Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Should They Stay or Should They Go?

First: Don't forget to take the poll found at the right, if you haven't already taken it. Details in the post below.

Second... a warning: Christ may be mentioned often in this post. Read it if you dare, person that I'm thinking of (and I know you know who you are).

When I was thirteen (I don't know if this is an actual thirteen, because really it's a "somewhere around thirteen," which includes thirteen; it's just that, barring the lengthy explanation, it's quicker to say/type "thirteen") I was asked to leave Christ alone. I was told Christ did not want me hanging around. I was told that I was making the place look bad. In short (too late), I was told, "Get out. Christ don't like your kind 'round here."

Nobody actually said that to me. I think it's very seldom said. Like good Christian works, I think bad Christian works most often happen with deeds, not words... or at least bad Christian works don't happen with words directly spoken to the person they are meant for.

But, from a young age I had no problem with addition, and I could add two twos to get four. I certainly wasn't going to admit I belonged to a group being told "go away". I just began my slow walk away from the table where the eternal Lord's Supper is being continuously served.

I picture me with my head down, not wanting to look back, for fear Christ would be scowling at me because I wasn't going away fast enough--but that's because I have a touch of the dramatic and everything must either be envisioned as a stage play or a film. Or a scene from a book, maybe. Notice I didn't say "a good book", as I'm not sure if this would make a good story.

I didn't have it in me to hate God or Christ just yet. I still had enough fear in me, and the anger had not yet built up. But, the thing is, if you are told Christ doesn't want you around (at least when you're young... and I think it's true if you're older too--especially if you didn't have much of a religious upbringing, or didn't have one that stressed the unconditional love of God), after a while, you start to quietly think something along the lines of, "Oh yeah? Well, f**k him, then!"

Yeah, at first you think it with the f**k and the initial letter of "him" in capital letters. But, with time, they go to lower case. Lower case for the first four letters doesn't mean you're less angry. It means you're more accepting of your anger, and you're more committed to it.

And so it was with me.

And the lower-case "h"? That's there because after a while you find yourself singing "Oh how I hate Jesus, because he first hated me." And you never capitalize the initial "h" of the him you hate.

And so it was with me.

After some time, you just write the whole thing off as a fairy tale, and get irritated with anyone who believes as you used to (or, put another way, still gets to sit at that table you were sent away from). You get to carry around a large Army duffel bag full of anger, and hate, and fear.

And so it was with me.

My anger solidified itself into disbelief in the whole thing when a classmate died. I figured it made more sense to not believe in a God that would allow one of the loved ones to die instead of getting rid of a hated one. It didn't help that I was silently hoping to be gotten rid of. Living without your spiritual anchor is no cup of tea.

And life went on. And on. My anger, combined with my humor, became my "thing". I happily avoided anyone wearing a cross, and made fun of anyone seen walking into a church. More hate and anger and fear for the duffel bag.

Life goes on. Tolerance sneaks in. The anger/hate/fear more often stays in the bag, only needing a slight release every other... I don't know... twelve hours or so.

At least, so it was with me.

Now, if you're lucky--or maybe, if you're able to take advantage of the chance you are given to turn and see Christ beside you, silently waiting for you to realize He has never left your side from the moment you stepped away from the table--you may have a string of events help you realize it wasn't God or Christ that sent you away.

It wasn't God or Christ who said those hateful things.

Seeing that, you may be able to look back at your life and see all the times He has been there, silently holding you, prodding your conscience, helping you up when you thought you couldn't stand anything else.

He has been there listening to your non-stop prayer of anger, you realize.

If you're lucky. If you take advantage of the opportunity that may arise.

And so it was with me.

However, these opportunities are like pennies on the sidewalk. Easy to miss, and not always able to generate the motivation to stop and make the little effort needed to take them. Looking back, I know I've walked by many such metaphorical pennies.

I do, however, tend to pick up any non-metaphorical penny I find on the ground. I don't hold to the whole "tails up is bad luck" thing.

My point (and yes, there actually is one here) is this: Not everybody looks beside them or behind them to see that it wasn't Christ who shooed them away like unwelcome dogs at a barbecue.

And, believe me, there are still people being shooed away. They are being shooed away right now. Somewhere on this planet--in this country, even--I can almost guarantee you someone is feeling that they have been (probably indirectly, mind you) told they are not welcome at that table as you read this. I'm not talking about any particular group of people here (unless you want to label the group as "those being shooed away"). I think you could think of more than three "groups" of people being shooed away from the table, if you tried.

So, the big choices are: Either you are okay with people being told they are not worthy of Christ's love, or you actively make sure everybody knows they are welcome at this table and that Christ's love is for them as well.

Inaction denotes acceptance of the former.

Should they stay? Should they go?

If you accept the latter of the two big choices given--that is, if you believe Christ's love is for everyone, is your congregation actively making sure everyone knows they are welcome at the table?

If not, do you have it in you to start working toward change within your congregation? Or would your efforts be better used in a congregation of like-minded people?

Should you stay? Should you go?

I don't mean to imply either your staying with your congregation or going away to another is the better choice. I'm honestly asking--if you agree the choices are either welcoming someone to stay with Christ or being okay with the fact they're shooed away, and if you feel welcoming is the way to go--how and where can you best be a welcoming force?

If you are of the opinion that there are people Christ doesn't love, and who are not welcome at the table, I don't really have a lot to say to you. I don't mean that I don't want to talk with you, but I'm not sure what I could say to you to change your mind on the topic, and there's nigh unto nothing (the "nigh unto" being there because I have a hard time saying "nothing", and "never" and so on) you can say to change my mind on the topic.

I know this isn't standard fare for my non-blog. It's just something that's been floating around in my head for a couple of days. Last night I discussed it with friends, and I'm wondering if this is something I need to be repeatedly asking everyone sitting at the table with me: Should we be letting those people be shooed away?


Andy B. said...

All I can think of to say is ... *inarticulate gaspy grunting sound*. Kind of a cross between "whoa" and "oof."

That, plus I hope you know that I am committed to walking this journey by your side.

Anonymous said...

Me, too! Me, too! The only think I want to shoo away are pesky flies and mosquitos so we can all enjoy are time around the table even more!

Cuz said...

Beautifully put!

Anonymous said...

As I have always trusted you to do what is right and moral, I hope you trust me, and have trusted me, to do the same-T