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misterc in christianchange

Please Help Me Understand

I know that I have held onto hurt & anger toward mainstream Christianity for a long, long time, and I honestly have grown so tired of lugging that burden around with me. I know that a big part of being a true follower of the Living Christ is to (in the most honorable sense of these following words, I promise) be a living bottomless pit of forgiveness. If we expect to be forgiven for our mistakes & our sins & our hurts against others, then we must stand at the ready to forgive others, even if they don't ask for forgiveness.

I am trying to make these more than just words, and I am trying to pray for those who hate me & seek to do harm against me...I really am...but I need help. I've been reading & seeing all kinds of news about the involvement in the African nation of Uganda by some in the American evangelical movement to create a law there that not only makes homosexuality illegal, but which subjects the "offender" to the possibility of the death penalty.

I know that I should turn the other cheek and keep these misguided people in my prayers, but how do I learn to speak those prayers from my heart when I keep hearing this same thing coming from them? This time it's a bill in Uganda; but we've seen them celebrate as they not only make it illegal for us to legally commit ourselves to those we love, and even take away rights from us in places like Maine & California. I know that they are not finished with us either. They want us gone. Non-existent. Extinct. Permanently removed.

I don't feel as if I am exaggerating. This is how all this comes across to me. This is how these people make people like me feel.

I try to concentrate on the fact that people who support and/or stand quiet while things like this are going on are not doing work that God has lead them to do, and I know that they are all misguided, but I can't keep making excuses for them, and I can't just keep praying that God will open their eyes before it's too late. I can't help but wonder if it's not already too late.

As much as I hate to use such blunt & graphic language, how can I keep praying for people who are constantly bashing my head in with their spiritual fists? How am I not supposed to want to fight back, and not become angry when I see & hear the lies & the real harm they're doing to people whose only "sin" is that they don't love the way most other people do???

These aren't rhetorical questions, and I am in tears writing these words, and I want to know if anyone out there can help me understand how I can ever move forward with this kind of stuff going on all around me. How I can learn to forgive people who not only don't want or believe they need forgiveness, and who seem intent on quite literally killing (people like) me?

When does forgiveness effectively become surrender?

Comments

How am I not supposed to want to fight back, and not become angry when I see & hear the lies & the real harm they're doing to people who's only "sin" is that they don't love the way most other people do???

You should want to fight back, and you should become angry, because what they are doing is wrong. However, you should focus that anger and that fight against what they are doing, rather than against them personally. Hate the sin; love the sinner. Recognise that fallibility is the basic characteristic of humanity. Use the anger as motivation to work towards helping them to move out of their destructive behaviours and into constructive ones.
Thank you, alasthai, for your advice!

My heart tells me that I must forgive people so badly mislead, but it's harder & harder to do when my heart never seems to heal completely from being constantly dismayed & hurt. You'd think I'd have grown used to their cruel words & actions, and you'd think I'd be so used to be stunned that I'd be numb to it by now, but I'm not. It still hurts, even though I know they're wrong, and even though I feel I am spiritually in a place beyond their "power" to hurt me personally.

I will always remember when I allowed "them" to take my own humanity from me, and when I gave "them" the power to make me honestly believe that I would never see Heaven because of my defective heart. I do my best every day to remember that lies cannot hurt me, and that I am a child of God, even if I am the only one in the world who believes it. I truly am not worried about myself. My worry is for those I know are out in there in world, and who are now as I was then. I know their thoughts & their fears & their hurt, because they were mine once...because I was them once.

Not one day goes by that don't I mourn for my GLBTQI brothers & sisters who live in this world & who don't know any better than to believe the awful, vicious things that these self-proclaimed "people of God" say about them and call them. Most especially, though, I have a permanent ache in my very soul for those of my brothers & sisters who have left this world believing they were never good enough and never deserving enough for an eternity with their Maker. For me, that is the saddest, most horrible thing of all. Knowing that misguided people who obviously need my prayers have blood on their hands in this & that they will answer one day for their perverted dedication at keeping all those beautiful souls from the Father feels like cold comfort to me at a time like this.

I will keep praying for them, because I must, and I will do what I can to counter their evil works--no matter what their "honorable" intentions--but, to be honest, the imperfect human in me still finds it hard to keep forgiving people who seem to work harder & harder everyday at perpetrating their ugly iniquities in the name of God.

Above all, though, I don't want to become "them" in order to defeat their lies. I know that the foundation of their hateful Religion is built on shifting sands, and that one day God will allow it all to come tumbling down, because I know that it isn't just me or my brothers & sisters they are hurting; they are hurting God, too.
To be honest, I am glad that you are not numb to their viciousness: even though it hurts you to still be sensitive to it, being sensitive to it is the motivation to change it. Most of the Western world has managed to deal to at least the institutional forms of sexism and racism, and so gender/orientation is the next big social justice issue. We beat the others, and we will beat this one, although it can be useful to remember that the others took two centuries to conquer.

I do understand something of what you feel for your GLBTQI brothers & sisters. I happen to be cisgendered and (mostly) straight, but they are still my human brothers & sisters, and that is more than enough reason for me to be furious with anyone who tries to take away their human rights. I know people who have been scarred by the discrimination propagated through Christianity, including discrimination which has led some to take their own lives because they were not accepted as they were. I still find it bizarre that some parts of the world will not let two people marry because they happen to be of the same sex, or that they will allow an employer to fire or refuse to hire someone for being transgender, let alone such barbarism as executing people for loving others of the same sex.

As tempting as it might be, though, we would gain nothing by going on the bigot-slaughtering crusade, and that is what strikes me as the most important thing: the situation is wrong, and so we must work to fix it. Being an agnostic, I am not sure about where God fits in with all of this, but of one thing I am certain: if God is good, love is not a sin.
Alasthai,

Not that you need my "seal of approval", but I must tell you how very impressed I am by your insightful words...especially considering that you are agnostic.

On my long, slow journey to reclaim my faith, just before I was ready to give up on Christianity all together (before I came to realize the difference between faith and Religion; and the difference between God & those who claim to speak for Him), I found a friend here on LJ who told me something that you reminded me of with this particular response. My CHRISTIAN friend told me that some of the most moral, most loving & understanding people he knows are atheists and agnostics. I know it wasn't your intent, but you have just cemented that thought in my mind.

My view of faith or whatever belief system a person has or doesn't have is quite simple...maybe some would say simplistic. If you have found a belief system that works in your life & that sustains you (and doesn't hurt anyone else), who is anyone else in the world to tell you that you are wrong? Who is so perfect & so without need of at least periodic self-examination that s/he can justify the hubris of telling others how to lead their lives? I can only speak for me, of course, but I already have enough on my metaphorical plate in just trying to live my ONE life without trying to check up on everyone to make sure they're living their lives according to the way I see things.

In this matter, I realize that much of what I believe & much of my own life philosophy is not shared with most Christians, but the story of my life is an object lesson in being different. I've finally learned to be OK with that, though. As I always say, if there is a problem with how & what I believe, it's not my problem, it's "theirs". I just happen to think that there are many paths to know & to honor God...whatever & whoever that may be for you.

When I was a child, I remember my Sunday School teacher telling my class that most of us weren't meant for an outright ministry, per se. Most of us would do our part for the Kingdom of God on Earth by simply living our lives as best we can according to our beliefs. He told us that the fruit we bear in life will attest to our faith, and he was right.

My "life" before coming out of my closets (the "gay" one AND the "Christian" one) was bleak and morose; there truly was no LIFE in my "life" then. I never tried to end my life (too much of my Southern Baptist upbringing in me to do that), but I also didn't think it would be a bad thing if I were to be struck by lightning while walking in a rainstorm, or hit by a bus as I was crossing a street. There was no joy in life back then, and I felt no connection at all to the world around me. The sad truth is that I had hidden for so long that I couldn't even find myself.

Since allowing God to lead me into the light of day, and the reclamation of my faith, my life has not been perfect, but I am truly a new creature. I am nothing like the poor, sad, self-hating thing that hid away in the darkest corners of life. My life now bears the fruit of a man who is thankful for every day he is given, and who does his best to count my blessings every day. It's funny, but most people I know have just assumed I am a Christian, without my attending church & without ever having had a discussion about faith. I guess I see more value in conducting my life as best I can as a follower of Jesus Christ than in screaming it out to the world...but that's just me! :-)

Anyway, thank you again for you sage advice & your help in putting all this into perspective.

Just so you know, I've friended you, and I'd be honored if you felt lead to do the same, but no pressure! :-)

Clarence (a.k.a. Mr. C)
There are good and kind people who are agnostics or atheists; there are also plenty of complete pillocks who are agnostics or atheists. I am far from sure that the distribution is any different from that in Christianity, or in any other belief position. Humans are humans.

a belief system that works in your life & that sustains you (and doesn't hurt anyone else)

I think that this really is the thing, and let me put it in a slightly different way: a believe system which produces good, for you and for others. When a belief produces nett harm, it is a bad belief; when it produces a nett benefit to all, it is a good belief.

I am touched by the fact that you feel inspired to friend me, and I hope that you will not be offended by me not returning the gesture just yet: I am a very private person, and have made a few hasty mistakes in the past, and so I tend to wait until I have a very good idea of what people are like before I let them in. (Yeah, I've got trust issues.)
Every word true, of course.

As for trust issues, I can understand, and I honor that.

Not to be RELIGIOUS or anything like that ;-), but if the spirit moves you, and if/when I merit said honor, I'd be humbledto be allowed into your (LJ) confidence. :-)

As a lesbian Christian, I cannot give a satisfactory answer to questions like this. I read about people who do things like this and I truly, genuinely want them to die. I can come close to even an abstract sort of love as a fellow human being only occasionally. I can pray for help in using my justified anger for good rather than allowing it to become hatred, and I do.
I struggle so much with this, too. As well as those who hurt the poor, animals, children, etc. It just makes me rage. Yesterday I'd have had no answer for you beyond commiseration. That, and the fact that my first reaction to finding out about this was, "These people need to be assassinated." Yikes.

But last night I picked up Martin L. Smith's book, Compass and Stars. Smith is a former superior of the Episcopal Society of St. John the Evangelist, who about 10 years ago left the monastic life to be a priest in the world. He's a brilliant theologian and pastor, is openly gay, and has the most loving heart I've ever encountered.

The 6th chapter of the book was inspired by a series of murders of transgendered people in the Washington, D. C. area; the title is "There is Only Us." Smith writes that:

There is only us in Christ, no "us and them." Often in our church we try to get at this reality by constantly reciting phrases about inclusiveness, but this remains on the level of mere jargon unless we face the brutal realism of the gospel about our need to be broken open. Jesus told us that in order to break through to the sense that in God we are all together as equals and to the discovery that estrangement is illusion, we have to break free from those loyalties that foster the false consciousness of us and them. He spoke about "hating" our parents and leaving home, with the family standing for all those comunities - our class, nation, denomination, or whatever - that we use to define ourselves throuh the exclusion of outsiders. To talk glibly about inclusiveness without going into the cost of breaking the ties that literally bind is futile.

Ties that bind us, preventing us from meeting the stranger and loving the enemy, have to be broken again and again - not to reject those who want to confine us within the bounds of "our kind," our tribe and sect, club and class and race, but in order to gain the freedom to meet them again as equals, as part of the one holy family.

. . . Jesus is already in the heart of friend or alien. It is he who is looking at us, making a bid for our love, through the eyes of every human being.
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I find this incredibly challenging, but my heart recognizes it as gospel truth. I want to hate and distance myself from those I perceive as the hurters of the world, but God is calling all of us to resist that way of thinking and acting. That does not mean ignoring hatred or violence in others, nor numbing our hearts to pain, but opening our hearts more fully to Christ's presence in the other. I don't know how to do this yet, but I trust God to reveal it to me as I become able to take it in.

Prayers, brother.

dove

November 2010

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