Thursday, May 10, 2007

Use Words if Necessary

Becoming interested in a person or topic causes me to root around in it until I come to the end of my curiosity. Thomas Merton has been my person and topic for awhile now, and I’m still enjoying the process of discovering him. It’s been enjoyable knowing that others have had the same enrichment from his life and writings.

I found this quote in the book I’m currently relishing, and it hit home. Whack! It was part of a letter written to Etienne Gilson.

"Please pray for me to Our Lord that, instead of merely writing something, I may be something, and indeed that I may so fully be what I ought to be that there may be no further necessity for me to write, since the mere fact of being what I ought to be would be more eloquent than many books."

Such single-minded aspiration takes my breath away.

Especially when I come across its opposite.

Shortly after my morning reading, breakfast, and chores, I read one of my favorite blogs, where the blogger presented her reading list. She inquired if anyone had suggestions of books to add. In the comment box I read some replies, taking notes as many of the recommendations were new to me. I love stuff like this! People sharing their love of literature.

Then I noticed an ‘anonymous’ comment, suggesting simply, the Bible.

I’m not sure why, but I got a bad mojo vibe when I read it. It felt somehow judgmental.

This intelligent, kind, sometimes sarcastic blogger wrote back that it was too bad because she’d burned all her Bibles years ago. I smiled. Whether she actually has burned her Bibles or not, I have no idea. It was her quick wit that made me chuckle.

‘Anonymous’ wrote back, “That explains all.”

“What a jerk,” I thought.

But his or her snide comments have stuck with me all day today. Gandhi’s words came to mind: “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

A few months of regularly reading the blog I’m referring to have revealed its author to be bright, sensitive, insightful, compassionate, funny, opinionated, determined, wise, and vulnerable. She’s a seeker, a quality person.

Reading only five words from ‘Anonymous’ leaves me without any evidence as to his/her intentions. Maybe it’s a friend who’s playing a joke, I don’t know. The slam seems genuine enough, through these eyes that read many comments.

Even if it’s not, I have encountered genuine slams from 'Christians' too many times. I've been the third party witness to such rudeness, as well as the recipient. It happens. Often. How can insults and condescension produce relief or goodness?

In the past I have, without conscience and to my shame, peddled down-the-nose, smelly sanctimony to those who don’t share my spiritual beliefs. I hope that unenlightened, stupid part of me has been put to rest once and for all. The deeper one seeks, the more apparent becomes the shallowness of his progression. I have a long way to go. Who am I to judge another’s journey?

Bothersome it remains to be a truth-seeking, gospel-believing Christian while the term ‘Christian’ is slopped around by posers as though it were a pair of giant, spiked, clodhopper boots designed for climbing over the indiscriminately crushed souls and ideas of ‘unbelievers.’ It hurts my heart.

For those faux-Christians who, in the name of Christ, can only insult, judge, ridicule, slap, spit, and strut, I say please examine your hearts and actions. If you can't find compassion for others, then for God’s sake, shut up...until you can.

For the rest of us, St. Francis has good advice, “Preach the gospel everywhere. Use words if necessary.”


Pam said...

Oh, Cherie, did you ever hit a home run with this one. I've been on both sides of this coin and am most ashamed of ever having been on the Christian looking-down-my-nose side of the coin. But I know I have been there. Spiritual arrogance. It's powerful and putrid. And oh so human.

Another great post -- absolutely loved your summing it up with "...then for God's sake, shut up..." Amen!

Cherie said...

Thanks, Pam. Got THAT bur out from under my saddle!

Spiritual arrogance, powerful and putrid - hit the head of the nail, Twin!

tshsmom said...

You probably noticed MY reaction to "Anonymous".
I've witnessed a lot of people who were on the fence about rejoining the fold (most of them teens), when they were pushed AWAY from believing by people like ANON.

St Francis is one of my heroes, but I'd never seen that quote before. That is soooo TOTALLY my philosophy! I'll be using it a LOT in the future. Thanks!

Cherie said...

Not only did I notice, but I salute your response, tshs.

I, too, have known a lot of people who've been pushed away. Extrememly frustrating.

Glad St. Francis' words hit home with you!

Wandering Coyote said...

Cherie, thanks for this. It was so reaffirming. That Anon lurks regularly, several times a day, in fact. I have no idea who it is. But you know what? I don't care. I believe anyone who reads the blog and actually gets it - like you - knows that I am a good person just being as honest as I can about what's going on with my and my world. I don't get where this urge to judge comes from, but it is very unChristian-like. I grew up in the church and lived in a Christian community for several months not long ago. If I learned anything through those experiences it's that the teachings of Christ are about understanding, inclusiveness, acceptance, and kindness, not judgement, and that real Christians live these teachings. This is a sharp contrast to many of the teachings in the Old Testament, which lots of so-called Christians like to use as their trump card.

I did not burn my bibles by the way. I donated them to a literacy project.

Deadmanshonda said...

Amen sister! This is a wonderful post and it resonates with my own feelings on the subject. Thanks for writing about this in such a kind, honest, yet convicted manner.

Anonymous said...

I loved this post and that you used this quote: “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” So sad but true.

Cherie said...

WC - I don't know exactly where the urge to judge comes from either, but I suspect maybe self-righteousness and/or fear.

I guess we can all stand to remember the adage in the Bible about taking the log out of our own eyes before going after the splinter in someone else's. Judging is pretty easy to do in the right setting - compassion takes thought and heart.

You handle Anon. quite well.

And you didn't burn your Bibles, but donated them. Why am I not surprised?

Thanks for your response, W.C. You are wise.

deanna said...

Let me add my Amen! to the chorus, o Cherie the contemplative and kind.

Cherie said...

Thanks, Leisel. I am encouraged to know that so many others have these thoughts and feelings on the subject.

Desiree, I agree, that is a good and yes sad, quote isn't it. You'd think all Christians would be the most loving, compassionate, kind, understanding, helpful, non-judgmental people on the face of the Earth, - many are. I guess if we can learn from the failings of others and find fresh determination to be better, well, maybe that's a sort of silver lining on a rather dark cloud, huh.

Cherie said...

Thanks, Deanna. You are too kind. :-D

Anonymous said...

Oh yes, this is good. I have felt guilty for sometimes being embarrassed to say I'm a Christian because I know the person asking has a bad idea of what that means. I still claim Christ but in different words. How has this happened? Good post, Cherie. Very thoughtful and kind as Liesel noted.

Cherie said...

Annie, it's rough, isn't it. You almost expect to hear the rooster crow. I believe God understands. How has this happened? Good question. Thanks for your honesty, friend.

Anonymous said...

Great post Cherie, I enter a little late, but this one tore open an old wound that I have had to deal with for some time now. I think you just have to hope the judges find a place to calm their hearts down and learn that there's no sense in judging, because in the end, we all end up eating our harsh words.

Humiliation is a wonderful gift.

Don't you wonder why people sign comments as anonymous?

IndianaJones said...

I have a feeling if I met Jesus on the street he would in no way resemble a "christian"
I shy away from that term on it's own and often just say I'm a Biblical Christian. I find the qualifier warrants further questioning from whomever I'm speaking with and then I can explain that I do not associate myself with modern Christianity.

I agree with Sandy, humiliation is such a wonderful gift.

Lisa Smith said...

I hate it when I hear (or read) something from a "Christian" and feel like you did reading this.

We are to be known by our love. There are many people who love God with their whole hearts who struggle to read the Bible regularly. And, there are many who read the Bible regularly who do not love God with their whole hearts.

May we love all. We all struggle with something. I pray my relationship with Christ will cause others to seek a person not just read a book.

And, God forbid, may we not be on the judgment end of one of these exchanges ever again.

I could get on my soapbox right here but you've done such a perfect job summing it up! Thanks, Cherie.

Cherie said...

I'm so sorry that this post opened up an old wound for you, Sandy. :-(

You seem to have a good handle on the situation, though. I know I've eaten my share of my own harsh words - and they've brought humiliation, which was a gift that, once opened, produced a little bit of growth. A hard way, but a sure way, if a person is willing to see and learn. I hope you find healing for your wound. Sadly, we all have them.

Summer - I've thought about that many times, your idea that Jesus would not resemble a 'christian' and would no doubt be on the receiving end of just what we are all talking about here. I'll have to use your term Biblical Christian - sounds sort of Jack-ish, and would work for me.

Lisa - soap boxes are good things now and then. :-D They blow out the stale air and make room for the fresh - sometimes. Your second paragraph is terrific - true true!

Thanks, Sandy, Summer, and Lisa for your input. It adds much to this dialogue! Appreciated.

cecily said...

ah cherie... every time I come there is a deep post to be read, and somehow any comments I might leave seem trite (for how can you condense a conversation into a couple of lines in reply!). Thanks for another pithy post that stimulates my thinking.

Cherie said...

Nothing you write could be trite, Cecily, but I know how you feel. Thanks for your comment. Words of encouragement make the struggle seem worthwhile. :-)

tshsmom said...

Look at all the amazing responses here!! We need to post this somewhere high profile, to prove to the unbelievers that not all Christians are like Anon!
God bless you all!!

Cherie said...

And once again, tshs, you and I are on the same page. Last night I was telling Tom about the response to this post from all of you wonderful people. We concluded that if we all feel this way about our Christianity, then there must me very very many others who do as well, all over the world. Encouraging!

Like you, I wish that those who've been turned off by the posers could read these comments.

Thanks, tshs.

And thanks to all of you who have and continue to comment. This dialogue here is challenging, encouraging, and helpful for all of us!

Marianne Elixir said...

Amen, amen, and amen.

I was overcome with a familiar feeling of true fellowship as I read through your blog and this comment dialog.

Cherie said...

It's aromatically sweet, isn't it, Marianne.

tshsmom said...

Who'da thunk it?! heehee

Cherie said...

Yeah, tshs, who'd a thunk it! (Happy Mother's Day, by the way!)