I was embarrassed.
The conversation had meandered and I had mentioned that I’d lived and worked in an Eastern European country in my mid-twenties. My co-worker asked me what I was doing there. I choked…sort of. I said something about teaching. She probed further and asked me how I ended up there. Again, I mentally seized-up, not really wanting to say that I was there primarily as a missionary. But, she wanted a story and so as I told the story, truncated though. Then she wanted to know about my religion.
I began to cast about in my mind thinking of terms to avoid without misrepresenting myself or my faith in Jesus. You see, she’s Irish and therefore her frame of religious reference is a very particular sort of Catholicism. And she’s also from a post-Christendom European culture. To say that I’m a Christian wouldn’t have told her much. Saying that I’m a Protestant might have said more, but it wouldn’t be a fair (to my mind) categorization of my views. I’m not an Evangelical, despite having spent the last decade in an expatriate Evangelical faith community, so I would never claim that moniker even if I thought it would have any meaning to this woman. In the end, I said awkwardly that I’m a follower of Jesus, which apparently didn’t really help her much at all because she asked more questions.
The conversation went into a couple of different directions and became less about me before we got to work. After I dropped her off and went to park the car, I began to ask myself why I was so embarrassed. Was it Christ that I was embarrassed about? Was I ashamed of Jesus? Was I worried about being negatively judged by this person? Or was I embarrassed about something else?
Honestly, I was somewhat worried about being negatively judged but not because of Jesus. I’m not embarrassed by Him. I’m embarrassed by his followers…and I have to say that I embarrass myself at times. After all, every time a Harold Camp pops up and spouts off, Christians look pretty stupid. Every time a priest gets hauled into the spotlight for molesting a choirboy Christianity looks wicked. Every time a Southern Baptist pastor bar-b-ques a Qu’ran, Jesus gets a black-eye. Every time I let my need to be “right” overpower someone’s need for compassion Christians, Christianity and Christ all take a hit.
Now, I’m embarrassed for being embarrassed.