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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The Epitome of Speechlessness: Why Christians Are Willing to Vote for Roy Moore and Those Like Him.

If you’re like me, you’ve been seeing the recent news about Roy Moore down in Alabama and wondering if you’re living in the Upside Down from Stranger Things. Seeing how evangelicals specifically are responding to this has been the epitome of speechlessness. Like seriously? “Look at Joseph and Mary”??? And then the kicker: “At least he’s not a Democrat”?!? What the what?!? As if sexual misconduct is strictly a liberal problem.

How it is that a whole group of Christians can condemn in the strongest sense the sexual misconduct of the left, but seemingly embrace it from the right? How are the actions of Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Louis CK, or Al Franken completely inexcusable, but those of Donald Trump, Roy Moore, Bill O’Reilly, and Roger Ails forgivable? If you don’t know evangelicalism in the Bible Belt South, you don’t know the crisis of belief that is happening. To be sure, they don’t know they are having a crisis of belief, but they are having one nonetheless.

Unfortunately, I do not hold much hope for this group to change. But at least I can recognize the reasons for such blatant hypocrisy, because I used to be one of them. So if you are one who is on the outside looking in, wondering how these evangelicals can be so combatively unChristian, I hope these can help. Perhaps you can use these as talking points if you happen to engage in a dialogue with such folks. But, if nothing more, these points can give you a reason to have pity on them, instead of reacting with hate and vitriol or dismissiveness. You may never be able to change their mind or attitude, but you can change yours. And sometimes the most helpful way to love your enemy is to recognize how they think.

So the following points are ones that I was personally taught by my church leaders and teachers, or their favorite authors or media personalities. I am in no way saying that this is the definitive list on conservative Evangelical hypocrisy. I’m not George Barna. But they are the recurring points that I hear most often.

Christians Vote Republican

I first became a Christian in 1999, right before the 2000 Election season. I was taught by my Youth Pastor, my Sunday School teachers, and just about every Christian in my life that if I was going to call myself a Christian that I must vote Republican. (It might be worth mentioning that I was only 16 at the time!) Or in the least, I had to vote for the Christian candidate to ensure that our laws and policies would be based on the Bible. But, as the circular reasoning goes, Christians could only be Republican, so….yeah. (I remember my Youth Pastor preaching about how he believed that George W. Bush would usher in the Second Coming of Christ! “First, George W. Bush will become President. Then the Antichrist will come to power–most likely from Russia. Then Jesus will come back.” I wish I could say that I did not heartily “Amen” that.)

I literally didn’t hear any other perspective on the matter until the 2008 Election. But even then, I was able to dismiss what I heard because the source was progressive, and progressives “will compromise where they feel they must, if it means attracting more people.”

And what made the Republican Party more godly than Democrats? 1. They believe in the traditional definition of marriage. 2. They are pro-life.

That’s it.

At least with the folks I ran with, these two points were the only points worth considering when it came to determining whether a candidate was godly or not. Nothing else mattered. Not much has changed either.

There’s this story in the Gospels, where Jesus is asked what is the greatest commandment. And he responds by saying that all of the Law and the Prophets (a phrase that meant all of Scripture) could be summed up with just two commands: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength; and love your neighbor as you love yourself. Basically, whatever command you were reading, it was based on the foundation of loving God, or loving people. Every command in Scripture is based on these two principles. It’s inescapable.

That was so profound, that the guy who asked the question in the first place walked away from the conversation completely dumbfounded. He didn’t like Jesus very much, but that answer sure did warrant some mad props for him.

Now, imagine if Jesus instead replied with, “All the Law and the Prophets can be summed up in these: Are you pro-life? And, do you believe in the traditional definition of marriage?” Doesn’t that miss a whole lot of things about Christianity? Ironically, the only tradition that Jesus presents for marriage is that it is a lifetime commitment, and that you couldn’t just divorce your wife because she burned dinner. Moreover, there are countless examples of heroes of the faith who do not meet the modern evangelical definition of marriage. David, for example, was polygamous, and had multiple mistresses. And yet God called him a man after his own heart. So perhaps one’s marital status or sexuality is not the best gage for what godliness looks like. And perhaps a person can be good and moral, but have a really wonky idea of marriage.

But to say that all of a person’s relationship to God is contingent on how he thinks about abortion or sexuality misses a very key detail of the Christian Faith: Jesus himself. Jesus told the thief on the cross, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” He didn’t say, “…you will be with your marriage” or “…your theological construct.” Just ME! The most missed point in the Christian faith is Jesus Christ himself! The Christian faith teaches that if you miss everything else, you still get Jesus, and all that that means. You still get a relationship with the God of the universe, and all that that means. Jesus is point number 1.

But that doesn’t happen when this faith gets reduced to where we stand on abortion or LGBTQ+ Rights (i.e. a political platform). Instead it takes secondary and tertiary things and makes them primary. And when that happens, you can realistically take Jesus completely out of the equation, and still get the answer you are looking for. And that is not godly in the least. Jesus repeatedly made the point during the Sermon on the Mount that even those without any faith can do that, so “what makes you any different than them”?

Liberals Hate the Truth

If the democratic position on abortion and LGBTQ+ rights is not reason enough to vote Republican, then you really have to vote Republican because liberals don’t believe in the truth. I was always taught that liberals thought the truth is what you wanted it to be. “They don’t care what is right or wrong, just what feels right.”

This is actually an attack on how one assimilates information. Because if you can discredit the source of an argument, you can discredit the argument itself. Ergo, if liberals hate the truth, and only care about what feels right, then liberal sources can’t be trusted to tell the truth. I remember the day I bought the line that only Fox News reported honestly. “You can know that what they report is the truth. Unlike CNN or The New York Times or The Washington Post.”

And I remember the day I was walking through my house, thinking about this, and thinking to myself, “But that makes no sense! I don’t know how a whole group of people (in this case journalists from liberal media sources) can collectively refuse to tell the truth, and yet not contradict each other on one point. And didn’t I just see the same exact story reported exactly the same way by everyone, including Fox?!?”

And that’s where it gets freakishly maniacal. Because then the amount of mental gymnastics needed to hold this position requires…you guessed it…denying truth.

“Well, of course they didn’t lie then, they couldn’t cover it up.”

“Hey! Even a blind hog finds a truffle every now and then.”

“Some things just can’t be denied.”

And if a story by Fox News was found to be wrong: “Hey! They’re only human. But at least they try to tell the truth, unlike MSNBC.”

And how do you know that Fox isn’t lying? “Because they’re conservatives! And conservatives tell the truth.”

Who told you that conservatives tell the truth, while liberals lie? “Conservatives! Hello! Because they don’t lie!”

I don’t know where this idea came from that liberals hate the truth, or think that it’s whatever feels right. I don’t know a single one who would say that. In fact, the liberals I know are deeply concerned about authenticity. If they even sense that you aren’t being honest, they’ll dismiss you. So where did this idea come from that they hate the truth? I have a sneaky suspicion that it stems from the first point. If all of the Christian faith can be boiled down to one’s stance on abortion or LGBTQ+ rights, and that that stance has to be conservative, then any other position is denying the truth. Never mind that the whole premise is faulty.

Liberals Are Atheists With a Godless Agenda

So if the democratic position on abortion and LGBTQ+ rights is not enough, and if it’s not enough that liberals hate the truth, then you must absolutely be turned off by their war against Jesus and all things Christian. This one is a personal favorite of Franklin Graham. This was the message he traveled to all 50 states with during the 2016 Election. If Democrats get the power, he argued, then it’s only a matter of time before we can’t call homosexuality a sin anymore, our pulpits will be controlled by hate speech laws, and sharia law will be imposed because the Muslims will take over. Remember Starbucks’ war on Christmas because their seasonal cups said nothing about Jesus or Christmas? “I told them my name was Merry Christmas, because then they’d be forced to say Merry Christmas!”

(Funny how it’s ok to force others to say Merry Christmas, but it’s a violation of your religious liberties for people who do not share your faith to say Happy Holidays.)

Once again, you can take Jesus completely out of the equation here, and still get the answer you’re looking for. And if that’s the case, you’ve completely missed Jesus. And if you’ve completely missed Jesus, then it’s not really him you’re concerned about. Someone does not have to have any faith in Jesus Christ whatsoever to wish somebody a merry Christmas. You’re not being persecuted if someone says to you happy holidays. Christmas is not the only holiday in winter. It’s not being politically correct to wish somebody happy holidays, it’s just common courtesy. They may not share your faith! So why make them be dishonest?

There’s a Mediterranean restaurant that I like to eat at, and it’s owned by a lovely Muslim couple. It changes nothing about my faith to wish them well during ramadan. The only thing it affects is what time I can go the restaurant during that holiday, because they close early. That’s it! Jesus is still Jesus. I’m still a Christian. They’re still Muslim. I still get to eat great food!

Going back to what Jesus said about the Law and the Prophets. With the way certain Christians act during the holiday season, you’d think Jesus said, “All of the Law and the Prophets come down to this: You must say Merry Christmas.” You’d think Jesus’ last words before ascending into Heaven were, “Go throughout the world, and make disciples of all people. AND FOR MY SAKE, THEY BETTER SAY MERRY CHRISTMAS, OR ELSE THIS WHOLE DYING AND RISING AGAIN THING WAS FOR NOTHING.”

C’MON Y’ALL!!!!

You mean to tell me that the God of the universe, who made everything out of nothing just by speaking it, who knows even the tiniest atom, and holds all this together, wants to have a relationship with you, but you’re concerned with what a cashier, someone you probably don’t even care about, says to you during Christmas?

Ultimately, when you make Christianity into something it is not, you lose Jesus. And when you lose Jesus, your lord and savior can be anything. Who needs Jesus if the Republican Party is the godly Party because of their platforms on abortion and LGBTQ+ rights, if they’re the only ones who believe the truth, if they have a godly agenda? As long as my godly representatives have the power, and are calling the shots, and there are laws limiting these two abominable sins, what need have I of God?

The Crisis

The crisis facing these evangelicals is that they are quickly becoming the very thing they hate. Godliness is a matter of partisanship for them. And if the only two things I value with my faith are antiabortion and anti-LGBTQ+ rights, then morality is only confined to being a heterosexual. And when that happens, the only thing that qualifies as sexual misconduct is what “those perverts and baby killers do.”

So a presidential candidate can claim to be a Christian for the first time in his 70 years, get caught saying that because he’s famous he can do anything to women he wants, including grabbing them by the pussy, can be forgiven because “he’s a baby Christian,” and “at least he’s not Bill Clinton, right?”.

And a man can have a 10 point lead in the polls despite growing allegations that he dated teenagers while in his thirties–because he had their parents permission–and it is brushed aside because “at least he’s not a democrat,” “the Washington Post broke the story because they want a democrat to win,” and “remember that Bill Clinton was a sexual predator in the White House.” And let’s not overlook that it was a liberal judge who dismissed Judge Moore because he wouldn’t take down the 10 Commandments, and that’s proof that Roy Moore is a godly man. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but what does it matter as long as a Republican wins?

There’s Really No Fighting It.

So what are sensible people supposed to do when confronted with this? The hope is that the person opposite you is a kind, caring person, who is at least willing to hear you out. But the most likely scenario is that they won’t. There’s no debating them. Trust me, I’ve tried. I just ended up on the prayer list.

You’re dealing with people who have so married their politics to their faith, that they cannot separate the two. So if you’re trying to draw them away from the absurdities of the current Republican Party, you might as well be trying to lure them away from Jesus. I still have moments when I accidentally catch a clip of Fox News, and realize, “Wow! That is a complete misperception and oversimplification of liberals.”

The only thing to do is just be the bigger person. Think about it: At the end of it all, which of you will be walking away from the conversation still supporting a man alleged to have dated 14-year olds? So you can at least know that much. But then you’ll need to go home and cry, because at the end it all, that person supports a man who is alleged to have dated 14-year olds.

I work in mental health. I have worked with people who have delusions. And it’s so tricky how to navigate a conversation with a person speaking from that delusion. Because to those folks, that delusion is absolutely real. But to deny them outright or to directly confront it (“I’m looking at the roof, there’s no one on the roof, you don’t have to worry about people being on the roof.”) will often cause the person to hold onto it tighter. Because to admit that that’s a delusion is also to admit there’s a problem. The movie A Beautiful Mind captures the struggle perfectly. Russell Crowe’s character experiences visual hallucinations, and must come to terms with that. There’s even a scene at the end, where he does reality checking, just to make sure that the person he is speaking to is actually there. So he turns to someone he knows is there, to ask if she can see the same thing. But for a good portion of the movie, he thinks his doctors are all just trying to lock him up for no reason. Because in his mind, he was an undercover agent breaking Russian codes for his country.

Likewise, these Christians believe they are doing the right thing. They have been taught their whole Christian life that this is what Christians do. Politics is a way to bring godly change to the country, and make us a Christian nation that honors God, and you don’t want to dishonor God, do you? This is why they’ll say things like, “If you can’t trust the man, trust the party.” To them, having a bad representative of the party is better then the alternative, because they have been taught that the alternative is a godless pagan, who only wants to lie to them, and force them to deny Christ. One bad representative can be held accountable by the rest. It certainly can’t be that the party itself is just as bad as the one, or that to ask us to trust the party is to ask us to trust a party that is endorsing the man. But to ask them to deny all this, is to ask them to admit that not only are they wrong, but their beloved preachers and teachers are wrong as well. It calls their whole basic grasp on reality into question. It’s not just asking them to put aside the notion that Santa is a real person, you’re asking them to put aside their understanding of God. That is terrifying.

So put yourself in their shoes. How could someone challenge your thinking, without challenging what you believe to be the core of your faith? How would you say, “your God is not the problem, your politics are,” knowing that these two are inseparable to you? How much patience, kindness, and care would you require from others as you unlearn all this? As you so love yourself, love your Christian Republican neighbor.

The Problem with Theological Righteousness

nonviolence-101-word-cloud-4I always say that it is a miracle that I am a Christian. I grew up in a home with an atheist, a recovering catholic, and an “open for discussion.” There was a brief time when Recovering Catholic, Open for Discussion, and I all went to a Methodist church, but when the family moved from Connecticut to New Mexico, any kind of spirituality was promptly ended.

But then Jesus found a way to save me.  I was saved in the late 90s (February 4, 1999 to be exact), when True Love Waits was at the height of power, Christian music was beginning to sound more like music and not a camp sing-along, and my Youth Pastor’s favorite question was, “Did you do have your quiet time today?” The sins to be avoided were drugs, alcohol, cussing, sex, abortion, and homosexuality.  And greatest of all, I could go to church dressed in street clothes, and no one would look down on me.

As I grew up, I began to find out that to be a Christian meant that I was to vote republican, because they were the ones who were against homosexuality and abortion.  And somewhere along the way there was the great battle between absolute and relative truth; liberalism verses conservative evangelicalism. Suffice it to say, there was always a battle to fight in the name of the Lord, and something had to separate Christians from their heathen counterparts.

I went to school for a Christian Studies degree, and discovered the great disciplines of theology and apologetics. These greatly helped in separating myself from the evil world, because I knew exactly what I was supposed to believe, and I knew how to prove people wrong in theirs.

Theological rightness became the cornerstone of my life. The goal for every Christian was to get their doctrine right, because without proper doctrine there would be no spiritual growth. It was okay to admit the struggles of believing this or that, just as long as there was a concerted effort to get it right—and when I say right, I do mean RIGHT.

Lately, I have been finding that the problem with such thinking is that I was basing people’s standing with God on something other than Jesus. The only distinction that the New Testament makes between people is those who are in the Kingdom, and those who are outside the Kingdom (and usually the people who thought they understood that distinction had it wrong!). There is nothing that makes someone less of a citizen of the Kingdom. Or to put it another way, once God has adopted a son or a daughter, that is exactly who they are. And no sin patterns or wrong belief changes that.

I say this with a little bit of pride, the Keith of even a year ago would have looked at the Keith of today, and called him a heretic who was slandering the teachings of Scripture. But the Keith of today is much softer, kinder, and gracious towards even himself than that other one.  There is less need for me (and others) to get it right, and more need for me to actually have a relationship with God. And that relationship is being built, not on the academic study of God, which has a habit of making him more into a set of facts, but on the contemplative disciplines—silence and solitude, meditation over Scripture, fixed-hour prayer.

And I don’t have it all together. That old Keith likes to come out every once and a while, and go a round or two. But I find him showing up less and less. I’ve made my goal to be like the leader that Henri Nouwen writes about:

Christian leaders cannot simply be persons who have well-informed opinions about the burning issues of our time. Their leadership must be rooted in the permanent, intimate relationship with the incarnate Word, Jesus, and they need to find there the source of their words, advice, and guidance. . . . Dealing with burning issues easily leads to divisiveness because, before we know it, our sense of self is caught up in our opinion about a given subject. But when we are securely rooted in personal intimacy with the source of life, it will be possible to remain flexible but not relativistic, convinced without being rigid, willing to confront without being offensive, gentle, and forgiving without being soft, and true witnesses without being manipulative.

Henri J.M. Nouwen, “In The Name of Jesus”