Common Courtesy & Better Humans...

I spent the weekend out of town for a funeral, and Jen and I found ourselves in and out of restaurants, cafes and assorted Starbucks, for much of the time. Maybe consumption is a distraction from grief, which is a problem in itself, but I'm not going there today.

What each of us was acutely aware of throughout the weekend was the general nastiness of the people we came in contact with. Sometimes it was customers we stood in line with. Sometimes it was employees or restaurant staff.

I'm a pretty friendly guy. I smile a lot. Even when things suck. And I work in service, so it's perpetually shocking to me when folks are so awful to other human beings. Especially when we need kindness the most.

I watched a young woman throw a tantrum at Starbucks because the barista didn't properly mix the caramel into her iced caramel white mocha: "did you stir the caramel into the drink while it was still hot, like I asked you to?"

"Yes, I did."

"Well you need to do it again."

Really? For $3.00, what exactly are you expecting? It's even worse when people at McDonalds complain about the quality of their food. Really? You want them to remake your $0.99 burger? What exactly do you think your $0.99 is paying for?

We're a nation of whiners, addicted to convenience and self-satisfaction.

I know I'm guilty, too. But I rarely complain about the quality of a product, or even about food. I just want to be treated like a human.

What if Christianity was a religion that produced better human beings? As much as I'd like to support my own religion, I must say: it's not. It's not a religion producing better human beings. Not with any regularity or consistency. To be sure, there are good human beings who are Christian. My life has been blessed again and again by wonderful, lovely Christ-followers. But I've met just a handful of folks who could demonstrate that they are truly better humans (not stricter, purer, cleaner, or more religious, but more human) because of their encounter with Jesus Christ.

Most kind people would be kind as atheists, Buddhists, or Christians. They'd be kind no matter what.

So what is Jesus actually doing? What CAN Jesus actually do?

Can we start from scratch? Can we deconstruct and rebuild a new kind of Christianity that FIRST and FOREMOST seeks to build a new kind of human?

Or am I missing the point, and way too annoyed at the waitress who made Jen and I feel like second-class sh*t because we pass for 20-year-olds?

I want to be a new kind of human. A better kind of human. In Christ, yes, but in the world for God's sake...


Brandon K. Baker said...

Hi Peter,

You raise an interesting question in, what do we do with the fact that there are so many "mean Christians" in the world?

I think it is true that we need to redefine Christinaity and Christians as part of the solution to this problem.

1. We've got to stop making graduation out of conversion. There seems to be a common practice amongst evangelicals that once you're in, you're good to go. We've focused so much on evangelism at the expense of discipleship. I know I'm using church buzz words here, but merely for clarity. What we really need is to marry those two practices together inseparably. Evangelism is discipleship and discipleship is evangelism. It's about becoming more like Christ and not using him as a get out of hell free card.

Thanks for your thoughtful post!


Brandon K. Baker said...

Ha. I just realized I wrote 1. as if I was going to have more points. Just the one, sorry.

Catie said...

Awesome, super thought-provoking post, Pete. Gives me a lot to contemplate this afternoon. Thank you for that.

Liz said...

I've found that a lot more people these days are jerks. Being in California (Southern California to be exact), I see more of a polarity between "Christians" and us regular folk. I'm agnostic and I'm a pretty nice person. I work with "Christians" that feel it necessary to go out of their way to talk negatively about certain groups of people. They also talk (loudly) about their personal political beliefs. I'm all about people having opinions, but when you make your personal opinions known to the entire office, it's not appropriate.
I'm so tired of people treating others like crap for any reason, but treating others like crap because of a religion? Are you serious?
I kind of got off track, but I feel like more and more people are losing patience and have just stopped caring about treating others with respect.

Al said...

My first thought is, Peter, you've got to look for better coffee joints than Starbucks! Starbucks employees have sold their soul, or something. But of course, when you are traveling, it's hard to know which businesses have human employees, humans who still have an identity, and a sense of service. I personally stay as far away from Starbucks as I can, and have a couple local favorites (and their coffee tastes better too!)
But that isn't the big issue here. I'm doing a bit of thinking about the Kingdom, how we are here in order to help Christ's 'kingdom come, His will be done on earth, as it is in heaven'.
Let me be a bit heretical and say that I have seen the presence of the kingdom in the lives of some people who wouldn't admit to being followers of Christ. But their lives exemplify the character a true disciple should have.
And then there are those 'Christians' whose lives point to a different king than Christ. I'm with Brandon--a supposed 'conversion experience' doesn't seem to be what Jesus is looking for, but rather, the presence of His kingdom.
Matt 5:3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Somehow, being poor in spirit equals being in the kingdom. And fighting for one's consumer needs doesn't fit in with being poor in spirit.
I'm still trying to figure out how this all meshes, but the basics seem pretty clear to me. If it smells like Jesus, looks like Jesus, acts like Jesus, well then, I think Jesus must be in the middle of it. And if it smells, looks, and acts like something else (I'm being polite here!) it probably isn't Jesus, no matter what the tag says.

nate said...

Hi friend,
I am sorry to see you hurting!
I hope this link lifts your spirits:

wilsonian said...

You hit this one out of the park, dude.

ps. I'm sorry for your loss...

Peter said...

Thanks for all the kind words everyone. Brandon, eloquent and well-spoken as usual. Nate, that article just blew my mind. Wow!

Al, good conclusion, but be nice ;) Dehumanizing Starbucks employees, or McDonald's employees, or whomever else, is part of the problem. Yes, there is FAR better coffee (Stumptown) and far better service, but the point is: EVERYONE deserves love, respect and honor. And I KNOW you know that, and though we haven't met in person, you've more-than-demonstrated to me that you LIVE that.

Wilsonian, great to see you, as always. Catie, miss you! Liz, great observations, I feel the same way: "are you serious?!"

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