A couple years back my band was performing at a club in Pontiac, Michigan. Our songs were intended to get people’s toes tapping, their bodies moving, and along the way express some of our philosophy that may or may not resonate with anyone in the room. It was our mission to play great, honest music; if it helped someone on their journey, that’s a bonus and side-effect.

After our set, one of the customers came over and asked if he could buy me a drink, and said, “Dude, that was really great…but it was deep, too. I didn’t know whether to slit my wrists or change my ways…”

His buddy came up quickly and said, “Yeah, Jesus Chr…. uh… and Freud and Nietzsche, that was really deep!”

I thought it was comical how he seemed to intuitively know that Jesus influenced our way of thinking and songs in spite of the fact that we were not on some kind of evangelistic mission for any church or anything, and didn’t even mention the name Jesus much less anyone else’s name – we were just guys playing tunes we believed in a bar.

I responded, “Well, since you mentioned Jesus, I have to say that Christians give him a bad reputation that he doesn’t deserve.” That received a “Damn, straight!” from both of them. I went on to say that if Christians actually did what Jesus taught – treating people with love, respect, patience, humility, and lack of condemnation, things would be a lot better for everyone. They wholeheartedly agreed.

I think it’s a shame how unscrupulous and dishonest some people are in trying to “market” Jesus to the masses as they build their religious organizations. There’s always some kind of ulterior motive that is obvious to those who are being “ministered to”.

It’s evident when someone doesn’t really want to be your friend, but instead is using friendship as a tactic for getting you into their group. It’s obvious when someone really doesn’t want an actual empathetic give-and-take conversation trying to understand one another, but instead is using it to pigeon-hole the other person into some neat little box or set them up to lose at some kind of debate as though that will change anyone’s heart.

Jesus did good. He spoke honestly. He was merciful and kind with people who were social outcasts, misfits, the “scum of the earth”. But with religious people trying to trap him in his words he was cagey, short, and didn’t play along with their little schemes. Whatever anger he displayed was always directed at the religious people of his day for their hypocrisy, manipulation, greed, heartlessness, and dishonesty.

It’s no different today. And, in truth, I’ve been on the bad side of this equation too many times in the past. I’ve been the “dishonest evangelist” that people saw right through and distrusted immediately. It sickens me, but I now forgive myself and move on, taking the leap of doubt into the deep, deep freedom of not having to have all the answers anymore, and being just fine with that.

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