Friday, December 07, 2007

Somebody Ban me from the Internet

This is how the Instant Messenger conversation went.

Really Nice Lady*: Thanks for chatting with me, Dave. Have a great weekend!!!!

me: You tool!

*Not her real screen name, but at this point, it doesn't matter.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Christian Love & Telling the Truth

From my friend Laura's comment she left in response to this entry from two years ago:
I simply cannot understand someone invoking Jesus Christ while fostering intolerance and hate.

Upon adopting the ultra-conservative brand of Evangelical Christianity in my late teens, I put my moral compass through rigorous recalibration in my quest to fall in line with the tenets of my newfound faith.

Some may call it indoctrination. We called it "discipleship." As a new convert, I was taught to rid myself of my "old nature," which involved renouncing the depraved ideas planted into my head by the "world," and thus radically reorienting my worldview.

The concept of "love" was among the first to be redefined.

The most important aspect of love, I was told, is telling the truth. The world's definition of love is spineless, perverse and mushy, and it fosters an environment of sin and immorality, the thinking went.

If someone is living in sin and rebellion against God, which is the case with the outside world, the "most loving thing" to do is to tell the truth that he is on a collision course with God's wrath and eternal damnation, I was taught.

Don't take my word for it. Follow this link and watch the Youtube clip put together by a Christian radio talkshow host named Todd Friel. His five minute video presentation pretty much covers all the standard talking points and illustrations of what love is and isn't according to his belief.

If a patient's diagnose showed cancerous growth, he argues, what would be "the most loving thing" that a doctor should do? Sitting around and listening to the patient's hopes and dreams, and telling them how much he loved him would amount to malpractice in the face of the deadly disease. A good doctor would "tell the truth," and make plans for a painful, but necessary treatment regimen, and that is how the good doctor would show love.


This redefined meaning of love served as the overarching theme of my faith through my formative years and well into my 30's. Deeply entrenched in the "truth" mindset, I was absolutely impervious to outside criticism. I would have dismissed Laura's observation as sour grapes from hell-bound people who did not want to hear the truth. They were rejecting the message and Jesus, we assured ourselves, not just us.

Accusations of intolerance and hate only emboldened us. We viewed them as a badge of honor. It was a sign that we were doing it right. We could not afford to water-down the message in the Rodney King can-we-get-along fashion to make people feel good about themselves.

We frowned upon "liberal" Christian charity organizations. What good is it bring food and shelter to people when we don't "tell the truth" about God's wrath and looming eternal damnation, we lamented. Mother Teresa often took the brunt of our vitriolic invective for her part in filling people's tummies with food instead of the badly needed truth.

The "truth" mindset also manifested itself in how I approached Scripture. Every verse and passage in the Bible hinged on the doctrine of "telling the truth."

For example, the Bible says love is kind. Sounds straightforward, doesn't it? Doesn't this mean when we show love by being nice? Not so fast.

Since telling the truth was the most loving thing one could do, telling the truth was also the kindest thing one could do. That the world did not see kindness in us did not necessarily mean we weren't being kind. In fact, we were exercising the the truest form of kindness even though you might perceive it as hate and intolerance.

Get it?

As convoluted and contrived my one trick pony Christianity looks in retrospect, the aforementioned methodology enabled me to explain away and work around virtually every Bible passage which appeared to repudiate my strident and belligerent rhetoric and attitude. The system I embraced, through hundreds of hours of listening to sermons and reading books, was a well-oiled machine with ready answers to every criticism leveled at us.

But there was this one troublesome Bible passage which I could not come up with a workaround for. It haunted me. The more I tried to ignore it, the more it ate at me.

Just hours away from facing the gruesome death on the cross, Jesus huddled together with his disciples and delivered his final message. See it for yourself, and don't let me contaminate you with my interpretation of it.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.

By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."
- John 13:34-35

By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another....

Here 's the bottom line: You are known for what you are known for.

Surely you may or may not be what you are known for. Don't worry about what others think of you, most of us have been told, because what others think of you is not necessarily a true portrayal of who you are.

But that is not what I am talking about.

You are known for what you are known for. Scream and complain all you want if you don't like what you are known for. Life isn't fair. Blame the liberal media which has become a favorite pastime for conservative Christians. But at the end of the day, you are still known for what you are known for. Perceptions suck, but good luck fighting them.

I have never met outside the Evangelical community, anyone who views conservative Christians as the champions of love. Have you?

By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another....

One may say the reputation of intolerance and hate stems from the world's distorted understanding of love.

If you believe that, you have a monumental task of reeducating six billion people out there with your true definition of love, and then convince them that you are full of love, so that "all men will know" you for your love as Jesus declared in the passage quoted above.

At 5'7", I would love to be known to be tall. I want "all men to know" that I am tall. Much like you, I too would need to reeducate a lot of people, but not nearly as many people you'd have to. Not even close. I can skip over Gary Coleman's house in my mission to redefine what tall is, so that "all men will know" that I am tall.

I really don't think you have that luxury.

By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another....

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