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The Different Perspective of Christianity I Found While Growing Up in a Church

**Content Warning: This article contains discussion of religion and sexuality.**

 

Last week, like most of us here at Kenyon, I was headed south on campus and saw a bright yellow sign on Middle Path just off of Wiggin Street. There it was, in big bold letters: “JESUS SAVES FROM HELL,” with the word “HELL” written in even bigger even bolder letters. As I got closer, I saw it was a group of people who I can only assume call themselves Christians who were protesting homosexuality.

Sitting in the coffee shop and watching them right outside the window, I watched a handful of students approach them and engage in what could immediately be recognized as debate. People stormed past the protesters, glaring as they went, or would ignore them altogether and roll their eyes once they were far enough away. Everyone I talked to on campus that day seemed unified by their disappointment that there was such an active display of hate right there on Middle Path. Even after just a few weeks living here in Gambier, I’ve come to know it as a safe space almost across the whole campus, where students’ individualities are celebrated every day. There’s a lot of places at Kenyon for students to discuss religious beliefs and share their values, but there really aren’t places here to claim other students who may disagree with you are “perverse” and “condemned” for what they believe.

I listened all day to different students make offhand and direct comments about their distaste for religion based on the actions of groups like the one on Middle Path. After my biology class that day, I found a spot at a table in the bookstore and wrote down the Bible verse that was running through my mind all morning.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Galatians 5:22
See, I don’t know if I consider myself a practicing Christian. I’ve drifted pretty far from it in recent years, which is admittedly a little bit due to people like the ones on Middle Path last week. But everything I knew for the first few years of my life centered around faith. My dad is a pastor, so I grew up in Sunday schools and church camps and youth groups. I volunteered a lot in middle and high school, and a huge percentage of my friends were from church. I even really really believed in all of it for most of middle school and my freshman year of high school. So even without really identifying as a Christian all the time, I definitely think I have a pretty strong background in Christianity.

Never once in a church service have I heard anyone say that they hated gay people, or that God hated them, even though that seems to be a pretty common view of what Christians are like, and even though sadly there are more than a few Christians who express this belief. Even if that was a belief that the Christians I grew up around held, it was not discussed out of respect for those who may have felt differently. Not that anyone felt like they couldn’t express the way they felt about it, but because it was such a small portion of the belief system in the first place. I’ve noticed that people who don’t know much about the religion always seem to perceive it as slightly racist, highly homophobic, completely intolerant evangelicals who hate everyone different from them. The thing is, that’s almost never it.

The Jesus I grew up getting to know believed that three things would live on forever: faith, hope, and love. But he believed the greatest of the three was love. The Jesus I grew up getting to know walked softly and didn’t need to carry a big stick. The Jesus I grew up getting to know saw a woman about to be publicly tortured and humiliated in front of her entire town for her so-called sexual immorality, stopped the display before it even began, and told her to go home, free and forgiven. The Jesus I grew up getting to know loved children. The Jesus I grew up getting to know made sure thousands were fed, even if all that was available were a few loaves of bread and a couple fish. The Jesus I grew up getting to know gave out the best booze at parties. (That one was a joke. Like, true, but a joke. Sorry, Dad.) The Jesus I grew up getting to know loved and accepted everyone, especially those that society and religion rejected, no matter what.
The Christians I’ve personally come to know in my life have been just as amazing. I’ve seen people come to youth group for the first time and immediately be embraced into the group, sometimes even literally. I’ve worked with groups to restore community centers in Dayton, to build entire homes for families in the Dominican Republic over the course of three days, and to expand construction on churches in Bolivia. But beyond the actual heavy lifting we did, I watched us make connections with people across language barriers and age gaps, young and old. I saw how love for each other transcended all of those differences and was accepting and warm and caring all the same, even if we had only known each other a few days. They’ve always been there for me, even when I’ve turned them away over and over, because they make the decision every day to be there for anyone who needs it. They’re some of the best listeners I’ve ever met. And the best part is that they know they aren’t perfect, either. They get that they’ve messed up and know they deserve forgiveness, because they know everyone’s going to mess up and everyone deserves forgiveness.

People like the ones on Middle Path last week might be Christians, but I consider them major outliers to what Christianity is all about. It has nothing to do with hatred—the whole point of the faith is as far from that as possible. For me and how I’ve experienced it, it’s always been about unconditional love and support.

“I will strengthen you and help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

 

Image Credit: Annmarie Morrison

 

Annmarie's a sophomore art history major at Kenyon College, and she really really really loves ginger ale and collaborative Spotify playlists, and she's working on being a better listener. For Her Campus, she both writes and is the photographer for the Kenyon chapter, as well as running the Instagram account for the chapter.
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