Why the Harsh Words

 

I just don’t get it, and I pray that I never will understand it.    I don’t understand why when two people disagree it has to become so personal.  I fully believe it is possible to disagree with a person and still act like a decent human being toward them.  There is no need for name calling, there is no reason to question someone’s intelligence.

I don’t believe that all Muslims are terrorists.

I don’t believe that all Christians are guiltless.

I don’t believe that all Democrats are evil.

I don’t believe that all Conservatives have my best interest in mind.

I can be concerned about radicals from any religion without hating people.   Just as I am not bothered by those who worry about radical Christians.  Killing an abortion doctor is murder and negates the very thing you are trying to protect… life.    I also don’t believe that everyone working in an abortion clinic is inherently evil, because I truly believe that MOST of them think they are doing the right thing, helping.  Whether I agree with what they are doing or not.

I believe that MOST cops are good and decent people, but that there are a few bad apples.  I’ve never been one to allow a few bad apples to spoil the bunch.  That said I don’t begrudge anyone who has had life experiences that make them weary of those who are in authority.   Authority has been abused, and we can’t ignore that… just as much as we can’t blame everyone.

I believe that MOST people who say and do stupid and careless things are not doing them intentionally.  Perhaps they don’t have the same life experiences to understand cultural sensitivities or realize that certain topics are just taboo.  I know that I am guilty of slinging words carelessly, regardless of what my intention was.  I’ve received some sharp words that cut deep, and I’ve had to weigh them against the person who unleashed them.

I tend to give the benefit of the doubt, forgive a lot, and I am growing more unoffendable every day.

I have a myriad of friends from different backgrounds, culturally and politically.  They have had life experiences of their own, or been influenced by tales of generations before them.  There are those who have walked hard roads, and others who have had it pretty easy.   This means with the current events hitting the news, well … it means I am hearing a lot of people’s perspectives and opinions.  I don’t mind conversation, disagreement, and even some stubbornness.  What is getting harder to accept is the cold, hard, and callous words people are choosing to use.

So much hate.  Why can’t we share our opinions and concerns with out broad generalizations?  Why must we assume guilt on everyone because of what a few have done?  Why can’t we even accept that we may have the slightest chance of being wrong (in part or in total)?

Why the harsh words?  Not feeling the love that we have be called to share with the world… particularly by those who are my family in the faith. 😦

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#Write31Days – Post 12 – Offending the Offendable

offendable

It was well over twenty years ago, when I would I would dye my hair bright teal.  For the record, I knew that it would get some judgmental stares.  I fully anticipated it, and I also didn’t care in the least.   A few years later, I would walk into a tattoo shop and walk back out with black ink permanently embedded into my skin.  I knew that some wouldn’t appreciate the art I had etched into my body, but I didn’t care what people thought as a whole.  As of today, I have a few more tattoos.  Even though they have become more mainstream than fringe, I am aware of how others still view them.

I recall sitting in a woman’s home, having coffee, as we talked about the world.  I’m not sure exactly how it happened but the subject of people with tattoos came up.  She was very judgmental of anyone with tattoos, stating that if someone from the utility companies showed up with tattoos all over … well, she wouldn’t let them in the door.  I chuckled to myself as I debated if I wanted to take off my sweater and expose my tattooed arms, or if I would save that expose’ for another day.

Here’s the thing, when I choose to do something that is outside the norm, that is considered edgy or fringe, or that is socially disapproved… I am not only choosing to do what ever that thing is.  I am also choosing to live the consequences of that choice, including how others perceive me.  I will never scoff at their remarks or stares because, that’s their problem not mine.  I am not exactly sure where we got the notion that the world has to tolerate our idiosyncrasies.  Certainly I am not going to advocate for rudeness, discrimination, et’al … it is NOT OK.  I’m simply suggesting that one can’t go against the grain and expect zero negative response at worst… or curiosity at least.

I was watching a television show on people who are “fringe” and what was interesting is that so many of the people who had tattoos spoke of an unwritten rule that we don’t ask about each others tattoos.  Not only was I unfamiliar with this rule, I didn’t get it either.  I see every tattoo as a piece of art, it has meaning and purpose for me.  So please, ask me about it.  I’ll happily share what it means to me, or answer your questions (even the absurd ones).

Questions Like:  Did it hurt a lot?  (Um, yes.)  What does it mean?  (Glad you asked…) What if your weight changes? (Kind of personal, but I considered it…)  How are you going to feel about that when you are 80?  (If I make it to 80, pretty sure my tattoos will be the least of my worries…)   Or, the big question:  Doesn’t the Bible forbid tattoos?  (Let’s sit down and talk about that one… )

There are a lot of things that any person (Christian or not) could do that is considered against the grain.  And, when we make such decisions we should expect that someone is going to question us about it.  We should expect that we are going to get stares, and that not everyone is going to understand our decision.

Have a large family? Or a family of blended races?  That’s unusual for many areas.  Expect the questions.

Decide to dress ultra conservative?  Someone might ask you why you are wearing a long sleeve turtleneck, in Florida, in July.

Choose to wear a headscarf at church, or in your every day life?  Expect someone is going to talk to you about that.

Make a major switch in your life (in one direction, or another) and people will notice.  Anticipate they are going to be curious as to why you made that decision.

Decide to sell off everything you own and follow Jesus into full time missions?  You better believe that someone is going to think you are crazy!

Where I have noticed a growing trend is that when people make these “fringe” decisions, that make them stand out against the norm, they get offended when anyone questions them about it.  You can’t be IN the world but not OF the world, and go unnoticed.  In fact, the whole point of it is TO BE NOTICED.  That our lives become a living testimony to the changes that God has done in our lives, our families, etc.  They see us as different, they want to know why.  This not the same as putting on an act of righteousness, boasting,  and showing off how holy we are.  I’m talking about real, genuine, every day living the life that God called me to, type of different.   Where we are not putting on a show for others, but just living out our every day in a different way.

The questions that we are being offended by, and offering a slew of snarky retorts in response to … are INVITATIONS TO SHARE.

Yes, these children are all mine.  Yes, some are adopted.  Yes, we are fostering a sibling group.  Why did we make this choice?  Because, the Lord pressed upon our hearts that we had enough love in our home to share.  There are so many kids in our foster system just looking for someone to love them, a place to call home.

Yes, I do have a few tattoos.  Sure, you can see it.   Yes, getting one does hurt, some areas more than others.  What does it mean?  Well, this anchor represents the fact that I am anchored by my faith, the compass reminds me of where I have been & where I am going, and the dove represents the hope I have in Christ.

Yes, we are moving to another country.  It is hard to leave our home, but we realized it was just a building.  Our hearts are not here… they are a long plane ride away.  No, not everyone is called to do this.  We prayerfully considered it and brought others in to the fold to pray along with us.  God continually affirmed the calling with his provisions, blessings, and divine appointments.

We could be offended by everything, or we can look at it is an opportunity to share.

I can be offended.

~ OR ~

I can be inviting.

Consider… if a person can’t ask you a simple question… about the size of your family, the way you dress, or about the ink on your skin…

What can they safely ask you?

When you have been snarky and responded to their questions with contempt, disgust, or curtly…   Do you really think they want to talk to you about the big stuff? Raising children?  Adoption?  Abortion?  Gay Marriage?  God and salvation through Jesus Christ?

Your quick off the cuff retorts are not inviting them into conversation.  Instead you are pushing them away, you are letting them know you are not a safe person to talk to.

And if that is how you are responding…. What kind of light are you shining in this dark world?

Ask me anything.  I won’t be offended.  I will answer your questions.  Sometimes a question is just a question, a curiosity.  Sometimes a question is an attempt to understand a person, situation, or belief better.  BUT… sometimes… a question is an invitation into a bigger and better conversation.

A Spirit of Fear

letitgo

Have we created a spirit of fear, in our children and even our selves that is hindering our ability to share the gospel?

A few days ago, I read an article from Relevant Magazine, that has me camped out on this question.  The article, “3 Youth Group Lessons I’ve Had to Unlearn” was originally written for youth leaders, but it is entirely relevant to the body of believers.

I’m just going focusing on the first of these three lessons:

1. Your Classmates/Peers/Friends/Teachers are Going to Persecute You for Your Faith.

One of the recurrent themes in my Christian youth was the pressure to stay strong for God around peers and teachers who, I was told, would be antagonistic toward my beliefs. So many talks and sermons and rally-sessions wrapped tight around this topic, constricting my chest with the urgency of knowing how to accurately and compellingly disseminate the specifics of the Christian faith to others—even if they mocked me for it.

I spent the duration of junior high and high school braced against the entire student body, sure that they secretly mocked/hated/despised me. I wore Christian T-shirts like some kind of bullet-proof vest. I memorized all of the brilliant apologetic arguments in favor of Christianity in case any teacher or student ever cornered me in the hall and forced me to debate my faith.

But no one ever did.

What actually happened is that I distanced myself from everyone who didn’t believe like I did. It wasn’t that they didn’t like me—it was that I had barred my arms in an eternal defensive pose, and no one could even get close. So after a while, they stopped trying.

I understand that there are places in the world where persecution exists. And it’s  is not something to take lightly. But the American cultural climate, right now, is not violent toward Christians. And despite the popularity of Christian movies like God’s Not Dead, I’d argue that 99 percent of teachers are not in it to shatter students’ faith. And yes—kids can be cruel. But, in the land of first-world problems, it’s usually not about anything quite as noble as religious beliefs.

I’d love to see youth pastors and teachers who refuse to play into that “Us” and “Them” paradigm. Who encourage, instead, their students to understand that we are all so much the same—complicated and quirky and broken and beloved.

Instead of teaching kids that Jesus is something we have and they don’t, let’s teach them to look for the bright image of God in each person that crosses their paths.

Read more at http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/god-our-generation/3-youth-group-lessons-ive-had-unlearn#2MGvpCByqquj2QVU.99

We are called to be bold about our faith, we are supposed to encourage our children to stand firm in their faith… but then we negate that lesson by saying “and you are going to be picked on for it”.  Anyone who has raised a child knows that is not going to turn out well.  These are kids who are desperately trying to fit in, and we are telling them to do something that will hinder that.

No wonder they avoid it like the plague.

To date, however, I can not think of ONE SINGLE INSTANCE where my daughter came home with a story about the girls who wear hijabs being picked on, or that anyone gave the Jewish kid a hard time when he passed out his Bar Mitzvah invitations.  Please do not think me naive that discrimination doesn’t happen in these cases elsewhere in the world.  But, for our town, this has been a non issue.

So why then, are we telling our Christian teens that they will be made fun of for it?

Which then led me to additional thought…  if they are being made fun of, is it because we as a culture have said it’s ok to do it… because Christians expect it?  Have we taught a spirit of fear to our children vs. a expectation of respect that other religions demand?

When I was in high school, we had several different clubs/events that would happen that were “Christian” and I went to a public school.  I remember being intrigued by it, because it seemed like such a bad idea…. putting a target on their backs to be made fun of.  I watched from the side lines.  No one made any derogatory comments about the club, or showed up in protest about their on campus events.  If they didn’t like it, if they didn’t share those same beliefs, they just went on about their business as usual.

But, for those who did… and watched from the sidelines… it created a feeling of safety.   It is ok to claim this as your faith, no one here is going to hurt you for it.  In fact, they really couldn’t care less about it.

What if we said something different to our kids?  What if we said something like….

Your school is made up of a lot of different kids.  They come from different countries, with different traditions.  They come from different religions, with different rules and celebrations.  Just like they have their beliefs, we have our beliefs.  Not everyone is going to agree with you, and not everyone is going to understand you.  That is ok.  You are not going to totally understand everything they do and celebrate either.  You just continue to be you, answer their questions, don’t get into arguments or debates.  It isn’t worth it, take the higher road.  Love them anyway, be kind to them regardless of what they say.