I know that I have been touching on this topic somewhat in recent thoughts, but I think it deserves some deeper consideration. Last night, at our Lenten Soup Supper and Discussion, we talked about this, and I asked those present if they ever were the targets of mean christians, and if they themselves had ever done something that might have hurt or offended someone in church. The discussion was lively and deeply personal, and I tried to make it clear that someone can be defensive over an innocent comment or action we make, regardless of our intent. People can also be having a bad day, and we need to give people some grace when we feel like they are being unkind. Interpersonal relationships are not always clean or easy; we can all do or say things that, unwittingly, seem mean or unkind.
But then there are the actual mean christians; the ones who purposely interpret Scripture in ways that give them permission (or so they think) to treat others badly. The people who, in the name of Jesus, attacked anyone who they thought looked Muslim after the attacks of 9/11. The church folks holding “God Hates Fags” signs. The cross-wearing-screaming-angry protestors calling scared teenage girls “whores” outside of Planned Parenthood buildings. There are more, and we have all seen them or heard about them. Their moral certitude and righteous anger spewed toward those they disagree with is damaging, and they are everywhere. They kick churches out of their denomination for ordaining women; they leave their denomination because it allows congregations to ordain, or even welcome, LGBTQ people. Through their actions and words, they take Jesus and wield Him like an AK-57, spiritually (and sometimes physically) dispatching those they disagree with (or hate) to hell. None of this wimpy “love your enemy” or “turn the other cheek” nonsense (as if Jesus would have actually said those things!) for them – this is all out “an eye for an eye” warfare, and they plan to be on the winning side. Surprise! They got it very wrong.
We should all do our best to be our best, but sometimes, we just aren’t. We all wake up on the wrong side of the bed – we read an article that upsets us – we have a “discussion” with our spouse or mom or friend or kid that puts us in a bad mood – we aren’t perfect, and we can, on occasion, allow life to get in the way of our being kind. As long as being unkind doesn’t become a regular occurrence (then, we probably need some counseling), I think we need to give ourselves a little grace too. Even Jesus lashed out at people occasionally. But if your theology teaches you to hate or mistreat others, you need a new theology. Stop using the Bible, or any Scripture, for that matter, as an excuse to cause mayhem. God’s Holy Words are there to help us to be better people, not to be used to attack people. Better to err on the side of love than hate, don’t you think?
Prayer – Guide us, O Holy One, to read Your words with a grain of salt, knowing that a loving God would want us to live in peace and act for justice. Amen.
Today’s art is a graphic composition of the cross of Jesus setting free a trio of beautiful, iconic butterflies. GDArts / Getty Images.