In the spirit

Keep Up the Good Work! Inspirational Quotes Qi...

Keep Up the Good Work! Inspirational Quotes Qiqi Emma January 18, 20101 (Photo credit: stevendepolo)

While reading a book this morning, I had kind of an ah-ha moment. The book is about a successful author (albeit an unintentional success) who is now writing his memoirs and facing the parts of his life that he’s kept hidden for twenty years…hidden from the world as well as from himself.

He is a spiritual man who does good works, helping people in poverty make their lives better. When he’s unfairly attacked in the media, he has to figure out how to deal with the attention without harming the foundation he works for. There were things that occurred in his younger days that cause him shame…even twenty years later.

Anyhow, I haven’t finished the book and that’s not really even what this post is about. As I was reading, it struck me how we’ve all done or said things that we’re not proud of, things that we would go back and change if only it were possible. Okay, that’s nothing original, right? We’ve all had those thoughts. It’s part of growing up, part of reviewing your life, part of becoming a better person.

But what hit me between the eyes was my thought about how I tend to judge people because they fall short of their professed spiritual beliefs. As I reread that one sentence, my eyes are tingling as I try to fight back the tears. I think of my own spiritual beliefs, how I believe we should do all that we can to help those who are less fortunate, not blame them for their poverty. Or how I think we should show love and compassion to all we meet in our every day lives. And of how we shouldn’t judge others for their failings.

Do I fall short in living up to these beliefs of mine?  Oh my goodness, yes, I do.  Woefully short.  I very rarely do any meaningful volunteer work.  I often ignore the people who are standing on the corner asking for money, thinking to myself…’why don’t they get a job?  I have to work every day, why can’t they?  There are all kinds of places that are hiring.’  Frequently, when someone is rude to me, I don’t answer their rudeness with compassion.  I often take offense, wondering why they’re treating me like that, rather than wondering what’s gone wrong in their day to cause them to feel the need to lash out at other people.  And judging?  Guilty.  I admit it.  When I hear the way people, who claim to be Christians, are hateful or spiteful or mean, I judge them…I judge them for not behaving the way I believe a Christian should behave, for falling short, for not being good enough (I was going to write the word “perfect” there, but I realized it’s not even the lack of perfection that bothers me, it’s the not being good enough.).

And yet…here I am, examining myself…finding myself guilty of the same behaviors for which I condemn others.  How’s that for an ah-ha moment?  Maybe it really is true that we hate in others what we hate the most in ourselves.  Now the question arises…what are you going to do about it?

Message to a friend

English: Christian Church 1865

English: Christian Church 1865 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve known you for years, since way back when we were young and carefree, not quite as wild as we thought we were, having grown up in small town Indiana.  So…I know in my heart that you’re a good person, that you care about other people, that you wouldn’t really want to do or say something that would hurt someone else.  I know this and yet there are times when I find myself not wanting to be around you, not wanting to listen to what you say as you voice your opinions in what appears to me to be a self-righteous manner.

You vociferously proclaim your Christianity and I have no doubt that you believe yourself to be a true Christian (whatever that may be).  When I listen to you denigrate people who disagree with you, call them names, insult their intelligence, I find myself wondering if you really believe that’s the way to lead people to Christ, which, in my limited knowledge of what being a true Christian entails, is what I thought Christians were supposed to do.  I could be wrong about that having given up on attending church, having given up on organized religion many years ago.  But I think I remember enough about the teachings of Christ to understand that that is what he wants you to do.  And your behavior and attitude do nothing but turn people from the very God you say you serve.

Let me give you just a little background…I stopped attending church because I couldn’t stand to see the way the leaders of the church treated one another.  Sunday mornings they were all pious and devout…then on Monday night, at the church meetings, they were some of the nastiest people I’d ever encountered.  They put each other down, talked trash about the kids of many of the members…were  really as unChristlike as I had ever seen people be.  I was upset all the time, often to the point of tears.  I finally decided I didn’t need to go to church to be spiritual…that church certainly didn’t seem like a place where God would feel welcome.

So it’s possible I’m extra-sensitive to this kind of bullying behavior in church folks…but it doesn’t mean I have to willingly expose myself to it.  When you start talking like this, I will walk away.  For my own protection, I will not allow myself to be insulted, to be patronized, to be told that I’m stupid because I don’t believe the way that you do.  I care about you, but I have to take care of myself.  If that means removing you from my life, then that’s what will happen.  I don’t expect you to change…I don’t even expect that you’ll see yourself in these words.  I’ve noticed that most of us do not see ourselves as others see us…for better or worse.

And you could turn this back around on me and tell me that I’m being judgmental…you could quote scriptures which support your behavior.  Just so you know, I don’t put a lot of stock in anyone’s ability to quote scriptures…having read the Bible, I’ve seen that it’s often contradictory and that we can all cherry-pick verses to support whatever we want at that particular moment in time.  Quoting scriptures doesn’t do a lot for me…how we behave to one another is how I see Christianity on display.  Do we treat one another with respect?  Do we help feed the hungry and heal the sick?  Do we help those who are less fortunate or do we simply pay lip service to it?  Do we profess to know what God would like us to do…as long as it’s in agreement with what we were already planning to do?  Do we stone the wicked women?  Heap blame upon the heads of innocent children because of the actions of their parents?  Do we mistreat people who are different than we are and then feel that we are justified because the Bible tells us so?  Think about the words that have come out of your mouth over the past several months and then come to me and tell me that you honestly believe Jesus would have said the same things.

Am I perfect?  Far from it. I’m probably one of the most imperfect people on the face of the earth.  I’ve done things I regret, said things I had no business saying.  I’ve hurt people.  I’ve turned my back on people in need.  I’ve been selfish and jealous.  I have trouble with forgiveness and there have been times when my pride has been a stumbling block.  Oh my goodness, I know I’m far from perfect and I realize that perfection is unattainable for me.  So I even question who I am to discuss what I see as your shortcomings…and I know that I have no right to advise you on how to behave.  I considered actually talking to you about all of this…but the more I thought about it, the more I thought that I really was in no position to suggest how you should behave when I can’t even behave in the manner I believe I should.  And you hadn’t asked for my opinion.  That’s always been one of my requirements for giving advice…was I asked for it?  No, no I was not.  But then I thought I could write about this…express myself through the written word…not force my opinion and beliefs on you or anyone else.  That’s when I decided to write this post.  I don’t know if you will think this is about you and I guess that isn’t really the point any more.

What I would like to see is perhaps more intentional behavior.  I would like to see us truly considering how our words and our actions impact others.  Do we have to continuously prove that we are right?  That we are more intelligent than others? That only our beliefs matter?  Or can we accept that we are all different, with different beliefs, different lives, different ways of worshipping?  And that those differences don’t make any of us bad or evil, they just make us different?  Is that a possibility or am I asking the same questions that people have asked for all time?  Who am I to say?  Who are any of us to say?

Well, ain’t that just a kick in the teeth?

What would Jesus do?

What would Jesus do? (Photo credit: duncan)

What would have happened if, when the little boy was finished singing his “ain’t no homos going to heaven” song, one of those adults had been brave enough to face all of those cheering adults and tell them that their behavior wasn’t imitating the behavior of Jesus?  Would any of them have listened?  Would any of them have felt shame in their own behavior?  Would any of them have questioned what they were teaching the children in their church?

Being the cynical liberal thinker that I am, I kind of doubt it.  I’m afraid they may have shouted him down.  That they may have insulted him or even done physical harm to him.  And isn’t that a sad thing to think about people who are supposed to be trying to live as Jesus would live?  I always wonder if people who behave that way understand how they turn so many people off of Christianity by that type of behavior…

It makes me sad to see this type of behavior from anyone, but especially from people who claim to follow Jesus’ teachings.  They should know better.  Perhaps they should take the time to sit down, think things over and ask themselves, “honestly, what would Jesus do?”…the Jesus I know wouldn’t teach children to hate and he most certainly wouldn’t stand there and cheer when a child (or anyone, for that matter) sang a song expressing that hatred…I think he would have been saddened by what happened in that church that day…I know I was.