Monday, November 24, 2008

What I learned from my little experiment…

A few weeks ago, I posted a status comment on my Facebook page that ignited a certain amount of controversy: “Daisy is confused. If faith is the opposite of fear, then why do those who claim to be people of ‘faith’ peddle the most fear? Daisy is not afraid. She believes in God.” This post was the result of having been poked and poked and poked by those of my own faith who disagreed with my political views and called my faith into question given my “wayward political opinions.” I often opt not to respond to these insinuations, these carefully worded innuendoes, because I do believe what Tyler Perry says, “It’s not what people call you in this world that makes you who you are—it’s what you answer to.” In light of that wisdom, I have often ignored the subtle, personal attacks and judgments in regard to my relationship with God by those who claim to know Him just a little bit better than I do and who, let’s face it, are apparently just a little bit smarter. Those who have not been “deceived” by a liberal media (like I have—always the underlying meaning) have felt compelled to inform me of the “correct” opinions that are closer to the heart of God and, therefore, the ones to which I should adhere if I truly claim to be in tune with His Holy Spirit. The fact that I cuss, drink, and flash my boobs on occasion CERTAINLY does not help my case—this is the very folly that hammers every frivolous nail into my hell-bent coffin. I fully concede that fact. The fact that I have no intention of modifying a gosh-darn thing in that regard (because I believe the whole lot of it to be the most petty of issues) gives everyone who sits in the pews with me on Sunday mornings all the justification they need to disregard every single syllable I utter. I get it. To them I probably sound like the adults on every Charlie Brown cartoon special we’ve ever seen: “Wa waaaa, wa-wa waaaaaaa-wong-waaaa wa-wa waaaaaaaaaaa.”
I posted that statement to turn the tables. I chose to publicly post a statement that would bring into question the very faith of those whose political opinions were the opposite of my own. Honestly, it was about 10% retaliatory because I was tired of getting poked. But about 90% of the question was meant to turn the situation around out of sheer curiosity to see how others would react if I called their faith into question because of their politics—the way my own had been. In so doing, I pissed off pretty much everybody. The response I got was… OK, I’m just going to say it… boringly predictable. People who act with any measure of predictability are boring to me. Can’t help it. They do not compel me in any way. They are uninteresting. I think that’s why I pursue knowing Christ like I do. He’s unpredictable to me. I can’t figure that Guy out. He just seems so… beyond me. He intrigues me like no one else. For those who have figured Him out so completely, I stand in complete and total awe of you. How wonderful that must be to know exactly what He thinks about everything. I guess you truly are smarter than I am—more “in tune”. Hey, good for you. That’s great that you’ve got Him all figured out. Maybe someday I’ll be on the same spiritual level you are and stop flashing my boobs. The responses to my status comment ranged from patronizing to hostile. Some posted on my wall—others grilled me privately. Regardless of the intensity of people’s responses, one theme was universal: “Don’t you DARE question MY faith in God!”
Hmmm? That’s kind of how I felt when people were doing it to me. Of course, I’ve invalidated myself due to my unapologetically, irreverent, and frolicsome antics so people who know better have every right to judge me accordingly and go tearing into their prayer closets on my behalf, in fact, breaking the sound barrier on their way to intercede for my deluded, rebellious, backslidden soul who votes with the devil and his angels.
It’s enough to make me want to walk down the street buck-ass naked. Believe me, it’s only the shark-bait white skin, the muffin-top tummy, and the stretch marks that prevent me!
So what am I taking away from this little social experiment? Well? How about… Don’t ever stand up and exercise any kind of ability to think for yourself in the midst of a bunch of Christians—it’s JUST not the arena for such shenanigans. LIKE THIS IS BIG NEWS! No, there’s got to be something a little more earth-shattering than that! Let’s see… What have I learned? Keep my damn mouth shut? Hmmm. I think everybody knows THAT’S not going to happen. Truly? There’s probably nothing new under this rock. I’m no Galileo, but I’m pretty sure that my world is not flat. I’m pretty sure that God is bigger than my hard questions. I’m relatively convinced that He’s bigger than my opinions. And I’m absolutely POSITIVE that the predominant subculture of American Christians is no sanctuary for someone like me. I think. Therefore, I am, right? I’m not sure what people are who subject themselves to a subculture that does not encourage thinking, but rather, tells people what to think. Oh, surely, God gave us a free will and, in this country, we have the right to speak freely. But many of us have had to pay for what we say, so it’s only free for SOME people, I suppose. The rest of us? Not so much. Where do I send my penance check?
I’m not going to throw any more provocative questions into the conservative arena. That whole thing amounted to nothing more than throwing popcorn into a lake to a bunch of hungry carp. Most don’t take the time to truly look into my life. I can’t be worried about it. My Father looks into my life, and that’s all I need. He breathes into my life. He’s not afraid of how I vote. He’s not afraid of the questions I ask. He’s not worried about the momentum of the moral majority, and frankly, I think He could care less about the f-word, a good chardonnay, or who has seen my boobs. He sees my heart, and I am grateful.
I have a couple of options here, I think. I could ignore those who judge me and piss me off and call my faith into question. I could just continue like I have been, going about my Father’s business without the validation of my peers—feeding hungry children who need something to eat, giving something to drink for those who are thirsty, inviting strangers into my life, tending to those who are sick, and visiting those in prison. I could just leave it at that, right? As long as I keep cussing, drinking, and flashing my boobs, I don’t have to ever fear being lumped in with that “holier than thou” ensemble whose job it is to judge everything that swims upstream against the groupthink, which is just A-OK WITH ME! After all, I wouldn’t want there to be ANY CONFUSION!
Or, I could do something unpredictable. Something very un-boring. I could learn to show compassion to those who stand in judgment of me. Of course, I would have to stop comparing Christians to carp. I could start there. I could “…BE the change I want to see in the world.” Oh, wait, Ghandi said that. He wasn’t a Christian, so nobody has to listen to him… UGH! There’s that sarcasm again! I’ll have to work on that, which sucks because I’m REALLY stellar at it.
But, ultimately, I want to be stellar at being compassionate rather than being sarcastic and zinging people back who pop off to me. To tell you truth, I am slightly particular about who I show compassion to. I mostly show compassion to my kids and my inner circle and those I believe DESERVE my compassion.
How predictably boring.
I’ve been told I don’t have the guts to take a stand for Jesus. Literally. I’ve been told exactly that. I haven’t minded much, though, because my retort has always been that my accuser doesn’t have the guts to stand up in his own subculture and think for himself, whereas I’ve already proven that I do. And besides, with so much to do, who needs to be “standing” around? Whatever. Bygones. Who cares? My confession is this. As it stands right now, I do NOT have the guts to embrace those who judge me. My confession is, I am boring. I am predictable—as much as those whom I have judged for judging me. I was poked, and I poked back. Once again, I told God, “Hold my purse!” while I fought my own battle. Every time I do it, I come up empty. It’s always a wretched thing to do, and it never works out the way I fantasize that it’s going to in my mind. The 10,000 never, ever fall at my right hand. I’ve got to daily remind myself of Switchfoot’s advice:
Let it go
Daisy, Let it go
Open up your fist
This fallen world
Doesn't hold your interest
It doesn't hold your soul
Daisy, let it go

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Ministry of Spam-A-Lot

Since when is spamming a bona-fide ministry?
People believe the Internet to be the latest and greatest vehicle to spread their own personal convictions to the masses—the gospel according to… THEM! How easy it is! They never have to face anyone. They can throw the rudest and most accusing thoughts out into the universe without ever having to hear a retort or see the look of incredulity on the face of someone who might know something different. There are no social repercussions. They don’t have to cite their sources or have any proof for the claims they make or worry about that annoyingly trivial little thing called accountability. Logic can go completely awry and no one has to pay the piper. One simply has to click the send key and walk away feeling like he has helped make the world a better place in some small way. World War II reminds us that people don’t believe the little lies as easily as they believe the big ones. I’ve recently read some whoppers. Most of those whoppers use the tried and true tools of manipulation: intimidation, ridicule, and fear. Fear is the POLAR opposite of faith. Yet, what I’ve witnessed in the last few months are many who claim to be people of faith peddling the most fear.
I have a place on the Internet where I post my opinions. It’s called a blog, and I think it’s the greatest thing since peanut butter fudge with chocolate drizzles. I invite people to click on the link to my blog, but I do not copy and paste its contents and send it to everyone in my address book. On it, I state my opinions. And I’m not even gonna lie—it feels pretty good to vent. It’s an amazing feeling to put something out there and proclaim, “THIS IS WHAT I THINK, AND I DON’T CARE WHAT ANYBODY ELSE THINKS!” But I keep my rantings all in one solitary place. My reckless abandon is contained! I do NOT circulate my opinions and convictions around the Internet because I’m just not that arrogant to believe that anybody gives a shit as to what I think about anything. People can tune in or opt out. The only source I can cite for this wisdom is my own brain, so I could never presume to claim any legitimate credibility. People can agree or disagree. There is a place for comments where my readers have done just that—agreed and disagreed. How insulated and safe it all is, even when someone does disagree. If I’m afraid that someone might, in fact, have a differing opinion, I have a nifty little filter that allows me to preview any message before I post it. If I don’t like how people respond, I can simply delete their posts and go make myself a sandwich. (Incidentally, I have never even thought about filtering or deleting any response to my blog. Ever.)
What if we were forced to go back to a time when, if we felt compelled to throw our opinions into the ring, we had to actually face people? What if we had to actually look into the eyes of another person and say what was on our minds? Would we take such a strong, adversarial stance then? Would we do a little more research and make sure we knew what we were talking about before we stuck our necks out? Because now it seems that we don’t have to stick our necks out at all. Would we be as condescending? Would we still have the hutspa to be as rude and as glibly self-important as the Internet currently allows? I think we should have to look people in the eyes when we speak, acknowledge what we do to them with our words, and take responsibility if we insult them with the gratuitous “sharing” that we convince ourselves is simply the truth. I think we should have to consider the distinct possibility that if people are not receptive to what we say, then PERHAPS we could contemplate a little self-reflection? If that reflection leads us right back to our convictions, then PERHAPS we could rethink the delivery?
If compassion were an actual requirement, would we be kinder? Would we force ourselves to THINK, not only about WHAT we would say but HOW we would say it before we allow the words to come out of our mouths? Would we be more thoughtful to others if we were forced to physically absorb their reactions to our opinions? Would we be slightly more wary about how we spoke to people if we knew they could beat us up? Would we give someone else a chance to talk if we saw their face contort into confusion in response to our proclamations? Would we listen to them or just wait “politely” to stop talking so that we could have their strict attention again before we resume our tirade?
No, I suppose that’s too hard. It’s much easier to click furiously away at the keyboard and delude ourselves into thinking we’ve contributed to the world in some significant way.
I want to say a couple things here ON MY BLOG:
#1 Check your facts. Emails that have been spammed out across the globe are not the voice of God above. If it sounds ridiculous, it probably is. Stop forwarding the “whoppers” that history has taught us so many are susceptible to.
#2 Look people in the eye with whom you have differences and embrace them. It’s hard to hold anger in your heart when you’re holding someone in your arms. After all, people don’t care what you really think about anything. THAT’S the truth, my friends. That is, until you’ve shown them that you really do care about them. Invite someone to dinner who voted differently than you did or prays to another God. Don’t try to convert them. Just feed them. That single act will do more to heal our land than convincing even one person that you are right and he is wrong. After all, how many people do you need to piss off before you find that one needle in the haystack? And remember, people listen a lot better on a full stomach.
#3 Do your best to develop that ability to perceive how others perceive you. This will prove most helpful in your quest to win friends and influence people. Start by realizing this: If you are one of those folks who clicks furiously away at that keyboard and e-shares with the masses the opinions that have been so enlightening to YOU or forwards every piece of Internet fodder that comes into your inbox, you should probably stop and consider one thing. At least a good portion of the population thinks you’re an idiot. They’re not listening. You can’t put something in someone’s hands if they are clenched into fists. People who want to punch you make fists. Stop making people want to punch you. Love them, be kind to them, and they will open their hands. It’s very simple. If you’re reading this and you don’t care that people think you’re an idiot, and you’re resolved that you’re going to continue to bombard the rest of us with your never-ending two cents’ worth (in the name of God or your own conventional wisdom) you ARE an idiot! Come visit me as soon as you can so I can put my arms around you, look you in the eye, and tell you to your face.
If you come a long way, I’ll feed you dinner.