This post serves a dual purpose. I’m answering Sarah Bessey’s question, “What is saving your life right now?” and responding to my own action of deleting my “Don’t blog angry” post from earlier this week.
For those who might remember, I posted my disagreement with a fellow Christian who had written and spoken what I felt was some inappropriate “Christian-ese” in the wake of the violence in Aurora.
And yes, I was angry. I sat on that post for 24 hours and prayed and paced the apartment and vented to God and rehearsed all the appropriate scriptures about not letting the sun go down on one’s wrath and letting God be the judge and I was still angry.
This morning I went to God in prayer and I felt His gentle nudge, as if to say, You’ve made your point. Take down the post today.
So I did.
And—finally—I started thinking. Being the introspective type, I often wonder about the source of my strong emotions. So I found myself asking, What was it, exactly, that made me so angry?
What I’ve discovered over the years is that emotions can have a Houdini factor. Often what looks like a straightforward response (grief, love, etc.) will have some other emotion in there, riding shotgun. Or in some cases, one emotion is hiding but totally driving something else. The stampede of anger often is started with a lightning bolt of fear. When the dust settles, no one cleaning up the chaotic aftermath remembers that little cloud hanging low on the horizon.
So I went a-hunting. Why would that incident make me angry? What is the fear that drove this response?
What I discovered is that I am afraid of being pigeonholed into a stereotype. Because I already have been a victim of this type of thinking, I am particularly vulnerable to it. Somewhere deep inside I was thinking, Everyone who knows I am a Christian (which is just about everyone who knows me) will think I agree with this guy, and that I am that way. I’m not.
So I kicked back. Hard.
I stayed away from churches for years because of Jerry Falwell, before I realized that being a Christian didn’t mean I had to be like him, act like him or vote like him. (And given God’s sense of humor—or sense of justice—when it’s time to attend the wedding supper of the Lamb I suspect I’ll be seated right next to him. “Uh, hi Jerry… love your hair.”)
It is easy to be angry, especially when the anger feels justified. (And really, when does anger not feel justified?) And yet, thanks to the media’s propensity for popularizing the outrageous or frightening ‘fringe’ elements of our faith, mainstream Christians are increasingly being misperceived by our secular friends and neighbors. (Just a heads up to those who might be reading: no, not all Christians are Republicans. Not all Christians hate gays and love war. And not all Christians worship wealth.)
The flip side of all this is the Bible, which gives us clear guidelines about how to resolve disagreements. The drawback to this behind-the-scenes method is that rarely does such reconciliation lend itself to neat sound bites for the conflict-hungry media. It also promotes a view among non-Christians that we are “circling the wagons,” unwilling to be transparent. So most of us are left with the impression that the silent majority are just like the outrageous few, or that we all endorse their behavior. (The Muslims faced a similar conundrum after 9-11, a backlash fostered—somewhat ironically—by many western Christians, who happily forwarded inaccurate and condemning e-mails.)
So the silent ones are left with two options: stay silent and risk being misunderstood, or speak out and take hits from our fellow believers for being ‘unbiblical.’
I should take a moment and clarify that I have no desire to be some kind of radical. I have no need to create a schism in the church, nail my Ninety Five Theses to the church door, start a new denomination, or ride through the streets carrying a banner, rallying others to my cause.
I suppose I am just…curious. How does an individual Christian compete with a media-induced mountain of misperception? How do Christians disagree in the public sphere? DO Christians disagree in the public sphere? And how do I deal with the anger and frustration of it all without turning in to The Angry Blogger?
So I am asking you for your thoughts, ideas and responses. And—going back to Sarah’s question—I’m telling you that it is you who are saving my life right now. Thank you, thank you!