Thursday, May 1, 2014

Coloring Wrong: Part 2 -- It's all God's fault!

In my previous post, I denounced education and all associated with it.

Sorry. Just kidding!

While everything appearing in that post about my bad fourth grade experience up to the heading “
Education’ is a bunch of hokum” is true, what came after is not.

So what’s the real point I’m trying to walk you to?

Everyone has bad experiences in life.

We get hurt by people and by organizations. We encounter bad bosses, cruel colleagues, fake friends, and more.

We discover what we thought was our dream job is really more of a nightmare. Or, we have a great job we get laid off from.

Relationships fail for innumerable reasons. Groups we try to associate with turn us away. Parents let us down. Friends betray us.

And, probably most tragically, some feel that God is a mean phony.

After reading my experience with my fourth grade teacher, I doubt if anyone would point to “Education” as the problem.

However, if an experience like that had happened in a Catholic school or an Evangelical church or some other faith-based context, I can assure you the outcry against Christianity would be thunderous.

God would be blamed. Christianity condemned.

By this logic, given recent developments, the NBA (and possibly the NAACP as well) should be dismantled instead of Donald Sperling merely being banned.

You're a bigot and don’t own it

There are many examples of bad teachers, whether incompetent, lazy, or misguided, and yet no one blames “Education” as the problem. Very rationally we know that these are instances of individual bad, even evil, behavior.

Even when there’s an issue in a school, we know that the right solution is to ferret out those individuals who are responsible. We do not throw the baby (Education) out with the bathwater (a few bad apples).

And no one denounces U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, for a local school issue or teacher failure. Well, no one who is rational.

But if even only one priest or pastor fails us, or one church fumbles and is perceived to cause someone harm, we are quick to irrationally label ALL believers, ALL churches, ALL Christianity, ALL religions evil.

And, of course, God is nothing but a miserable miscreant. To hell with Him! That bumbling bully hurt us!

Because of the personal nature of faith, when we’re hurt here, the blame is big.

But there’s more than a little bigotry, and irrationality, at play in all of this.

In fact, the “quote” I referenced in the previous post is actually a modified paragraph from a news release promoting an anti-religion book. Here is the original:
Although Christianity can be a comfort to some, it can also be very damaging and repressive, an insidious form of mind control that has led to blind acceptance of serfdom, poverty, and war throughout history. To this day, especially in the United States, it is used to create support for war in the Middle East.”
The truth is that anything good misused can have bad outcomes.

Hurt happens from many hands

Tragically, damage has been done in the name of Jesus, Christianity, and religion.

However, the reality is most damage that touches us isn’t done by “the church” or “the faith” or by Jesus, God, or the Holy Ghost.

Just as in my example with my former teachers, the damage is inflicted by imperfect sin-proned people acting out of wrong-headed, selfish, greedy, or warped intentions. Or maybe they’re just having a really bad day.

Even good people can cause us hurt.

Frankly, a lot of damage has been done the same way by people in the name of liberalism, conservatism, atheism, communism, consumerism, truth, justice, and the American way.

In fact, damage has been done in the name of rock and roll, tattoos, healthy eating, veganism, and just about any “cause” or “philosophy” you can imagine.

People get hurt by well-intentioned and not-so-well intentioned doctors, NBA team owners, lawyers, garbage collectors, waitresses, police officers, politicians, relatives, clerks, customer service agents, gas station attendants, artists, musicians, athletes, and others all the time.

And, yes, we can be hurt by teachers and pastors as well.

Toss bad apples; enjoy good fruit

Fortunately, many teachers I encountered before Mrs. Aker and after did not do as much damage as she. Yes, some flubbed it now and then, such as the sociology teacher I mentioned.

For the most part, though, I had really good to great teachers. Many I have thanked more than once for their positive influence and encouragement. I owe them and admire them.

I also have friends and relatives who are teachers (including my wife) for whom I have deep and genuine respect.

I also believe strongly in the value of a good education.

Just because there are teachers who do bad things, that doesn’t mean Education is something to be rejected or labeled as evil.

And, likewise, just because you’ve been hurt by a church or someone claiming to be Christian doesn’t mean faith or Christianity is something to be rejected or labeled as evil.

Despite the adage, one bad apple does not have to spoil the barrel.

When real hurt happens

If you’ve experienced hurt within the context of faith, I’m really truly sorry.

I can relate to being abused by brothers and sisters in the faith. I know what it feels like.

I’ve been lied about and lied to, slandered, misunderstood, falsely accused, and misused by fellow believers.

Sadly, it happens.

And, more sadly, there are times when I’ve done stupid and hurtful things back.

I thank God for grace and forgiveness. We all need these all of the time from Him and each other.

And I’m thankful that, for the most part, I've been able to separate faith from the fault.

I don’t blame God for the bad choices someone else made. I know God is there to help me heal from the hurt that was inflicted. Walking away from God at times like these only allows the wound to grow worse.

There have been deep woundings where hanging in with God was more difficult and took some time. In those times I lashed out at God and pushed Him away.

And in these especially hard times I’ve learned that He can take my lashings, He never goes very far away, and the healing starts when I let Him back in my life.

Getting to the real root

Whenever I’ve experienced a slight at the hand of someone I thought was a fellow believer, instead of writing off all of Christendom, I’ve stopped to think about what was happening. I try to get to what’s causing their bad behavior.
I seek to discern their motivation. Did they do what they did or say what they said intentionally to harm me? Was it an accident? A slip of the lip? An instance of them being clumsy? A poor choice of words? Or perhaps I just misunderstood. Confusion can be cleared up. Definitions can be agreed to. An accident can be excused. But if in seeking to understand it becomes clear that there’s ill-will behind another’s words or actions, that’s a definite red flag (More in this in a moment).

I seek to discern if this is a reoccurring issue. If this isn’t the first time an issue has arisen, then I try to look for a pattern. Perhaps we are at odds in our thinking or believing and we just need to avoid certain topics; we can agree to disagree. Perhaps there’s a difference of personality styles that’s causing clashes. If this is a one-time instance, it can probably be addressed and moved on from. If not, it may mean moving away from the other person.

I seek to discern if I’m the problem. This is the hardest one. It could be that I’m being stubborn, biased, or blind. There may be something I need to look at and adjust in myself that’s causing me to react to others in a negative way. If I’m not willing to change, how dare I confront others about how they rub me the wrong way! I’m still working on getting this one right, because I always want to be right, know what I mean?

Writing people off when we’ve been hurt opens us up to be written off when we hurt others. This merely leads to a cycle of despair.

Better to forgive and move on than to reject and rot.

Sometimes people are just plain evil

There are those times when moving away from someone is truly the only choice, especially when they are choosing to embrace and embody evil.

Years ago I experienced great pain at the hands of someone very close to me who was supposed to be a Christian. In fact, we both came out of similar church backgrounds. The hurt was vicious, recurring, and more than a little confusing. In fact, it’s persisted for years.

I shared what was happening with a godly and wise friend who listened and then suggested I read M. Scott Peck’s book People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil. He pointed out that some people are just evil.

This was a shocking revelation to me. While I accepted that there were “bad” people in the world, I had never wrestled with the idea of evil people in the church. But, even Jesus warned, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:15-16, ESV).

Paul also laid it out plainly saying, “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds” (1 Corinthians 11:13-15, ESV).

As I began to evaluate the situation in light of this new insight I was able to see and, with tears, acknowledge the evil in the heart of the other person. It was and still is a heartbreaking realization.

I forgave them and moved away from them. It was the only response that was healthy.

But I did not move away from God, faith, or church.

God loves the way we color

Isaiah describes a misused Jesus explaining, “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (Isaiah 53:3, ESV) .

If anyone can relate to what it’s like to be hurt by others we thought we could trust, it’s Jesus.

While Mrs. Aker failed me and what she did hurt me, it was her individual sin that was to blame. It wasn’t the school’s fault. It wasn’t the Board of Education’s fault. It wasn’t the U.S. Department of Education’s fault. It was her fault.

And I know God liked my drawing!

If you’ve been hurt by a person of faith, don’t blame God for their freewill-driven stupidity.

If you’ve been hurt in church, don’t blame all of Christianity for that church’s freewill-driven failure.

Most Christians are pretty good people. Most churches are great places to be involved in.

Open your heart so the healing can begin.

The rejected, betrayed, crucified Jesus invites you, saying, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30, ESV).

All I’m saying is give His peace a chance. Now, get your crayons and let’s color!

Have you ever had bad experiences with Christians or churches? How did you recover? What advice for healing can you share with others? Share your experiences and thoughts in the comments!

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