I cannot say, “Not All Christians”

By Ashley Whitham

On social media these days, I see a lot of people angry and hurting from interactions with Christians. Some of it stems from childhood, some more recent. Hate-filled comments online cursing strangers to hell and denouncing their lives as sinful leaves a bad taste in just about everyone’s mouth. And when I see the videos of people crying because they don’t understand why a ‘Christian’ would tell them their life isn’t worth living, I cry, too. And I desperately want to be the ‘good Christian’ that can show them love and encouragement. But every time I want to write, “But not all Christians are like that! I accept and love you as you are!” I can’t.

If you’ve not been aware of the ‘Not all men’ arguments, let me catch you up. Women and men have been more upfront with discussing the ways that men make others feel unsafe, unloved, unworthy; and there are men who are offended by these statements and reply back with, “Not all men.” This is not a new argument, but has been making the online rounds for many years. And while it is true that not all men attack or abuse women (emotionally, physically, etc.), the ‘not all men’ argument is not allowed. Someone who is vulnerable cannot always tell who is going to abuse them and who is not. Just because someone says, “I’m a nice guy,” doesn’t mean anything. Unfortunately, people lie, manipulate, cheat, etc. And yes, all this goes for women as well. And yes, women can also be the abusers in a relationship. And we shouldn’t leave out non-binary, either.

So yes, I acknowledge that even though there are male abusers, that does not mean all men abuse. But here’s the problem with the ‘not all men’ argument: it distracts. Instead of talking about the ways in which women feel unsafe, the ‘offended nice man’ makes the argument all about him. And we’re no longer talking about the problems of abuse, but the hurt ego of the men who don’t want to included in the statement. So while the man who says, “But not me!” may be accurate in that he’s never physically abused a woman, by taking away the conversation and the woman’s power she held in sharing her story, the ‘nice guy’ is now hurting the woman, and any other woman who could have been empowered in hearing the story. While it may feel awkward, uncomfortable, maybe even hurtful to the man hearing it, it would be more helpful to say, “I hear you,” or, “Thank you for sharing your story,” rather than, “Not all men.”

So what do I do when I hear a gay man share about being muttered at in a coffeeshop, “God hates fags”? Or when a single mom with tattoos talks about the blond, upstanding woman who tells her, “Repent from being a whore or you’re going to hell”? Or when a veteran who lost his hearing is told on TikTok, “God is punishing you by making you deaf… Repent and you’ll be able to hear again”? I am so offended by this hate that is spewed in the name of my God. This does not reflect how my church and my church family believes or behaves. It is because of my Christian love that I see the worth in them. I want to scream, “THEY DON’T SPEAK FOR GOD OR ME!” I want to write, “Not all Christians are like that! I’m not like that!” But I realized that I can’t. I can’t write, “Not all Christians,” because then I’m taking away from their story. I’m not honoring the pain that they’re going through – the VERY REAL pain inflicted on them by people who claim to believe the same way I do. If someone shared about being attacked by a Christian, and then is attacked by more Christians, saying, “Don’t lump me in with them,” that is not loving or healing – that is increasing the pain. We cannot say, “Not All Christians,” because we are inflicting further pain on the victim.

I want to believe I’m different. I want to believe the Community of Christ is different. But I cannot let myself be offended for being lumped under the same Christian umbrella as ‘those other’ people. I cannot make it about how there are different branches of the theology tree, and those Christians don’t speak for all Christians. They are hurting, and do not need a history lesson. What I can do: I can share my love for them. I can share the pain that I feel with them. I can sit with them and remind them that this person’s words do not define them. I can use my belief in the worth of all persons to support them while they move through the healing process.

And don’t get me started on people who say, “Love the sinner, hate the sin”…

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