Down in Flames

When I was in high school, one my favorite bands was Relient K.  I loved their funny lyrics and punk sound (or as close to punk as a “christian” band could be at the time).  In 2001, they released their second album, titled The Anatomy of the Tongue in Cheek which had a song that, frankly, I didn’t like for quite a while.  This song is called Down in Flames and speaks about how Christians are going “down in the flames” but the singer is still proudly one of them – this bothered me for some time as I didn’t really sit and think through the lyrics and instead just took the press-skip-when-it-comes-on mentality.  A couple years later, after having really examined what he was singing about, I started to get what he was talking about and like the song.

Tonight, I was reading a few posts on Reddit.com when I came across one that immediately made me think of that song.  I’ve copy and pasted it below for you all to read (edited for language):

“I’m an atheist who’s done with /r/Christianity. Thought it would be fair to tell you why.”

I’ve been reading the posts on /r/Christianity for over a year and I’ve decided to save myself the perpetual frustration.

On the one hand, people seem to get it here. You’re super-nice to atheists, Muslims, or anybody else who expects to be downvoted for having a different viewpoint. It’s almost cliche when I see the weekly post along the lines of, “Thanks, /r/Christianity, I assumed you would all be jerks to me just because I’m an atheist, and instead you showered me with upvotes.”

But on the other hand, you people are ***holes to each other. And I don’t say ***holes simply for the purpose of being incendiary. I’m saying it because you guys seriously treat each other like crap.

Whenever some other brand of “Christian” posts something that you don’t like, it’s an instant downvote. It’s not that you’re downvoting trolls, or people who are not contributing to the conversation. It really looks like some of you just automatically downvote anybody who has a particular denominational flair you don’t like. It looks like others just downvote because they disagree with something, even though the point was well stated and somebody took the time to share it.

It’s the same thing that’s wrong with /r/atheism, with only one difference. Where the atheists break out the downvote brigade against Christians, you guys break out the downvote brigade against… other Christians.

And so I wanted to let you know how it looks to the casual, non-believing observer who looks past the fact that you’re super-nice to non-believers, and wants to see how you actually treat each other. It tells me all I need to know, which is this: You’ll be super nice to me as long as you’re trying to recruit me, but once I join the club, I better fall in line or else you’ll lash out with the only weapon you have at your disposal: the almighty downvote.

I honestly don’t care what kind of votes this post gets because I’m done with this subreddit. But I wanted you to know that people notice how you treat each other. And it’s the same in this subreddit as it is in real life: open hostility strictly because of different opinions WITHIN the ranks of Christianity. There is nothing different about you that I can see. There is nothing special about you that I can see.

First off, some info about the site where this came from:  “/r/Christianity” is a subreddit (think of it like a folder within a folder) on the website reddit.com.  On this subreddit, the topic at hand is Christianity.  The way reddit works is that you can “upvote” or “downvote” posts or comments in order to give it a higher rank (and help more people to see it).  Typically, even though it is not how it’s supposed to be, downvotes are handed out by users when a post is made that they don’t agree with and don’t want to talk about.  It is also well known on reddit that the /r/atheism subreddit is anti-Christian and frankly mean toward anyone that claims to be a Christian.What this person is saying is that, as he sees it, those who post on /r/Christianity are worse than on /r/Atheism because they are mean to their fellow Christians.  To borrow a line from the song I mentioned up above:

The enemy is much ignored
when we fight this Christian civil war.

We’re cannibals.
We watch our brothers fall.
We eat our own, the bones and all.

It saddens me that we, who claim to love others as Jesus loved us, forget to love each other.  ‘Are you from a Lutheran church?  Well, sorry, as a Baptist I can’t associate with you.’

I hope you see how ridiculous this is.  The apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 3:3-9:

You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere human beings?

What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.

In this passage, Paul is chastising those in Corinth who would bicker and argue because of which Christian leader they followed.  People would get into arguments and might have said things like “Well I follow what Paul says so I’m better than you followers of Apollos – you don’t have the whole picture.”  Paul counters this by basically saying ‘look, we all follow God.  What Church leader God used to bring you to him is not important.  Stop acting like the world acts and BE DIFFERENT.’

The post I read on reddit was just another reminder to me of how easy it is to let our focus become misplaced: we should not be against each other but against Satan, the enemy.  I get that we don’t always get along and it’s ok to debate different ideas; but if all the world sees of us is a group that constantly attacks each other, then we are not representing Christ in the way we should.  As Paul said: “we are co-workers in God’s service.”

Let me pause to clarify
(’cause I’m sure you’re asking, “Why?”).
I stand before you and proudly claim
to belong to what this song complains.
I’m part of the problem, I confess
But I gotta get this off my chest.
Let’s extinguish the anguish for which we’re to blame,
and save the world
from going down in flames.
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