Thursday, November 5, 2015

When Will This Cruel War Be Over?

Before I start: If you do not consider yourself a Christian, please do not read any further.  Thank you.

Way back in early 2007, I heard a story about a then-friend, referred to in previous posts as "Rewind," that kind of shocked me...but not for the reasons you may think.  While home from college, Rewind had a party at her house that was only for the girls--why, I'm not exactly sure--which meant her then-boyfriend wasn't invited.  He did know about it, though, and proceeded to ruin it for everyone involved; he got together with two guys--one of whom was the one who told me this--and went to Rewind's neighborhood, parked at a neighbor's house, and proceeded to "knock on the door like madmen," according to the guy who told me of the incident.  At first, the girls inside wondered if it was the guy who was telling me about this, but Rewind said he couldn't be, because he was in another city; however, said city wasn't that far away.  They suggested it might be another guy, who was actually responsible...but Rewind denied it again.  When they said that maybe it was her boyfriend, she said he "wouldn't do that," even though he was the mastermind behind the whole plan.  Eventually, all the guests were so worried that they left, and I can't say I blame them.

Why did this story shock me? For a couple of reasons: One, if that's the way that guy was going to treat his girlfriend, I'd hate to see what he would do to his worst enemy.  Even if he was upset because he couldn't spend time with her, that's no way to react; that was actually very immature, as I'm sure you'd agree.  Two, that guy claimed to be a Christian, and so did Rewind...but, where is the love in that? If he was going to act that way, why did she even date him? Three, how could she believe that he wouldn't do something like that when he was the one doing it? Did he put up a facade when he was with her to make her think he was something he wasn't? Kind of makes you wonder, doesn't it?

By now, you're probably wondering what this has to do with any war...but it does, though not a war in the typical sense.  Instead, what I'm talking about is a rather disturbing trend I've noticed: a civil war among Christians.  When I was in high school and college, I was persecuted sometimes for my faith, but Jesus said that would happen (John 15:20).  However, since then, even though everyone knows I'm a Christian, nobody has made fun of me for it, even after entering the workforce.  While several of my co-workers admit they're not Christians, they've still shown respect for my beliefs.  However, what's been going on for a long time--both back in high school and still in recent years--is persecution from other Christians.  They call me out on my supposed "mistakes," say and do things just to "get my goat," badger me about doing things that I've told them repeatedly I'm simply not going to do...and that's not all of it!

It's sickening to me that I would be treated that way by my own kind.  When I was a kid, I had a Spider-Man game for my original Nintendo, and my friends and I were playing the second level and were fighting what appeared to be spiders...but, my brother-in-law, who had also played the game, said, "They're rats; why would Spider-Man be fighting his own kind?" The same is true with people on the same side; when an Avenger or a Power Ranger starts attacking his/her fellow heroes, it's a sign something is wrong.  Maybe an enemy shape-shifted into said hero, or maybe said hero has been put under a spell by one of the villains.  However, when it comes to my fellow Christians, some of them think nothing of dissing me, and then try to excuse it; instead of giving me an apology when they know I'm upset, they justify themselves by making a lame excuse, usually that they were only joking.  To me, that's no excuse at all; if I feel like I'm being persecuted, attacked, harassed, or whatever...then your "good intentions" don't matter worth a hill of beans! If someone burned your house down with good intentions, would you be happy about it? Of course not!

One longtime problem I've had with many Christians--especially ones around my age, though not all of them--is that they're too worldly.  Back in 1995, dc Talk's hit album Jesus Freak came out, which revolutionized Christian music as we know it.  One thing it did was turn the term "Jesus freak" from an insult to a compliment, partly because one definition of "freak" is "ardent enthusiast," and Christians should be ardently enthused about their Savior.  However, it also has another meaning: "One that is markedly unusual or abnormal."  Christians should be that, too; 1 Peter 2:9 (KJV) calls us "a peculiar people," and that's just what we are.  We're not supposed to do the same things everybody else does; we're supposed to be different.  Of course, that's always come easy to me, because I'd be different even if I weren't raised in a Christian home; still, Jesus calls us to a higher standard than that of the world.  However, too many people who claim Jesus as their Savior will nonetheless do anything the rest of the world does without another thought, which is why the world considers them one of their own.  Seriously, if the world doesn't think you're any different from them, you're not doing it right.

I think everyone reading this is familiar with commandments such as, "Love your neighbor as yourself," "Let all that you do be done in love," or, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Those are so simple to understand, kids in elementary school Bible classes learn them...but, too many people well beyond that age flagrantly violate them without another thought.  They think that they have the right to do it, not realizing that they will have to account for everything they say or do on Judgment Day (Matthew 12:36).  Even after they do and say such terrible things, they feel no remorse, failing to realize that an unrepentant heart will cause God's wrath (Romans 2:5).

Speaking of love: When I was a kid, I often heard it said in Bible classes, "You have to love everyone, but you don't have to like them." Of course, all of us have people who rub us the wrong way; maybe, for you, I am one of those people.  However, we have to treat those we come into contact with with respect, even if we think they're "weird" or "annoying".  Unfortunately, some people who consider themselves Christians flagrantly show they don't like me by the way they treat me, such as walking away from me when I'm talking to them...which is not what Jesus would do.  Seriously, do people think that our Savior hung on a cross so we could be jerks to one another? That kind of behavior would make Jesus overturn some tables!

Longtime readers of my blog likely know the story of Sparky, the dog we got in 2002 that I despised from day one.  I'll admit that I do regret that now, but, one thing that always sticks in my mind is what my mom and at least one other person used to tell me: "That dog never did anything to you!" It's true; he didn't...but, I loathed him anyway, and was ready to jump for joy when my mom had no choice but to take him back to the S.P.C.A., like I had said we needed to do from the beginning.  It actually disturbs me greatly that I treated such an innocent animal in such a way...but, now I know how Sparky felt, because people do the same thing to me, even when I've meant them absolutely no harm.  In my nine years on Facebook, I've been unfriended or had my friend requests staunchly denied countless times and for various reasons, many of them unknown to me; the problem was that many of the people responsible were Christians, some of whom I met behind the doors of my church! Mutual friends of those people and others have tried to excuse their actions, but, I counter with the words of Jesus in Luke 9:50: "Whoever is not against you is for you." So, if I mean fellow Christians absolutely no harm, which is always the case...why is it okay for them to condemn our friendship before it even starts? Isn't that a sign of a bad attitude? I say it is...but it still happens far too often.

A year or two ago, I was in a class on the Abrahamic faiths: Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.  The teacher--a younger guy, and very good with technology--supplemented his lessons with YouTube videos, which he showed via projector.  He told us that while looking for material for the class, he did searches for "I am a Jew" and "I am a Muslim," and found all kinds of videos of people from said faiths explaining why they believe what they believe and such...but, when he typed in, "I am a Christian," he found one video after another with titles such as, "Why I Am No Longer a Christian," or, "Why I Am Ashamed to Be a Christian".  For some people, hearing that may be rather alarming...but, honestly, I'm not surprised.  When people who claim Jesus as their Savior bicker and fight and overall act like jerks, of course we're going to be criticized...because everybody knows that isn't what Christ would do.  If people of the Way don't shape up soon, our faith could end up extinct.

Everybody has roles in life.  I'm not talking about high school stereotypes, like the jocks, the cheerleaders, and the geeks; I'm talking about positions that one holds, such as a job--teacher, doctor, police officer, etc.--or even a familial or role: parent, grandparent, older sibling, best friend, and the like.  When working with people in such positions, I expect them to act like they should in such a position...and it's very frustrating when they don't.  My mom and I were rather aggravated with a psychiatrist I used to see because of his lack of compassion, even after hearing of my sister's death.  Even when it comes to TV characters, I was never a big fan of Carey, the mom on The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, because she didn't behave much like I would expect a mom on such a show to most of the time.

I mention that for one reason: When working with Christians, especially Christian adults, I expect them to behave according to their faith.  Of course, Christian teenagers are still teenagers, which means they're very immature; still, most of the Christians I currently interact with are at least young adults, which means it's time to put such behaviors away for good.  That doesn't always happen, though; if you went to my old church, you may have seen or heard about the incident where a young adult threw a milkshake at someone.  In the years since, it's even been talked about on Facebook; when someone brought it up in a comment on a status from the wife of the guy responsible, she said, "He will never live that down!" While some people might laugh about it now, that doesn't change the fact that it was sin, and I can imagine God wasn't too happy with that guy when it happened.  More to the point: I was raised in the church, so, I've spent my whole life hearing about Christian values: love, compassion, kindness, etc.  The problem is: That's not what I'm seeing from other Christians; instead, I'm seeing far too much hatefulness and just flat-out being jerks.  That's not what Jesus would want, but, nobody else seems to realize that.

I've used this story as an analogy before, but, now I'm using it for a different purpose: During summer of 2004, I was essentially forced to take an Outdoor P.E. class against my will.  I had wanted to take Chemistry instead, but, the lead special education teacher lied to me and said that it wasn't available.  While I was in the gym class, I was complaining about what we had to do, and the teacher was reprimanding me, saying, "You signed up for this class..." When I tried to tell her that I hadn't willingly agreed to take it, I don't think she believed me.  The same thing happened when I was in Boy Scouting; after several months of suffering through that program, I eventually had enough and wanted to leave the troop for good...but, I was stopped by someone who said, "You said you were going to do it, so, you have to give the troop a year!" What he didn't seem to understand was: The only reason I said I was going to do it was because someone manipulated me into doing so, despite the fact that he/she actually had no right to.  In both cases, it was wrong to say it was my choice...because, if I'd had my way, I wouldn't have been part of those programs.

Here's why I mention that: As Christians, we don't have that excuse.  Regardless of how you believe one becomes a Christian, I think we can agree that it's a choice; you don't just wake up one morning and find a note on your bedside table saying, "Congratulations on becoming a Christian!" If you chose to become a Christian, then, you agreed to either live by the commandments found within the Bible or face the consequences.  Of course, grace is part of this; nobody lives a sinless life, even after becoming a Christian...but, as I mentioned before, Romans 2:5 says that your heart must be repentant, or else you'll face God's wrath.  Instead of getting apologies from the people responsible or their friends, though, almost all I've gotten is staunch defense and condoning of such behavior.  I know that we Christians can do better than this...but, the question is, will we?

Now, for my conclusion: If I sent you a link to this, don't think that I'm pointing the finger at you, because you likely aren't guilty of what I'm talking about.  Most of you reading this already know all of this, and feel the same way I do.  That's great...but, the people who really need to read this are the ones who would rather sit through an episode of Barney and Friends than bother to listen to anything I have to say.  It reminds me of a lyric from one of my favorite songs from when I was younger: "I'm singin' you little boys and girls spoofs; all you do is ignore me, though I have been sent here to inform you!" I could get up in front of my entire church and preach this same message, but, it probably wouldn't do any good; the guilty parties would tune me out, and probably wouldn't even show up on Sunday morning if they knew I was the one preaching the sermon.  It's so frustrating to me that it makes me want to exclaim the Italian phrase, "E buona notte al secchio!" Literally translated, it means, "And good night to the pail!"; figuratively translated, it means, "That's that; there's nothing more I can do!" Most of my fellow Christians seem to have gone to sleep on this matter...which is exactly why I'm hot about it.  If we want our faith to survive, we have to stop destroying ourselves from within.