F2F Generosity & Hypocritical Christians

HitchingWhen I was 20-years old, I hitchhiked from Europe to India.  The trip opened my eyes and slowly changed my Christianity. On that trip, the strongest challenge to my parochial Evangelical Christianity began as I met more and more wonderful non-Christians (atheists, Muslims and Hindus) who were far more generous and thoughtful than most of the Christian I knew. I left on my trip with no-money and was dependent largely on the kindness of others and what I found were non-believers who gave this strange vagabond food, shelter and kindness. Yet my religion told me these people would go to hell.  The intense cognitive dissonance eventually moved me to seeing that my flavor of Christianity had to be wrong.

couchsurfMy 12-year-old daughter and I are now planning our own vagabond trip. As my son and I did two years ago, we will be couchsurfing through Great Britain and France for three weeks at the end of June and the beginning of July. Already we found three generous complete strangers (and their spouses) who have offered us to let us stay in their homes, share their meals and swap stories.  As it ends up, all of them are atheists. For our first stay, we have been invited by a fellow atheist blogger, who I’ve never met in person, to share his home in Wales. The remarkable thing is that this man has been recently disabled by progressive MS — yet he insists we visit. Amazing generosity and openness!

Our other hosts don’t know us but have offered us risk-taking hospitality. But a Christian blogger I know who I approached on a possible stay, turned my daughter and I down.  I am not sure why, possibly because we are atheists, for had I been Bible-bearing Christians brother from his own denomination, I’d guess he would have been welcomed us. But either way, this Evangelical Christian’s refusal, compared to all the open arms of atheists we have met on our travels in Europe, reminded me of the eye-opening experiences I had many years ago while crossing Asia: experiences which helped me to see through the hypocrisy of my Christianity.  Risk-taking generosity is universal and religion does not predict open generosity.

Jesus_on_GenerosityLook at the New Testament passages to the right. If Christians really were true followers of Jesus that they claimed to be, you’d have many more open houses around the world – more coats and shirts being given away. Note that in Luke 3:11 we have John the Baptist teaching the same.

Sure, some Christians may give to charities, but when it comes to rubbing elbows with real people and dirty nonbelievers, many Christians are slow to show generosity while non-believers (the damned-to-hell sort) are quick to give the shirt off their backs.

That is because most Christians don’t really believe what they profess — or at least they certainly don’t live it. In many cases, as I wrote here, I am glad that most Christians don’t follow Jesus’ teachings. Yet as I wrote in my story of Greg (here & here) some Christians really do follow Jesus’ teachings well.

receiptgrabBeing a Christian or not has nothing to do with whether a person is open, loving or generous.  Religiousity does not predict generosity.  In fact, this study on restaurant tipping showed that Christians were more stingy than non-Christians.  And click on this pic to see this horrendous story, if you haven’t heard of it.

I witness non-Christian sacrificial generosity when I hitchhiked to Asia and I saw it lacking in many of my fellow Christians. That insight was a large part of what helped me to see behind the parochialism of my Christianity and to move me toward a pluralistic soteriology — a more open Christianity. I wish more Christians would stop banking on their wonderful salvation plans, their love for their afterlife and actually start risking real F2F generosity with real earthy people.  And then, just maybe transcend their own religion.



Filed under Philosophy & Religion

12 responses to “F2F Generosity & Hypocritical Christians

  1. Have fun.

    I have never understood the inhospitality of many Christians. Even when I was a fundamentalist, I was hospitable. I might have had religious motivations, but I was quite open towards all who came my way. Some of my preacher friends were quite inhospitable, ignoring anyone that would not immediately, directly benefit their church. I didn’t like it then and I sure don’t now.

    I hope you will write about your journey.


  2. @ Bruce Gerencser,
    Thanx Bruce. Yeah, I am sure I will write some stuff. I agree — I think generosity, openness, risk-taking and such are temperament issues. I was open before I was a Christian, when I was a Christian and after. Christianity had nothing to do with it. Putting a religious spin on our traits is a religious practice. Valorizing our temperaments is a fault of everyone!

  3. Scott McGreal

    Those are great Jesus quotes – I suspect they are among his least followed teachings. I was also reminded of Matthew 5:47 “And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?” From the experiences you describe on your travels some of the “pagans” are actually coming off pretty good by comparison to certain Christians!
    I was also reminded of a study I read about on Epiphenomenon blog (I can’t recall the link at the moment) that found that non-religious people place greater value on universalism (treating all people well) compared to Christians, who placed greater value on benevolence (giving preferential treatment to members of one’s in-group). Goes to show that many Christians seem to be happy to greet only their own people, contrary to what Jesus actually said on the subject.

  4. @ Scott McGreal,

    Thanx. Your addition is fantastic — I think I will add it to that group.

    To my post I must add the caveat that I think it is fine that some people would prefer not to have strangers in their homes — after all, openness is a temperament thing.

    But when people pretend to be imitators of Jesus — as if a person should be idealized — they don’t realize that they are actually embracing only parts of his teachings that they are comfortable with. It is pretending otherwise that drives me crazy.

  5. Hey Sabio, what does F2F stand for?
    Like you I have found members of the Christian faith to act far from what they believe. Yes temperaments do factor a lot into how others operate. While Jesus seem to lay out some ideals for people to live by, I do not think that he wanted everyone to be like him. The whole ‘what would Jesus do’ thing drove me crazy. The last thing Jesus would want, at least in my opinion, is a bunch of carbon copies of himself, how boring and irritating would that be.
    Jacques Derrida has some great thoughts on the topic of hospitality,the gift and forgiveness if you are at all interested.
    Hope you have a terrific journey.

  6. Hey C2Q,
    Concerning F2F: Have you heard of urban dictionary? I use it frequently.

    Concerning “What Jesus wanted his followers to do” — well, that depends on who you believe. But if you look through the gospels for reliable information (which I don’t think they are), he tells his followers to do bizarre things — but then, we have no reason to doubt he was a bizarre fellow. I think he did want people to live like him — giving up family, money, power and such. He wanted people to give away their belongings — everyone, I think. He wanted his followers to welcome everyone with open arms. I think this is ridiculous and so do the vast majority of Christians, but with the other corner of their mouth they say they are his followers.

  7. True, I guess I have not often thought of Jesus being to bizarre, radical, but not bizarre. On the other hand Christians…bizarre, who have twisted much of what Jesus has said or done.

  8. Did you happen to read my links to the story about Greg above. That was a Christian who tried to literally follow Jesus — and he was bizarre, and probably dead now. Others, through history have done the same. Other people have used the words of various gods to due bizarre things too. So imitate gods or twist their teachings — either way, you can get bizarre! 😉

  9. Wow! That is bizarre. The teeth thing is more than I can bear(shudder).

  10. Earnest

    As a christian I find “tip-gate” aggravating, frustrating, etc, etc. It really gives christians a bad name that I really wish we did not deserve.

  11. @ Earnest,
    Well, if the stats prove it, the “you guys” deserve it ! Well, statistically, that is — not for everyone, but just a stingy edge (on average) over us hell-bound folks.
    Now then, I know you are probably a universalist or at least a pluralist, and you don’t think other non-believers are hell-bound, but Christians (statistically) deserve that rap too.

    Now then, if you regret a deserved reputation, then when you see a Christian tipper (especially on Sunday’s) being cheap, then jump up and say, “God damn it, leave a good tip so other people will respect us and accept Jesus into their hearts. Do you want all these people to go to hell on account of you?”

    See how it works! 😉
    To readers: Earnest is a f2f friend — we joke like this in person.

  12. Face to Face – I get it now!🙂
    “God damn it, leave a good tip so other people will respect us and accept Jesus into their hearts. Do you want all these people to go to hell on account of you?” More Christians should do that, they might find their conversion numbers sky rocket. (They say it is not about the numbers, but really it is. Got to keep those sinners out of Hell) Tip away you cheap Christians, tip away.🙂

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