When Mean Christians Happen to Good People

I guess when Donald Trump gave his acceptance speech for his nomination as the Republican presidential candidate at last year’s RNC, when he said that he would work to protect the rights of the “L…..G…..BT…..Q….community,” that he was either lying, didn’t quite grasp what “working to protect” meant, or he didn’t fully anticipate that 81% of the people who would vote for him would be white evangelicals who don’t want him to work to protect those rights. But being that he exhibits all the telltale traits of being a gaslighting narcissist–lacking empathy and compassion and a conscience, and constantly calling people’s grasp of reality into question by denying videotape and transcript and Twitter-feed evidence, and calling it fake news–he most likely had no intention to, and doesn’t care what he promised. To be very clear, I am not a mental health clinician, I’m simply a guy who has done a lot of research on the topics of gaslighting and narcissistic personality disorder and abuse. (Trust me. If you were mentally, emotionally, and spiritually abused by one, you’d do a lot of research into the topic yourself.) But also, I work with a bunch of mental health specialists for a living. So I’m not just throwing out provocative catch words, hoping you’ll be impressed. At the end of the day, the dude may just be a mindless jerk, who has tapped into the hearts of other mindless jerks. (Some of them, I assume, are good people.)

I would love to be optimistic right now, and say that he’s on a year-long learning curve, and he’s just learning how to be presidential, but unfortunately I can’t. I can simply look at how he ran his campaign, and say that all the evidence shows that he really is, amongst everything else, a hate-mongering bigot. Just the way he responded to the allegations of sexual misconduct–accusing his accusers of being gold diggers–should show the content of this man’s character and heart. At the end of it all, because it will meet his narcissistic supply and make him so happy, he will cater to those who love him just as much as he loves himself, but everyone else will be overlooked or discriminated against.

Take the latest story about Trumpelstiltskin banning certain words at the CDC. A story broke that the terms “fetus,” “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “evidence-based,” and “science-based” are now forbidden to be used by the CDC. Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, the director of the CDC has denied this claim, stating on Twitter, “I want to assure you there are no banned words at CDC. We will continue to talk about all our important health programs.” So there is a glimmer of hope here; however, this wouldn’t be the first time the CDC was forbidden from doing its job to its fullest capacity (even taking Dr. Fitzgerald’s statement into consideration). In the 90s, the Dickey Amendment was passed so that no funds could be allocated to the CDC for research into gun violence, because everybody’s favorite billion dollar lobbyist group was worried that this research would then be used to craft legislation about guns. I know! Imagine the audacity of Congress making an educated decision on legislation, and possibly making it more difficult to get a gun. My heart doth break.

So let’s meet in the middle here, and say that maybe this story isn’t true. Maybe this is a story that the Washington Post got wrong. Even the best journalists can get it wrong. I mean, look at Hannity, Right! But the Post is known for its extensive fact checking before it publishes a story. (A few weeks ago, a person trying to discredit the Post was themselves easily discredited by the Post’s fact checking department.)

On the other hand, maybe it is a true story, and Dr. Fitzgerald, in her own way, is saying that no amount of pressure by the executive branch will hinder the CDC, because public health is more important than presidential ego. Why would a newspaper that is currently under attack as being fake news publish a story that isn’t true? So it’s safe to say that there may be some merit to the claim.

So, I would like to hope that the story is false, but given the M.O. of this administration, I wouldn’t put it passed them. And if it’s true, what does that say about this administration? Nobody finds it odd that the very people who call themselves “The Resistance,” are also the target of this supposed vocabulary ban? And if it is indeed true that the CDC is forbidden from these words, isn’t it a reasonable conclusion that according to this administration, the health and wellness of those who would use such words, or those who belong to such groups, deserve to be discriminated against by the highest office in the land?

Another word for it is Christian Privilege. If I were among those 81% white evangelicals who voted for this man, I’d feel so cared for. I wasn’t forbidden from wishing people a merry Christmas, but thank God we can finally say it again! There will be a nativity in the White House for the first time since… 2016. And finally, an administration who matches my version of Christianity. I would be in paradise right now.

But since I do not count myself amongst this particular group, and I am not easily swayed by political candidates who call themselves Christians, and many of my friends are the ones who make up the “bad group,” this is yet another straw on an already overloaded camel’s back. And my M.O. is usually to let my Snark Flag fly in these situations. But, ironically, not toward The Great and Powerful Walking Block of American Cheese. The more this presidency goes on, the more emboldened stupid Christians become. And when stupid Christians speak, they prove what it is they actually worship.

For example, the more I read these Christians’ responses to people on my team, the more I’m convinced that they are biblically illiterate. Oh, they’ll read it. But rest assured, they aren’t interpreting what they are reading. And when you read Scripture without doing the work of figuring out its meaning, you can make Scripture, and therefore God, say anything you want it to say. The most frequent example I can provide are discussion threads in which these certain Christians will insult and abuse the people they are talking to, especially if those people are liberal millennials, but if that person says one cross thing about Trump–not Jesus, the Bible, or anything about the Christian faith–those Christians reply with, “That’s mean, hateful, and unloving. And you’re not a true Christian for saying it.” Because apparently you aren’t supposed to call the president a brainless moron…if his name isn’t Barack Obama. And that just points out more of the hypocrisy of this group. But it’s damn near impossible to challenge them on it, because they’ve so married their faith to a political party, that, as I’ve said in other posts, to question their politics is to question their faith.

But I have to always laugh so hard when they say things like, “You can’t be a Christian and say mean things.” And my response is generally, “I guess you don’t read the Bible much, especially the prophets and gospels.” Some of the prophets compared the wealthy women in their community to donkeys sniffing the wind in heat. Other prophets said that God’s people were acting like shameless whores. Jesus called the religious elite of his day white washed tombs, and still worse, sons of the devil. There’s even a whole section of Woes (essentially divine curses) toward these elite men of faith. The apostle Paul called one group a bunch of mangy mongrel dogs, running around the street nipping at people’s heels. So perhaps it’s not the actual words that we use that are the problem. Perhaps the actual problem, other than a misunderstanding of Scripture, is that these Christians don’t like that their guy is the one being made fun of, and not the one they want it be. Or maybe it’s the implication that they helped make all this happen, but they don’t want to take responsibility for their vote. And they’re the ones constantly accusing liberals of only hearing what they want to hear!

But to bring it back to privilege and the CDC, it’s not unloving in and of itself to say not so nice things about people. Especially when those people are discriminating against groups of people based on age, race, gender, religion, country of origin, and sexuality. Preventing the CDC from operating at its fullest capacity just so the 4-5 can appease the 81% white evangelicals who voted for him seems a little more hate-full than calling him a petulant man child with a Twitter account. His ego is at risk. These groups’ health and wellness is at risk. He’s supposed to represent 318 million people. These groups are supposed to live with the Human Rights God has given them. He is a public servant. These groups are the public he serves. If he doesn’t like that, he can always go back to being a reality tv show host. And if those certain Christians don’t like that, perhaps they can finally meet the Jesus of the Bible who was unjustly arrested, tried by a kangaroo court, and murdered in the most humiliating and painful way possible.

As for those in The Resistance: The greatest weapon in resistance is hope. And the greatest hope I can offer you is that the Jesus of the Bible–the Jesus that actually existed in history–is nothing like what mainstream Christianity makes him out to be. That Jesus is a sociopath who has no compassion or conscience, and is a raging narcissist. The Jesus that existed in history, the one who was a flesh and blood homeless Jewish preacher from Nazareth, was called the bastard son of a whore, and was ultimately murdered because he had the audacity to say that God is far more compassionate than what was being peddled. That Jesus decided to choose grace and mercy and love over power and praise. And since you’ll never get one from them, I would like to offer my sincerest apology on behalf of all reasonable Christians, for how that group treated you. You didn’t deserve to be the latest target of their hate. Jesus would never treat a person that way.

Peace!

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Embracing Our Enemies

“You’re blessed when you show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.”             Matthew 5:9 (The Message)

“As the morning casts off the darkness, Lord, help us to cast aside any feelings of ill will we might harbor against those who have hurt us. Soften our hearts to work toward their conversion and ours. Amen.”                                             (Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals)

Making Peace is Frickin Hard!

Peacemaking is not the easiest of tasks. It involves taking two sides (maybe more) who are estranged, and making it so reconciliation can take place. It is not, as Miroslov Volf points out in his book Exclusion and Embrace, merely moving the oppressed out from under their oppressor, and exacting justice on those oppressors. This, he warns, very often leads to the oppressed becoming oppressors themselves, which means that oppression has been allowed to continue, just in a different name. Such “peacemaking” is better understood as retaliation. “They did it to us, so we will do it to them.” This is also called warfare.

Volf, being Croatian, does not write about reconciliation and peacemaking from inside a bubble, as I would. I can point to history books, and documentaries, all while living comfortably in my little rural town in North Carolina. Volf saw his country torn apart by civil war. He saw two sides gather in the name of God, and pillage, rape, and kill each other with genocidal viger. The things I saw on tv as a teenager, happened in his backyard, so to speak. So whenever he speaks about reconciling enemies, he doesn’t mean two sides that just don’t get along,  he means enemies.

Enemies Are Relative

Of course, if we’re talking about peacemaking and embracing our enemies, it’s helpful to know who our enemies are. I’d also venture that it’s helpful to know if they are an actual enemy, or nothing more than a perceived enemy. For instance, in my younger, more brash days, any Christian who didn’t share my specific beliefs — within an undefined perameter, mind you — I considered a heretic! (Sorry, Rob Bell.) To borrow from On Distant Shores by Five Iron Frenzy, “And off of the blocks, I was headstrong and proud. At the front of the line of the card carrying high brows. With both eyes fastened tight, yet unscarred from the fight. Running at full tilt, my sword pulled from its hilt…Casting first stones, killing my own.”

But  if experience is any kind of teacher, I’ve come to find that “enemy” is a relative term. (Once again, if that enemy is an actual enemy.) We don’t get to choose our enemies. Nor do we know if and when we’ve met one. But they are relative nonetheless. For some, an enemy is someone who simply makes life a little more challenging. These enemies don’t pose a threat to anyone; however, they are just harder to love than most. And frustratingly, folks who have these types of enemies, are the ones who just love to quote Jesus at people. “Well Brother, I hate that that’s happening, but Jesus said to love and pray for our enemies.” (Yeah, easy for you, buddy. The only thing you’re dealing with is hiding your frustration. Meanwhile, I was just abused by my pastor.) I remember posting a status about this once, and a missionary buddy of mine commented, “Yeah, while some people are dealing with bruised egos, I walk passed corrupt local police who are dressed like soldiers, complete with automatic weapons. Loving them is not simple.”

Thankfully, there are people throughout history who have endured far more than said bruised egos. Volf, as I mentioned above, if not personally, saw it in his countrymen. Likewise, there is Corrie ten Boom, who was a Holocaust survivor. She once said, “Forgiveness is the key that unlocks the door of resentment and the handcuffs of hate. It is a power that breaks the chains of bitterness and the shackles of selfishness.” And lest it be said that that was easy for her to say post concentration camp, she once told a story of meeting one of the officers responsible for her daily nightmares, years later, and with much internal struggle, still managed to forgive.

Why Say All This?

What’s the point? Well isn’t it obvious?!? Particularly in the United States, we are living in a time of absolute lunacy. Forgiveness is a foreign language, and at this point, may even be banned as a threat to the country! But forgive we must! Especially if you claim the Name of the Divine Interupter, who forgave and gave his life for the very people who unjustly arrested and murdered him. On a Roman cross no less!

We are living in a time when all one has to do is say one criticism of their opponent, and that opponent flies off the comment section handle, and projects every form of vitriol they can conjur. Conservatives are more guilty of this than liberals these days; but liberals, you’re guilty all the same.

The Big Idea of Forgiveness

Whether we are conservative or liberal, climate deniers or protectors, Christian or Muslim, we are all human. We are interdependent of one another. Conservatives don’t have all the answers. Liberals don’t have all the answers. Christians (being one myself I can say with utmost certainty) don’t have all the answers. And Muslims are tired of being blamed for every little bump in the night.

Conservatives, you don’t get to call every opponent a liberal snowflake just because they challenged your thinking. Learn to forgive. And see how you can work with liberals to make this world better.

Liberals, you don’t get to write off all conservatives as brainless morons because they deny climate change. Learn to forgive. And see how you can work together.

There really are bigger, badder, more wicked threats out there than bruised egos. And while we’re busy calling each other names on social media (yes, I do it too!), those threats are rolling on. People’s rights are being stolen for no other reason than their sexual orientation, or that their skin color is different than their lawmakers’ (here’s looking at you North Carolina General Assembly!)

There is a scene in the Outlander Series where Jamie Fraser, who earlier on had been brutalized by his enemy Black Jack Randall, and as he (Jamie) is helping his own daughter forgive her enemy, he comes to his own realization, Black Jack is only a man. Yes, he did terrible, terrible things. But he was only a mortal man. Not only that, but forgiveness is not a one time event, but rather many events over time.

Whoever your enemy is, no matter what they’ve done, they are only mortal. Life is worth far more than spending it hunkered down in bitter hatred because someone doesn’t agree with you.

Forgive as if humanity depended on it.

More to come on this very difficult subject later.

Protest

Protest:          

 (Noun) A statement or action expressing disapproval of or  objection to something.               

(Verb) Express an objection to what someone has said or done. 

If you’re like me, ever since November 9, 2016, your Facebook newsfeed has been filled with images and articles about protestors. Being that I’m friends with both sides of the aisle, I see posts that both praise and condemn these protests. The ones that make me laugh the most, are the videos of dudes with a certain shade of neck, sitting in the driver’s seat of their vehicle, screaming about how these pitiful little millennials are so sensitive that they can’t handle the outcome of the election.

( I’m not even kidding. They are literally the exact same video, just with a different “driver.” A white guy wearing sunglasses, says a few things nice and calm, then gets right up in the camera, and screams out his opinion. Then he says a few more things calmly, and then goes right back to screaming into the camera. Like seriously dude, I think you need a Xanax or 20!) 

Given that these anti-protest posts have become so commonplace, I wanted to share a few musings. 

1. For folks who are so displeased with protestors, you sure do protest just as much as the people you condemn. By the very definition of protest, you are a protestor. You are expressing an objection to what a group is doing and saying. But I would counter that the difference is that those protestors know what they are protesting, while you only appear to protest a perception. 

2. Make sure you know what you are objecting to! I hate to make a blanket statement, but without fail, every person who is telling these protestors to stop protesting, are calling them “whining liberal millenials who can’t handle the outcome of the election.” This is simply not true. In fact, I would counter that if that is what you think of the protestors, you have not done due diligence to actually learn the truth about their message, and why they are protesting. And until you do so, you are objecting the actions of a characture that you have drawn up, and not reality. 

(To be fair, all of us can learn to communicate better, so that our message is clear. As one of my college English professors said, communicate in such a way that it is impossible to be misunderstood.)

3. Do you even know your own country’s history? America is a country founded on protest!!! What was the Boston Tea Party? Protest accompanied by strategic acts of vandalism! What was the Declaration of Independence? A written notice of protest! What was the Revelutionary War? An act of treasonous protest! If we had lost, we would probably still be subjects of the Crown, reading about the colonial uprising of 1776. What was Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation? A presidential protest. What was the Suffrage Movement? Protest. What was the Civil Rights Movement? Protest. Whole cities were economically crippled due to sit-ins and boycotts. How did we get a minimum wage, a two day weekend, end child labor? By protest!  As you object to protestors, you are using rights afforded you by the act of protest!!!

Let me finish with this: Vandalism is not protest. The videos you see of people smashing windows and setting cars on fire are vandals, not protestors. As Trevor Noah said, “Be careful that you don’t become what you are protesting. Protest is like sex. You can be loud, you can go all night long, but the moment something starts to burn, you should probably stop.”

So let us march on!