded?
How does the human incarnation of God, one who stood up for love and inclusion, make people fidget in their seats? After some introspection, I realized that at one point in my life, I also had trouble saying “Jesus” aloud and felt uncomfortable when others did. But why did I feel that way? It was because some—overzealous about their particular Christian beliefs—used Jesus’ name as a reprimand to others. Ironically, His moniker has been bandied about to make many Christians feel less Christian.
I’m not criticizing those who are so enthusiastic about their beliefs that they want to share them with others. The problem is how they’re sharing their faith. When they come across that it’s their specific brand of religion or it’s the highway to hell, they elevate themselves above all others: prideful behavior I can’t see Jesus approving of.
How will Christians as a whole ever foster understanding among the world’s religious communities when we can’t respect different denominations within our faith? When will we follow Jesus’ example of loving everyone, especially those who are different from us?
I pray one day we will overcome this petty and judgmental behavior and that we will all become comfortable speaking about Jesus’ life and teachings.