While our dogs were playing in the park this morning, a very wonderful person I have come to know asked a very interesting and poignant question.
"What religion do you belong to?" It was asked with all sincerity and inquisitiveness.
My answer was simple, "I don't belong to a religion, but my faith is Christian."
I followed her question up with a question of my own and asked, "Why?" And this is where it got interesting and fun.
She said, "Because you cuss. And you seem too liberal and too cool to be one of them."
Even though I struggle right now to come up with any. And this got me thinking, what's wrong with Christianity? What makes people want to avoid us at any cost?
(This is where you hit the reply button down below and offer up your list.)
Judgmental. Hypocritical. Egotistical. Self-centered. Narrow-minded. Out-of-touch. Republican. I have not the space or the stomach to continue this list, but suffice it to say there are plenty of reasons for people to avoid us or at least make fun of us. And trust me, they do.
(Don't think I don't see you rolling your eyes or averting your gaze from me, Dan!)
Sadly, I try not to talk about my faith and I used to be hesitant to tell people what I did. It's not like I was embarrassed to be a minister, I just hate having the same conversations with people who love to tell me why they "hate the church" or "no longer believe" or "think it's all bullshit" or "only invented to control people."
Many years ago, an elementary school teacher cornered me at a party and made many of those very statements. It took a lot not to roll my eyes or avert my gaze (my apologies, Dan).
Instead I listened. I was kind about it, and took every punch she had to throw. Even though I wanted to sarcastically tell her that I didn't believe in her career choice either. A part of me wished I would have told her that we homeschool our children because the educational system has become nothing more than a place to put kids while parents worked real jobs.
Again, I refrained because it was the right thing to do.
I mean, really, what would have been the point? I doubt it would have done anything but added fuel to her hatred towards religion and prejudice towards ministers (thank you Texas and Revs. Franklin Graham and Jerry Falwell Jr. for all you do in that realm).
I had a choice. Push back. Or stand back and show her what Jesus taught me to do. That is to love her, even though we disagreed.
It wasn't easy. Yet, I chose to love her even though she hurt me, or spit on my faith. I chose to love her anger and frustration. And by that love I hope that she was able to see what Christians are supposed to be: peace-keepers, love-makers, bridge-builders, and the very presence of God's grace.
I think this is what it means to stand in that place between heaven and earth, between the kind and the unkind, the gentle and the angry. There are some who choice to pick sides, and others who stand in the uncomfortable messiness of life and faith - this place I call Anamesa.
I chose to stand there, not to convince someone that my way is the only way to see God, but just one of many ways for God's light to shine through me so that those who are searching can see the face of God in their midst.
Does this mean God cusses? Or that God is too liberal? Yes. It does. And you know what else? I think God is pretty damn cool too.
As I walked my dog home I couldn't help but think that my friend is honestly searching for something bigger, like we all are. And for some reason she asked because she thought I had the answer. I don't know if I do or not. But God does. And if God chooses to reveal the answer through me, who am I to stop it from happening.
But here's the thing, this young and amazing human and I have been meeting at the park for over two years. That's how long it took her to ask me this question. Or at least observe me enought to trust me enough to ask.
What that tells me is I need to keep on doing this, taking the punches and getting my faith spat on. I may never know who is looking and who is searching, but I know what I am supposed to be doing. Turn our human notions about God on its head. And be fucking cool about it.