Friday, September 28, 2012

Can we just drop the F-bomb?

Why do some Christians choose to be so easily offended when they know they live in a fallen world full of sin and are part of a family made up of believers who are all sinful people?  I re-shared something on Facebook the other day.  It was pretty funny for the video game-knowledgeable, general nerd crowd.  Apparently, the group that posted it had the F-word in its name.  Someone I am "Friends" with on Facebook freaked out about that and sent me a text at 5 in the morning and also sent an email freaking out about it and telling how offensive it was that this word existed on my Timeline.  I took a couple of days to respond because I couldn't trust myself not to be a jerk about it. 

It brought back to mind this pre-occupation with appearances many Christians have.  Don't smoke, don't drink at all, don't swear, don't show how you really feel, don't hang out with folks who do these things because that makes you guilty by association.  I guess they wouldn't approve of Jesus since he was referred to as a friend of sinners because he had a reputation for hanging out with people the religious elite considered bad.

Keep up appearances; stay in these lines, and you are one of us.  That is not the law of Christ/the law of love.  It's kind of the opposite, really.  Then there's the whole Don't Cause a Brother to Stumble and the way we really blow that one out of context . . .  Can we really just drop this preoccupation with being offended by real life happening around us?  Or is that a dangerous line of apathy to cross?

To be honest, I was irked mostly because these are tough issues, and I don't really want to deal with them right now.  Again.  Especially when I'm not really at my best.  (See next paragraph.)

I'm in increasing pain and in a corresponding increasingly bad mood.  I'm glad I took the time to respond in a way that didn't dump my general frustrations on this person, but I'm also disappointed at this reminder that sometimes we're so busy judging others about useless things that we can seem really tedious and not the loving, thoughtful people we're commanded to be.  I can't possibly have this conversation with this person right now because I'm too easily riled up when I've had so little sleep and so much pain.

When I'm this hurt and likely to lash out, maybe I should just avoid all social media altogether.  My poor judgment seems likely to be less exhausting and less offensive to people's delicate sensibilities.  Like I said, I'm not a nice person to be around right now.

The whole situation made me more tired.  I forget sometimes that some Christians: 
  • live in enclaves of evangelical Christians and only have social contact with other believers. (Some statistics indicate that most new Christians have no more non-Christian friends within 2 years of getting saved.)
  • don't hear this word every day through the walls of their old, cheap apartment building. 
  • are bothered enough by this word that they will take action on behalf of the other people it might possibly offend.
  • are not mostly numb to it after spending time abroad. 
  • have no friends who say it. (This can mean all sorts of things.)
  • are sheltered and safe enough that they care more about a bad word forwarded peripherally on Facebook than a million other things they could and should be more concerned about as Christians.
On another note, Facebook says, "[TMIA] likes To Cause a Brother to Stumble" because I liked Addie's excellent post on this phrase.  Oh, Facebook, you little troublemaker.  What did I ever do to you?

Friday, September 21, 2012

Responding to "public" sin

So a quote about how people erroneously confuse goodness with niceness got me thinking.  And then I started wondering about how this fake niceness can exist alongside the ranty rage that characterizes the politics of morality these days.  How can we have both?

This sort of thing is hard to find biblical examples for, I guess.  Some things (as Paul pointed out in Corinthians) are just clearly morally wrong and need to be addressed by the church more publicly (I think it was someone having an affair with his mother-in-law or something in that particular example).  But I thought the Bible was pretty clear that sin is something that concerns the body of Christ and needs to be addressed within the body. 

I tried to think of public examples, but, you know, the internet wasn't really around in biblical times, so there's really no direct parallel.  The closest I could get were Jesus' displays of anger in the Temple and the way He wouldn't hold back when confronted out in town by certain religious elite of the time. And that wasn't really close at all because that was still within the confines of the "religious" world.

Do you have any examples, ideas, or opinions about this idea?  (How) Ought we to respond to "public" sin as individuals?  Is it worth expending energy, or should we be using that energy more within the local body?  Paul strongly indicated that our responsibility as a member of the body is to judge sin within the body, but he did seem to think there were times to publicly take a stand when sin in the church was getting out of hand.  Is generally staying out of the public discourse really the wiser path, though?  Or does it lead to even more dire consequences than people thinking the body of Christ is made up of unreasonable, hateful jerks?

I've contemplated before whether the opposite of love (strong positive emotion) is really hate (strong negative emotion) or is actually apathy (the absence of emotion).  I find myself wondering about it again.  There's a lot of emotion swirling.  Is it better for it to be misplaced emotion than none at all?  Better to try to care for the world and fail at doing it or to just give up and not care at all?

My head hurts.  What about yours?  Any insights or other questions to throw in?

Friday, September 14, 2012

No need to be meaner

Thinking about how we conflate ethical or just conduct (goodness) and polite conduct (niceness), I said that sometimes the culture of fake niceness bothered me in the church.  This strikes me as particularly funny because it almost makes it sound like I want people to be meaner in the church.  Really, I don't.  Especially not in these politically combustible times when there is a whole lot of screaming and what appears to be hatred directed toward and away from people who go to church on Sunday.

Recently, a friend of mine posted something on Facebook that was pretty counter Evangelical culture, and someone just ripped into him in the most unreasonable and destructive way possible.  Regardless of who was right or wrong or who I agreed with on basic principle or didn't, I was horrified to watch once child of God treat another child of God like that.  There was rage and contempt and anger and fear nearly bordering on hate and not really any sign of thoughtfulness, reason, or, well, love on the part of the attacker, while the attacked remained calm and reasonable and tried to redirect the posts towards the actual issue/argument at hand.

I tried to defuse the situation, but I ended up getting slapped, as well.  Stepping back away from the cloud of acrimony and letting the hurt subside a bit, I can now more clearly recognize that there was genuine concern and even anguish, but it was applied in the most unproductive way possible in the most unproductive place possible. 

Later I was told that the person who made all the hurtful comments was a very learned man with many degrees and a lot of knowledge about theology.  Maybe this person was trying from a place of knowledge and deep conviction to speak the truth in love, but he was frankly speaking the language of unreasonable hatred and couldn't even understand that this way of handling the situation was a new kind of wrong he was bringing in and committing against the brother he believed had wronged him.  (Or the world or whoever it was he thought had been wronged and needed defending because, well, just keep reading.)

I was also told the wife of the man said that he didn't think the Bible verses I brought up applied to the situation because my referenced verses were when Jesus was talking about how we should respond when a brother sins against us, and that's not what was happening in this case.

I had a few thoughts about that.
  1. In this particular case, lots of the rantings were very much obvious accusations of sins committed against the ranter (at least in his own mind).  
  2. What exactly does it mean to sin against a person?  In the past, I've wondered about this idea because, really, how frequently does someone in my local body of Christ sin against me?  Not very frequently.  (It helps to be antisocial and not really have relationships with people, certainly.)  If this is how we are supposed to keep each other on the right path as members of the body of Christ, it seems kind of . . .  I'm not sure inefficient is the right word.  Hands-off?  Maybe we're not understanding this idea of sinning against a person right.  Maybe it's broader?  Maybe it's indicating that whenever one of our family members in Christ sins and we see it?  Is it that someone does something that offends us morally?  What is sin against a person?
  3. What is our responsibility when a brother doesn't sin against us (in the way I initially interpreted it) but publicly makes a stand/does something we believe is wrong?  Since the sin is committed in a public forum, should it be addressed in the same public space?  Or is it not our place to address it publicly? And should this be limited only to believers?  What does the internet do to the body of Christ?  How are they related?  (How) Should they relate?
Any thoughts?

Friday, September 7, 2012

Goodness, niceness, kindness, the meaning of words

Rachael says: "Here’s all I am saying: the conflation of ethical or just conduct (goodness), and polite conduct (niceness) is a big problem."
"This works because the primacy of nice in our culture creates a useful tool – to control people and to delegitimise their anger. A stark example of this is the stereotype of the desirably meek and passive woman, which is often held over women’s heads if we step out of line. How much easier is it to hold on to social and cultural power when you make a rule that people who ask for an end to their own oppression have to ask for it nicely, never showing anger or any emotion at being systematically disenfranchised? (A lot easier.)"
"So if you – the oppressed – hurt someone’s feelings, you’re just like the oppressor, right? Wrong. Oppression is not about hurt feelings. It is about the rights and opportunities that are not afforded to you because you belong to a certain group of people."
Food for thought.  I find this sometimes to be a problem in the church.  When we go on Sunday, we are supposed to wear our happy faces (at least a sociologist would likely observe this), and we are supposed to be nice to each other.  We are not to let our jagged edges or bleeding wounds show.  Best foot forward, and all that.  I am not sure this is particularly biblical because the Bible definitely talks more about loving each other and not really about being polite or nice to each other.

Being kind is commanded, yes, but kindness is another word that has been warped, and now people use it synonymously with "nice."  I actually struggled with this when I was reading manga or watching anime.  Characters would describe characters who were not polite or civil and generally not nice at all as being kind, and I would go, "Dwah?"  I would wonder, "Is this a Japanese thing I just don't understand?"  I eventually realized it was just that translators are more precise with words and their meanings and were simply using the word as it was meant to be used, and I wasn't used to that.  The manner may have been gruff, harsh, or impolite, but the intentions and actions showed a loving concern for others: kindness in its essence?

So do you ever struggle with the way culture (especially in the church) has equated goodness with niceness?  Any particular instances that left you frustrated or scratching your head?  Do you think it's really just basically about power, or is there more to it than that?  And why does the church seem to be buying into it?