Thursday, October 18, 2018

Christianity: Your “Get Out of Jail Free” Card…

January 3, 2012 by  
Filed under Christian Talk, News, Opinion, Weekly Columns

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( There’s nothing more awkward than to be the one southern black man in the room who says that he’s not quite sure about Christianity.  No one attacks you for asking questions, they just “pray” for you.   Some will talk to you like a mentally-disabled two year old who has never been taught to see the light.  You might even get the crooked brow and pursed lips of concern, like they feel sorry for you or that your parents somehow didn’t raise you right.  If only you could understand the consequences that come with thinking for yourself and questioning the ideas that have been accepted by everyone else around you, you might be better off.

It’s not a matter of being criticized for how you actually live.  Rather, the penalty comes from your unwillingness to play the game, sort of like the teenage girl who actually admits that she likes having sex, instead of pretending that she’s a virgin to make her daddy feel better.  While most of my devout church-going friends don’t openly attack me for having a unique perspective, they certainly feel that I’ve somehow been led astray.

When someone asked me how I feel about Christianity, I said, “I respect it.  My father is a Baptist minister.  When I do go to church, I choose a Christian church.  But one concern I’ve always had is that Christianity has become a ‘get out of jail free’ card for those who are choosing to live an unethical existence.  It doesn’t appear (to me) to be a true, untainted quest for spiritual clarity, but instead appears to be a club that you join if you want to get into heaven.”

I knew a man who was a thief, a liar, an adulterer and even a child molester.  He did things to others that no decent man would ever do.  Yet, he loved to thump bibles against my head to remind me that he’s going to heaven and I’m not.  Why?  Because of the “Get out of jail free card” he received when Jesus  died for his sins.  Whenever he did something wrong, all he had to do was pray for forgiveness and all sins would be washed away.  And since all sin is apparently equal in the eyes of God (his pastor told him so), his actions were no worse than my own.

I tried not to judge the man, but I couldn’t help but question what he was telling me.  He said, “Why can’t you simply accept what I’m saying to save your eternal soul?”

I told the man, “Because my spirit tells me not to, and I believe that God speaks to me too.”

It was difficult to accept the idea that no matter how horribly or righteously I chose to live my life, that my existence was somehow tainted because I’d refused to participate in a set of rituals.  In spite of how I was raised, my spirit could not accept this to be the truth.

When I told my friend what I thought, he explained that my spirit was simply wrong.  Somehow, while all of us are encouraged to find our own personal relationship with God, it’s not truly meant to be personal unless your “personal” conclusion happens to be the one that correlates with the “personal” vision that is shared by your relatives who all go to church on Sunday and give their money to pastor Smith.   If your “personal” search for God leads you anywhere other than the church down the street, then your spirit has told you a lie.

One of my friends called me on New Year’s Eve, probably feeling sorry for me because I spend most New Years at home by myself.  Sure, I get invited to a lot of parties every year, but I sometimes enjoy starting the year alone, connected with my core.  I asked my friend what her plans were, and she said that she was “going to church and then to the club.”  After joking about her challenge of finding a dress she could wear to both locations, she asked me what I was doing.  I simply told her “I’m searching for God.”

After hearing my answer, my friend said, “You can find God at church.”  I then replied, “Is it possible that I am most likely to find God by looking outside the church?  If the relationship with God is truly personal and my spirit leads me in a direction that is different from those around me, then perhaps that’s God’s way of telling me that his/her existence is  more complex than what we’ve been led to believe.”

The bottom line is this:  If a man’s spiritual journey leads him to a unique place, this message from God is no less authentic than the one received by those who’ve been socialized since birth to buy into a set of rules and protocols that get them into heaven in spite of any dastardly thing they’ve done.   Part of the allure of a faith can be the rewards of conformity, as well as the threat of punishment from deviation.  There is nothing more tempting than to know that saying a few simple words can clear my soul of any horrible things I’ve done to others.  There is also nothing more frightening than to hear that my lack of compliance will result in burning in hell for all of eternity.  That, my friends, is a very powerful marketing plan.

Most black folks would not be Christians were it not for how we were raised.  Our mothers took us to church and threatened to beat us if we didn’t go.  Some find that the consequences of living a double life are less painful than the price of questioning your mother’s beliefs.  If you see the world in a unique way, you can be chastised, attacked, preached at and told that you’ve somehow been tainted by education.  Being given a set of beliefs before you were able to think for yourself is not quite the same as an open-minded search that leads you to conclusions that are not impacted by the actions of those around you.  In other words, it is no coincidence that nearly every black person in the south is a Christian, that nearly every person in the middle east is a Muslim and that the vast majority of people in Brazil are Roman Catholic.

When I was set to be married five years ago, I recall some members of my fiance’s church turning their noses up at the wedding.  It didn’t matter that I loved this woman more than anything in the world, or that I treated her like my personal princess.  All that seemed to matter was that I didn’t attend her church or practice her faith.   When I was confronted on this issue, I simply said:  “The love I have for this woman could only have been created by God.  The hatred, disdain and unnecessary condemnation being thrust at us is nothing less than pure evil as far as I’m concerned.”

My point is that if faith is truly a personal spiritual journey, then one man or woman’s spiritual conclusions are no less valid than the ones that have been backed up by social norms, peer pressure, and thousands of years of paperwork.  If I search for God individually and come to my own understanding, this cannot be written off as meaningless or incorrect just because I don’t do what my neighbors are doing.

Maybe it’s ok for us to rethink how we view religion.   In fact, I believe that it was God who woke me up this morning and told me to write this article.   So, following the orders of the “higher power,” I put on a pair of sweats and a t-shirt, walked into my office and let my spirit do the typing (just like the authors of the bible, right?).  This message is no less authentic, compelling or honest than the messages being heard by Creflo Dollar, Eddie Long or anyone at my daddy’s church.  No one has a monopoly on truth.

Staff Writer; Dr. Boyce Watkins
Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition. For more information, please visit


4 Responses to “Christianity: Your “Get Out of Jail Free” Card…”
  1. Abe says:

    This is part of a text written by Bruce Lee. It concerns martial arts, but i think its wisdom translates to religion, and truth.

    It is conceivable that a long time ago a certain martial artist discovered some partial truth. During his lifetime, the man resisted the temptation to organize this partial truth, although this is a common tendency in a man’s search for security and certainty in life. After his death, his students took “his” hypothesis, “his” postulates and “his” method and turned them into law. Impressive creeds were then invented, solemn reinforcing ceremonies prescribed, rigid philosophy and patterns formulated, and so on, until finally an institution was erected. So what originated as one man’s intuition of some sort of personal fluidity was transformed into solidified, fixed knowledge, complete with organized classified responses presented in a logical order. In so doing, the well-meaning, loyal followers not only made this knowledge a holy shrine but also a tomb in which they buried the founder’s wisdom.

    But the distortion did not necessarily end here. In reaction to “the other’s truth,” another martial artist, or possibly a dissatisfied disciple, organized an opposite approach — such as the “soft” style versus the “hard” style, the “internal” school versus the “external” school, and all these separative nonsenses. Soon, this opposite faction also became a large organization, with its own laws and patterns. A rivalry began, with each style claiming to possess the “truth” to the exclusions of all others.

    At best, styles are merely parts dissected from a unitary whole. All styles require adjustment, partiality, denials, condemnation and a lot of self-justification. The solutions they purport to provide are the very cause of the problem because they limit and interfere with our natural growth and obstruct the way to genuine understanding. Divisive by nature, styles keep men apart from each other rather than unite them.

  2. jdgwisd says:

    Dr. Watkins has encapulated my feelings about the current condition of Christianity. What’s sadder is that I have watched old sermons of the Bishop Fulton Sheen and listened to the SERMONS of Dr. MLK and they both spoke out on the dangers of church goers treating Christianity as a get out of jail free card. I’ve found that religious people are in love with the church, but few have established a real relationship with Jesus Christ. Jesus was a warrior without weapons, a rebel with a cause.

  3. Deeann D. Mathews says:

    I can see how you reached the conclusions that you have, Dr. Watkins. This article makes me sad… sad for those that name of the name of Christ but have forgotten that HOLINESS is the mark of the true Christian, and that a Christian profession is supposed to be backed up by a exemplary life every day of the week. But remember: our ancestors taught us that “everybody talking about Heaven ain’t going there.” Frankly, some of the people you have described in your article just don’t match up at all with Biblical guidelines for distinguishing a Christian:

    I John 2:3-6

    3And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.

    4He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.

    5But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.

    6He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.

    True Christianity requires believers to be walking out their faith every day of the week… and if you look with an open heart, you will find such people, not perfect, but consistent. Please don’t write the Lord Jesus Christ off because the people who name His name who are easiest to find or get the most airplay may not be what they appear. Christianity’s claims are a little too serious to be written off quite so casually. It is convenient to believe that “no one has a monopoly on truth” because it allows you to do whatever you want with your life and spiritual journey … but by definition, if there is truth there must be also be falsehood, and a mistake in the spiritual/eternal realm is costly. I don’t think you’ve been “led astray” — I think you have made a logical conclusion based on the evidence readily at hand… but I advise you to look at the claims of Christ again, and go beyond what is easily found. Go even beyond what has been said by your peers — I would not dismiss Christianity without at least a read through the books of John and I John. And look again around you … the Lord Jesus Christ has not left Himself without true witnesses on earth, and you will, if you still have a heart that is open, find them if you look.

  4. Mack says:

    It’s sad, but I understand exactly what you mean. I recently ‘debated’ with a woman online over her pastor. Never mind the fact ‘her pastor’ has been outed as a notorious womanizer, having fathered 4 kids by 4 different chicks in his church, none of which was his wife…and one of whom was only 17! She still stood by and defended her precious pastor.

    I think there’s a special place in hell for so-called christians like this, and her pastor.

    Great article.

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