Better Behavior in Christian Circles?

“Does it really end up with the better person, though?” (OSS)

I would say, from personal observation, yes (in general). The people I know that attend church and claim some form of Christian faith do not get into trouble very much (as per the law I mean). Now even if they started with a fear of God – they embraced the teachings of Jesus and live for the better in the long run.

Now this ain’t everybody in Christian circles – but in general – they don’t committ crimes and to me that’s my biggest concern. If they are not being hauled in front of courts then I think their behaviors are tolerable – if not decent. I agree their theology of ‘human depravity’ and ‘God’s grace’ may actually allow for loopholes on behavior – but most of the time this isn’t even exercised and it’s quite anathema to even think that way. I would contend the fact a loophole exists for excuse for their behavior does make it easier to justify a bad behavior and ‘write it off as being human’.

I have written about this before but thought I’d re-visit it. I tend to find people that attend a church are pretty good in the sense of behavior – albeit – even if their stances on grace contain loopholes about doing whatever they want and still being covered. I find this is not something they teach in churches – in fact – they teach against it in churches and behavior is something of prime importance in churches (even if it is not acknowledged as such).

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22 thoughts on “Better Behavior in Christian Circles?

  1. I wouls say there are some crooks in the churches – but in local neighborhoods – not many that I have seen. I have to admit there are worse crimes than that I have heard of within churches also. But in general those are isolated crimes and most people out-right denounce any of those actions – and set in motion to remove those people from any position of power.

    I find with congregants the following of the rules is actually pretty good and most people do become better people in the long run. I may not agree theologically with very many of them – but ethically I find they are pretty nice people. This is all observational mind you.

  2. at one point earlier this summer i would have said that nonbelievers and believers ethical conduct is exactly the same. while i see some erosion in areas like sexual conduct (sex outside of and before marriage )and co-habitation, i must maintain that i readily see a difference working in the ER.

    seems as though ppl who pray are calmer and more able to cope. the structure they have in place as protected and supported them where most de-evolve into chaos. now i’m dealing with a certain socio-economic segment, as we go higher up the payscale, it could be different.

  3. People are People whatever faith and socioeconomic background they come from. Some are great and some are shitheads. Doesnt take a rocket scientist to figure that one out.

    So sorry boys, Im not in the indulgent mood. ;(

  4. **The people I know that attend church and claim some form of Christian faith do not get into trouble very much (as per the law I mean).**

    We’re defining “behaving better” in two different ways — you’re just looking at it from a legal standpoint, in that so long as they aren’t brought before a court, they’re okay. I’m looking at it from an overall standpoint, in terms of how they treat other people in general. And that’s what I don’t find — I read a comment somewhere that the difference between a Christian and a non-Christian should be as evident as the difference between a live apple tree and a dead one. And I see the same type of tree whether it’s a Christian or non-Christian.

    Not only that, but simply because someone is not brought before a court does not mean that they aren’t breaking a legal law. They simply aren’t caught.

  5. “People are People whatever faith and socioeconomic background they come from. ”

    that i would have to disagree quite strongly! context is everything! people are NOT neutral and neither are cultures. how one acts, behaves, what one values and structures life are all dependent and influenced by varying layers of context.

    what i can affirm is that “we cannot get salvation through works, but we can show our salvation by works” is a motivating factor for many christians, myself included. but the shape and manner of these works come through tradition and context. thus the nature of our problem and debate, namely what rubric can we use to determine what is a valid or invalid method of determining “right works and right action”?

    to put it another way: everyone has a context and motive, despite their being great or a shithead.

  6. “I read a comment somewhere that the difference between a Christian and a non-Christian should be as evident as the difference between a live apple tree and a dead one. And I see the same type of tree whether it’s a Christian or non-Christian.” (OSS)

    Good point. In some ways the lives of some Christians (due to their focus on the thereafter) actually pay less attention to important things now…like a career. I have run into a lot of kids from church that are now getting an education because it wasn’t that stressed as important. Yet when one considers how helpful they would be to society with an education – it’s really a no brainer. So in some ways, as you mention, there are deficiencies within Christendom.

    In general OSS, I have a tough time finding real faults in many Christian people with the way they live their lives – they are usually pretty good citizens to society. Now they may not like me, you, or a host of others but even with that disdain they do little to disrupt society in general (or any of our lives).

    Of course, when people are ostracized by that community for strange reasons – then we know it’s probelmatic…can ruin someone’s life who has nowhere to go but the church. So there is some give and take on this issue.

    But you mention the analogy of a live and dead tree – you also need to define that because I am not sure what you mean by that analogy? Works/actions of the 2?

  7. “People are People whatever faith and socioeconomic background they come from” (John)

    True – they all generically ‘people’ – but there are some massive differences between socio-economic or cultural backgrounds. I know – I have lived in both worlds – from poor to rich more or less…being a First Nations person and living in a Caucasian based society (likely strongly British in nature). There are a lot of differences in these 2 identites – that a book alone could be written on the points within them.

    Does that make one better or worse? No – they are just different and people are effected by their environment in their development. Makes us all equal but also different and I like that.

  8. “thus the nature of our problem and debate, namely what rubric can we use to determine what is a valid or invalid method of determining “right works and right action”?” (Luke)

    This is part of the core of what I am talking about – the reason why Christians may have be moral in general – because it is part of their daily focus. They have standards set for them and understand breaking them is ‘wrong’…they bounce their morality off of something. In general, this helps people become ‘better people’ as compared to where they were previous in their lives.

    Whereas people that do not have something to bounce ethics off seem to be quite okay – but when the rubber hits the road or they face scenarios they are unfamiliar with – what should they base their decision upon? I have seen this time and time again in personal observation of both groups – Christians and atheists (or whatever these people I observe are).

    I find, more often than nought, the people without a foundational ethic of some sort when hit with a situation of questionable choices – make decisions that not only hurt them in the long run – but seem not to know the difference between a good choice and shitty one. I have been in many of these situations and I am frustrated at when I find out someone else I know is – without some foundational ethic – and they choose something so obvious to me as destructive. Is it knowledge that makes the difference – or is the fact ethics are taught in the church at least giving Christians the opportunity to make a conscience choice to choose good or bad. I am not sure the unfoundational person really knows which is which – having no background on it.

    I am okay with being challenged on this one – but I am telling you this is not one I can ‘prove’…unless you actually walk and talk with me and hang out with me. I find the people with some religious background have the tools to stop themselves from doing something destructive because they have a reason to (it’s wrong and not good for God or humanity)…what reason does the person without this background give in questionable scenarios?

    For example: Someone attacks your friend at a party – and you see that he did nothing wrong…how do you decide what you will do at that point? Nothing? Break it up? Help beat down the person that jumped him? Start a fight with his friends?

    I have been in that scenario about 10 – 20 times in my life and I always approach the situation consistently. I have friends, with no religious background, where it changes constantly for them how they will react – or to what depth they will react. I have to wonder why they choose some of the stupid things they do…emotions as a decider?

    That’s one of about 40 examples I can name where someone gets put into a questionable situation and needs to make a hard decision…I find the person with some religious background is well equipped to at least try diffuse the situation prior to it getting worse with the decision they are about to make. Why? Because they can admit the decision, when turns ugly, was the ‘wrong’ one.

  9. Society,

    **In general OSS, I have a tough time finding real faults in many Christian people with the way they live their lives – they are usually pretty good citizens to society.**

    How are you defining this, though? If I’m recalling correctly, I believe you’re from Canada. I’m from the US, and in watching the hold the religious right has the the Republican party, I do find their behavior to be disruptive to society. Not in the sense of breaking rules, or legal problems, but in their influence in politics. I think President Bush was disastrous for the US, and a large part of his support came from the US. Their support for Bush did disrupt society in a huge way, given what we’re facing now. And then watching them flock to Palin, and what so many of McCain’s supporters were saying. No, I don’t find every Christian denomination disruptive. And disruptive is no doubt in the eye of the beholder.

    **But you mention the analogy of a live and dead tree – you also need to define that because I am not sure what you mean by that analogy? Works/actions of the 2?**

    Just a general sense of things. In my life, I have meet precisely two people and in the first thirty seconds of meeting them, I wasn’t surprised that they were Christians, because of how they carried themselves, and the type of presence they projected. But in an overall sense … I’ve meet a lot of evangelicals, and a lot of other religious people, and a lot of agnostics/atheists. They can all be as kind as one another, and as petty as one another. The Christians should be less petty and a lot more kind — the living apple tree. We should just know, within minutes of meeting them, who they are.

    And not only that — based on the claims of Christianity, shouldn’t we expect more than just saying, “Well, it produces people who don’t disrupt the lives of others?” Or “it produces people who don’t break the law?” Any good parent/s — regardless of religious affiliation — can generally produce a child like that. So when you say that it ends up producing a better person, I see it producing the same type of person I can find almost anywhere. It’s not a type of person that only Christianity produces.

  10. I am wondering if Christians just appear to be more moral, based on the fact that they have 2 sets of governing laws? Christian moral laws (do not fornicate, do not drink blood, etc) and the legal laws with apply to all of us. C. S. Lewis was asked if Christianity makes a person more loving, why then are some Christians still jerks? (my paraphrase) and he replied that Christianity may have made them less jerks than what they could have been. It is a nice answer but who can prove that?

    I think people of faith and regular joes are the same morally because when it comes down to personal choice, no amount of faith can give you some super heighten strength of will or insight.

  11. “The Christians should be less petty and a lot more kind — the living apple tree. We should just know, within minutes of meeting them, who they are” (OSS)

    I agree with the first part of this sentence completely (less petty and more kind). But we need to make room for human growth too – a Christian isn’t exactly below being human.

    “So when you say that it ends up producing a better person, I see it producing the same type of person I can find almost anywhere. It’s not a type of person that only Christianity produces” (OSS)

    Well this is where I have to weigh in on a few points.

    (a) Yes I say they are more lawful and that’s the standard we all use in judging this – or what standard you propose we use? Is there a personal niceness standard I don’t know about that people have to measure up to? Even the gospel is draped in law (as much as Christians hate to admit this) and living up to standards – of the law and personally. So yes, I think the law of each country is the best standard to judge this by. I puts both the atheist and the Christian on an even playing field?

    (b) As for it producing a better person – maybe it doesn’t always – but I have to admit the teachings for the person to change (for the better) exists in their teachings. Now whether they want to adhere to those teachings is really a matter of choice.

    (c) Now of the atheist is coming to same conclusions as the Christian in living a ‘lawful abiding life’ then I have to ask…they base their decision on what foundational guide…that of their parents teachings? What they deem as the best course of action – again based on what? For the Christian I am given a solid advantage in calling their behavior out – I know what they are calling their foundational ethic and I know when they ‘break it’. May be the same conclusions – but we cannot say the same things to both of these groups for accountability.

    (d) I raised this point with John also – but foundational ethics is everything. Without them – what is someone’s fallback position in moments that require tough moral decisions? There can make all the difference between a good outcome and a better one (or a shitty one). I just think the tools have been given to them that think upon the moral behavior they are to possess over those who question this very little.

    Now does this make better people? It can. I can only base this on personal living and experience and what I have seen and grown up with. I have plenty of friends that have went to jail and more on the way there (younger generation). I can tell you from first hand experience the difference between being behind bars and being a free person is the moral decisions you have already pre-thought out about a variety of situations you may or may not end up in.

  12. Society,

    **But we need to make room for human growth too – a Christian isn’t exactly below being human.**

    Except the way that a lot of how Christianity is presented is that Jesus is the cure for all ills — he’ll cure you of all the sins that you are struggling. You’ll then have the fruits of the Spirit, the Holy Spirit will be indwelling, you’ll be guided by God. It is presented as something that turns you from the dead apple tree to the living one. And then as soon as people point out that Christians don’t act better than non-Christians, the response becomes that Christians still struggling with sin, or that it’s a process. And if the person is still going to struggle, that’s fine. But then don’t present a certain Christian system as something that is the perfect cure, or the best possible solution if a person will struggle the same way they might in therapy groups, or self-help groups.

    **Yes I say they are more lawful and that’s the standard we all use in judging this – or what standard you propose we use? Is there a personal niceness standard I don’t know about that people have to measure up to?**

    The problem with just using the laws of a country is that someone can completely follow the laws of their country and still be a horrible person. Someone could not cheat, not steal, not murder, and still be someone that no one wants to be around because they gossip, or they’re mean, or their selfish or some other negative aspect. I wouldn’t call that person “better” by a long shot. And then this is assume that the laws of all the countries are just. Or we’d call someone a good person if they spend time helping the homeless — that’s a standard we use, and yet there’s no civil law that requires anyone to spend time helping the homeless. But wouldn’t we say helping the homeless is part of how we define someone being a better person? Or someone who goes out of his/her way to help other people is a better person than someone who doesn’t? Yet there’s no civil law requiring that we go out of our way.

    **Now of the atheist is coming to same conclusions as the Christian in living a ‘lawful abiding life’ then I have to ask…they base their decision on what foundational guide…that of their parents teachings? What they deem as the best course of action – again based on what?**

    So are you saying we can’t say that both the atheist and the Christian behave the same if we don’t know what each group uses as a foundational ethic?

  13. “I think people of faith and regular joes are the same morally because when it comes down to personal choice, no amount of faith can give you some super heighten strength of will or insight” (Wolf)

    You know me well and where I am from (hell you’re from there too). I will prove my point via examples – as to the difference between having a foundational ethic and not having one.

    Example 1 (Adultery)

    I was ‘cheated’ on a while back and the residue of the situation weighs heavily on me – concerning revenge and forgiveness (8 month process now). I have followed the path I deem correct thus far – to forgive and not get revenge. What am I basing this on?

    Cheating does crazy things to an individual. It screams for a boost to one’s self-esteem and to prove they are worthy by committing the action (cheating) against the other. Forgiveness is quite the after-thought…our ‘self’ comes first.

    I had many friends this year have this same situation happen to them this year. What do you think they chose to do? It really put the peer pressure on me and had me questioning my decision and why I am even doing what it is I am doing by staying ‘faithful’? It is so easy to get my fix in sex crazed culture with little respect for the rules of fidelity. Many have chosen that path and seem to be quite alright. So why waste my time on an antiquadated idea of ‘faithfulness’ in the light of being ‘wronged’?

    Well – because that’s how much faith has taught me on this issue – I have thought this one through up/down/back/front and what it means and looks like. I am guided by a few principles on the issue that don’t neccesarily meet up with societal norms. I don’t neccesarily approach the option above with unwavering selfishness because that is just not what I want nor adhere to – as much as my heart struggles with what others seem to have gained by the experience…time will tell.

    The bottom line is my faith in this issue – and what it means to me – how I value the self – in relations to God and humanity in full. I respect the idea of not committing adultery because it makes sense. I can avoid ruining more lives or causing more trouble by not doing it. I also sense the practicality of it ‘testing my resolve’ on such ethics. It happened and I cannot change that – but it also asks me to look deep into myself and see what kind of person I really am…what do I choose to follow and what is meaningful to me? I can take a sense of ‘good’ from something so sh*tty.

    Example 2 (Violence)

    So last week I was down in the hood having a fun time with some friends. Needless to say we at a party where some stuff went down – and I was embroiled with a choice of how I would act. Fights started to break out and no one did anything – it was normal apparently (apparently this a gang thing and I had no damn clue). What do you think I did? Ran? Hid? Walked away – had nothing to do with me?

    I followed a very simple ethic I live by – peace (see beatitudes). I started breaking up fights and ensured people got home safe before they got really hurt. Meanwhile, unbeknownest to me, a girl a block down got stabbed by her boyfriend and is now in serious condition because of it. That could of happened at this place I was at if people just let sh*t get out of hand. I stepped in the nest way I knew – break it up and let peace win the night. The people at this party had no concern for anyone or anything going on – it was their norm – in fact I think they were kind of cheering as it all went down.

    But my point is to show faith can provide a foundational ethic that changes situations and their outcomes – or at least gives that possibility. Most people in these scenarios didn’t care what happened nor the outcomes because they lack any of this internal questioning that comes with learning the teachings of faith. Things happen and things get dicey in life – but I find a foundational ethic that is internally debateable can save lives – or even just help us love our neighbor. I find people without these foundational ethics will committ actions more readily that are questionable in conduct because what options have they given themselves at that point?

  14. True – they all generically ‘people’ – but there are some massive differences between socio-economic or cultural backgrounds(Jason)

    I agree, but I think the biggest difference when better off financially or culturally in power is that youre able to hide your dysfunction better. The polish may shine brighter but the rust is still underneath. We all bleed red.

  15. I can tell you from first hand experience the difference between being behind bars and being a free person is the moral decisions you have already pre-thought out about a variety of situations you may or may not end up in.(Jason)

    Wow. What a statement, could you imagine a “White” person saying this about a “First Nation” person, or “Black” person for that matter? Much of what you see/saw outwardly is based on your Socioeconomic and cultural background. There are so many factors that play into how or why someone ends up doing bad things. Christians commit as many crimes as any one else. Sure some may stop and do some moral reasoning based on their faith, but so do people outside of faith. My mother has more morals in her little pinkie than 98% of the Christians I have met. We never went to Church, and trust me, I know morals. Doesnt mean I listened all the time though. 😉

    OSS talks about Bush and the boys, and remember they were all “Christians”. When the fight came they not only jumped in they decided to bring it to everyone in the area too. Do you ever wonder what their “Moral” reasoning for that was?

  16. “Wow. What a statement, could you imagine a “White” person saying this about a “First Nation” person, or “Black” person for that matter?” (John)

    I am not sure what is so ‘controversial’ about that statement to be honest – I’d say it to anyone. It’s true from what I have seen of people going in and out of jail – if only they would of thought it out better is the usual thought. You don’t get to jail on accident…unless it’s a case of bigotry than that’s different.

    “Christians commit as many crimes as any one else” (John)

    Ok, based on my former socio-economic background this is not true. Now maybe in various other stratas of society it is (like middle class to rich) – I can’t tell (only been in that strata for some 4 years). But in the lower levels of the socio economic strata – having a moral guidline makes a tonne of difference. I speak from that perspective of society since that is the one I know the best.

    “Sure some may stop and do some moral reasoning based on their faith, but so do people outside of faith” (John)

    I am not disagreeing that at all – I know that is 100% true…the de-convert site being a classic example of very moral people that are not Christian (and even Dagoods).

    My point is that Christianity does produce better people and when asked why and how that is…a moral guideline they adhere to would be one big area I notice.

    Now Steve (Old Adam) has stated this is not neccesarily true – sometimes it is – sometimes it isn’t – he’s right also. Christians, in many places, act no better than anyone else in society – inclduing other various faith streams or just anyone in general.

    I can admit I have seen it all – good atheists, bad christians, superb muslims, etc. Are Christians better than others – morally? In general, I would contend they are ‘better’ than before but that’s available to anyone and everyone if they so much as wanna grasp moral conclusions – so I guess they aren’t.

    However, I will contend the teachings, if adhered to and built upon, can produce people that help society shine in greater ways than those around them who do not do this thinking. I will also contend that there is a difference between having an ethical foundation to bounce ideas off and cross compare with reality – that is different to someone who does not have such a structure and falls back upon their own ’emotions’ as deciding votes on what to do in quite difficult situations. How someone can say faith is bad – is now going to be up for serious questioning by me.

    “Do you ever wonder what their “Moral” reasoning for that was?” (John)

    I wonder – and I know it’s conservative in nature (alongside a religious perspective). I have to admit they are a classic example of the side of Christianity that is plain questionable – and what happens when one ignores scriptural principles. But in this case, they were Presidents of a country – so what directed them – religion or politics? I have to lean in the way of politics – because even as Bush is gone the Con’s haven’t changed their tune very much in case no one has noticed. Yet Bush lives a mild mannered life by all estimations.

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