Bystanders, Villains, and Everyday Heroes

A Light Shines in Baltimore…

We’ve spent so much energy being angry about Baltimore- and other things, that we forget the Good people who step forward. We tend to toss a blanket description over everyone and turn our backs to continue a diatribe to those who see, or want to see, nothing more than the red meat details of woe and victimization. It’s a pattern we see repeated over and over, and it’s time to break the pattern.

In times of peace or in just our everyday lives, it can be easy to forget that heroes, people of strength, integrity and fortitude exist all around us, unseen, unrealized, and unappreciated.

Sometimes, it takes unrest and conflict for those vitally important traits to shine through in the people around us, and the real heroes shine through as a matter of course; quietly and without desire for recognition. They do it because they understand what is right, and for many it isn’t even a choice. It is something that simply Must be done.

But we all have that choice. When the time comes, what choice will you make? Will you be a Villain? Will you be a Hero? Or will you be a bystander?

Don’t wait until the time is upon you. It might sound like something pointless to ponder because you might never be called upon, an emergency or tragedy might never happen. But you need to make that choice now. And when the time comes for you to participate, you’ll know who you are and what it is that you have to do. Study after study has shown that the people who survive tough times or situations are the people who made their decisions far ahead of time, people who pondered what it is they would do in any given scenario.

We all know what we’d like to be when the time comes, how we’d like to be able to step up, or not. But that takes forethought, contemplation, and maybe an evaluation of who it is you really are as opposed to who you’d like to be.

Will you Boldly Question the status quo at the risk of being ostracized?

Will you Speak without fear, even if your voice shakes?

Will you Hold to the Truth, even if it costs you dearly?

I know the answers to those questions for myself. The question is, do you? Have you even thought about it?

Think Now. And when the time comes, you can be that light in times of darkness, strife, and struggle.

The Paths to Enlightenment

There is almost always more than meets the eye; or the expectation…

Walking an un-trod or rarely trodden path can be difficult. It can be frustrating and challenging and there are times when you just want to give up. When every single small thing that makes such a journey hard to do sometimes happens all at one time, it is tempting to throw up your hands and just quit.

I haven’t done that yet, though I’ve come close.

My particular journey is an odd one. I have chosen to walk where many others refuse to go. Where there are few of us who remain true our core principles because they are our core principles, not out of desire to fit in. And that can be challenging.

You see, I’m a Libertarian with a conservative bent, and most of the people that I encounter are Christians; fundamentalist Christians, who find it challenging to make and keep good friends outside of their group sometimes. Not all of them, but many.

Me, I’m not a Christian. Not because I haven’t heard the message, but because I have heard it, over and over again. Ad-nauseum. I am also pretty well-educated in the Bible, sociology, human nature and the history that surrounds the time of Jesus, including alternate theories and practices surrounding the formation of Christianity.

My chosen path that I found so challenging is this; I’ve chosen to not just exist in my own bubble, but to challenge my Christian friends to move away from the assumptions they have about people like me and everyone else they encounter, and the assumptions are many.

Unlike many non-Christians, non-practicing Christians, or lapsed Christians, I like my friends and acquaintances and I don’t hold their belief system against them. I don’t think them dimwitted for adhering to their values and what they hold sacred and true. Hey, the Universe is full of the impossible. They could be right.

The initial assumptions I get from Christians that don’t know me, or people like me, are that we are just like them; that we are a God-fearing Christians who are signed on to all or most of the fundamentalist beliefs that they espouse. These assumptions occur because I of my political outlook and groups I associate with.

Please notice that I mentioned ‘beliefs’, but I did not say principles. I hold many of the same principles dear, just not the belief system.

I guess their assumptions are easy ones to make. I don’t preach my own belief system. I bow my head out of respect when prayers are uttered, and I don’t feel the need to say anything at all about my own philosophy on life in the arena of political ideas.

The really interesting things start to happen when my friends realize, initially through a direct encounter and then y word of mouth, that I am not a Christian. That is when the really interesting and often offensive assumptions begin. I don’t take it personally, because like any other established religion, facts and presumptions regarding their doctrine are drilled into their head from the beginning, and accepted by everyone around them as basic fact. That doesn’t make the assumptions they make about me any less offensive, but if I took things personally, I’d never be able to leave my house lest the anger of just existing overwhelm me.

Basic assumptions include things like if you are not a Christian, then you must be an atheist, that you don’t believe in God, or something larger than yourself. That if you are not a Christian that you don’t ‘know’ about Jesus and his teachings, or you don’t even believe that Jesus existed. That you don’t believe in the basic principles that Christians believe, such as the Golden rule or the wisdom of the Ten Commandments. That even if you do know of, or about the teachings of the Bible and specifically of Jesus, that you certainly don’t get it.

It was kind of funny when I started to realize what the assumptions were and how they took form. It has been by far the largest challenge yet. The mindset is almost impenetrable, though I have seen success with the more inquisitive, open minded friends who are strong enough in their faith that they are willing to entertain ideas and concepts outside of their structured world.

The biggest challenge I speak of is the assumption by Christians that if you are not a Christian that you are devoid of any spirituality whatsoever; or that you are so un-evolved spiritually as to not have a spiritual nature at all. If you do not follow Jesus and the tenets laid down by men in the fourth century, then you do not have the capacity to attain spirituality unless you are on the path to accepting Jesus.

Which is kind of ironic because Christians do believe that we all have a soul, and if we don’t accept Jesus that the soul goes to purgatory or hell. So regardless of the path, there is still a spiritual journey being made… It’s an inconsistency I find it hard to reconcile, much less address, so for peace of mind I just write it off to human nature.

For me, this is highly offensive, but it is a solid paradigm among Christians that is all but impossible to change. It is offensive for me because I was raised to see a larger spiritual picture. To recognize the inner quest, the spiritual journey of the human animal and respect it. I was taught that different cultures, indeed, different individuals all have spiritual journeys that they must walk, and that those journeys are to be respected and honored.

Very often, the most spiritual people I have known have been those that walk their own or alternate paths to enlightenment, be it Buddhism, Taoism, the various belief systems of Native Americans, Confucianism, or even the path of science.

And some of the least spiritually evolved people I have ever known are those who attend a regular congregation of whatever religion they espouse. Often it seems they assume that their attendance to worship is what makes them Spiritual, and excuses the many transgressions of their professed belief system.

A more detailed example of the ‘spirituality void’ concept is found in a conversation I had recently with a very devout friend who preaches the message of love, kindness, acceptance, and generosity of spirit. I made the error of holding my own assumptions about how he would recognize spirituality in others, but when I broached the subject with him about his message to non-Christians, I got a surprise.

His inherent assumption based on his response to me was; that if a person professes to be spiritual, that they are on the path to recognizing the Christian faith as the one, true path. He kind of berated his fellow Christians in his answer to me. He said that they need to love those types of people as all others; that they cannot shove their beliefs down the throats of the budding masses of spirituality, saying “You don’t feed a baby steak right away! A baby needs to be nurtured with milk at first and work their way up to more solid foods along the way.”

Do you see the assumption inherent in this diatribe? That steak is the rich teachings of Christianity; that rich solid foods are the meat, so to speak, of spirituality; which is, to him, Christianity.

Even if he did not intend to say it that way or if that’s not what he really meant, one of the drawbacks that Christians encounter in conversation with non-Christians is that what they say and how they say it is almost always perceived as ‘talking down’ to non-Christians; very often because of these very attitudes and assumptions that they unconsciously convey in their encounters with non-Christians. And as they say, folks, ‘Perception is Reality’.

I’ve had plenty of steak. I’ve moved beyond steak to many more tastes and culinary adventures. The richness of the foods I have sampled put steak to shame in many cases. But the assumption that I was only at the ‘milk’ level of ability to consume spiritual ideas and concepts- even of a specific religion- was, and is, kind of offensive. Actually, it’s very offensive. I’m a grown man with an advanced intellect. I have taught Christians true history about their own background they never knew, or suspected even existed.

But still I remain calm and vigilant. For all of the offense it gives, most Christians I know are not intent on being offensive. They truly believe they are being kind and helpful, that they are shining a light on a path that has done wonders and miracles for them in their lives, and out of love they want the same for you. And it might very well be that the path they shine the light on could be that kind of path for many people.

The trouble is that they have is an issue recognizing and respecting when that is not the case with given individuals, and very often they have a hard time wrapping their heads around that concept.

So it is up to us, those who are not quite so wrapped up in a closed system of thinking, to bridge the gap if we want to be able to actually have a civil, useful dialogue regarding the world around us today and how to solve the many problems with which we are faced. We need to step out of the closet of alternate belief and challenge our friends and colleagues to be the inclusive group they profess to be. Challenge them to respect us, and respect the principles that founded this nation; the right to believe and worship as we see fit without outside interference or judgment.

Christians are not bad people. They are not hateful people. They are not stupid or closed-minded people. They are, for the most part, good people who can sometimes find themselves in a bit of a fog with regards to the assumptions they make and the interactions they engage in.

News Flash: As humans, we are all like that to a certain extent.

How about we cut each other a break?

Assumptions and Exclusions

Some thoughts on the national conversation…

Buckle up, this is going to get bumpy and long…

Recently, I had a friend post a comment on one of my social media posts. My comment, on the title picture of this article, questioned to validity of the national conversation with regards to being gay being a ‘choice’ or a genetic pre-disposition. My own point of view is; what does it matter? We are a free Country! The entire conversation is a pointless red herring designed to keep us from discussing things that truly matter.

In response that that, my friend posted the following comment:

“This country was founded on biblical principles…correct? Aren’t our laws/morals built upon biblical principles? If the bible is left out, then we have no morality anywhere. If I want something, then I should be allowed to steal it because I so choose to without any consequence. It gives the murderer the right to murder because he chooses to do so and it gives the pedophile the right to do whatever he chooses…”

My response to that is important, I think, because it is the basis of all that my own personal philosophy regarding the national dialogue revolves around. There are inherent reasons why we aren’t listening to each other, and a lot of that has to do with misdirection by our servants (read ‘Political representatives’) as well as our own personal assumptions about the Nation, and the world in general.

If you have the patience and the attention span, my response follows (the names have been eliminated to protect the faithful). I apologize for the long windedness, I usually try to keep it short, but this is a deep subject with many ins and outs. Please bear with me.

I said:

“As you know, I host open discussions and all points of view are valued. Your own opinions matter to me; as a long-time friend particularly so, even though we have different life philosophies. J

I’m going to have to disagree with you slightly here. I don’t disagree that this country was founded on Judeo-Christian, or Biblical principles. There those who would disagree, just to be difficult, but it’s inarguable. The Bible has served and serves as the basis of Christianity and an invaluable source for morality, and it served as such in the country, the world, since before we were founded as a country.

But I bridle a little at your statement “If the Bible is left out, then we have no morality anywhere.” That is an exclusionary statement that (without meaning to, I’m sure) passes a harsh moral judgement on a large group of individuals. Not everyone uses the Bible as their baseline for morality, even though they might use Biblical principles, or at least hearken back to them.

The apoplectic fear that we are going to devolve immediately into a screaming bunch of Harpies intent on murder because it fits a twisted moral relativism is a groundless one. All the same it is perpetuated and hyperbolized for the purpose of frightening people into keeping or adopting a particular religious course, which is a completely natural human tendency. I don’t judge the strategy, it simply re-enforces many things that I have observed in my studies of people.

Your statement regarding ‘if the Bible is left out we have no morality anywhere’ defines the most studied and advanced individuals in Buddhism, Taoism, Shinto, Confucianism, et al, as people void of spirituality, only full of themselves and not knowing or having any advanced idea of enlightenment or spirituality.

Here’s the thing, the Golden Rule, while an inherent ingredient in the Bible, does not originate with the Bible. It is, in fact, used as a basic rule in many world religions and morality systems. So when you say that ‘Without the Bible, there is no Morality anywhere’, what you are saying is “Look, I know you have your cute little religion or belief system and all, but it’s basically crap. Without believing as I believe, you are a doomed, wretched soul with no morality, no hope and no real say in the day to day happenings here in the mortal world.”

When you say something like that, you are saying that anyone who does not adhere to the strict path that you walk, is devoid of any chance, ability, or hope to possess any level of spirituality whatsoever.

I resent that. I can tell you that my own choice has resulted in a quite evolved sense of spirituality, more so than many people who profess to read and internalize ‘The Word’ because they go to church every Sunday. My spirituality is evolved enough to realize that my path is for me, and that there are countless other spiritual journeys others must make that will not resemble mine in the least. I don’t exclude people because they don’t walk my path with me.

Now, I don’t presume to know the mind of God, but I’m pretty sure that God would find my attitude to be a much more ‘spiritually evolved’ than one that excludes and dooms his other precious children to the deepest pits of the worst imaginable creation because they don’t live or worship in the same house.

There are three major religions in the world, but there are also many, many others. The adherents of those belief systems have as much faith that what they believe is the truth as much as you do; so when you talk down to them like that, they automatically rebel, they get pissed at you and they no longer listen to anything you have to say. You get branded as a ‘zealot’ with a closed mind who presumes to know the mind of God and presumes to pass judgement on your fellow humans.

After that, any chance at any kind of constructive dialogue goes out the window forever, along with any hope of maybe changing any minds. No dialogue, no exchange of ideas. It’s that simple.

I know you, and I’m pretty darn sure that’s not what you mean to say. But the truth is that perception is everything. The issue is that not everyone uses the Bible as the baseline for their faith, their moral system, or as their base of logic; and the overwhelming majority of Christians think or assume that those people do, or that they should, use that Bible and only the Bible as the arbiter of their morality. And if they don’t they are un-savable heathens without the intelligence to realize the ‘Truth’ like you. You are saying that they are too stupid to get it.

But there are other, just as viable, just as closely held, just as structured morality systems out there. It’s pretty judgmental and narrow minded to dismiss belief systems that go back thousands of years just out of hand.

This is a basic reason that Christians find themselves on the firing line in today’s national dialogue as one of the only groups it still seems okay to ridicule- and that’s wrong! It’s as wrong as doing it to any group, and I spend an inordinate amount of my time defending good Christians of humble faith as wrongfully persecuted. But they don’t help their own cause with these unspoken yet easily (even if wrongfully) perceivable attitudes and assumptions. And the ironic thing is that most would never consciously project these things I’m speaking of here!

In the end, with reference to this picture, the argument over if being gay is a choice or genetic is a silly one. It doesn’t matter, because aside from religious beliefs, this country was founded on religious Freedom. The right to believe and practice your morality system as you see fit, the way you believe is right for you and yours. It was not founded or perpetuated to be a Christian colony existing only to further the teachings of the Bible, but as a land where all could come and live as they see fit regardless of race, religion, or creed; in harmony with others.

There were other morality systems and teachings that went into the founding of this country other than the Bible that were just as important, just as viable as Biblical principles. The philosophies of Sir Edmund Coke, John Locke, Patrick Henry, Edmund Burke et al, and the principles of Natural Law were just as inherent to the foundation of the United States as anything else.

Don’t be frightened that people will ‘abandon’ the Bible and therefore become directionless and amoral- the Bible has already been abandoned by many in that course. Be glad that the principles of the Bible still persist when adherence to the Word has been abandoned. Be thankful that God sees fit to lay these basic truths, these basic principles down where any old person can pick them up and use them in their lives. That only serves to re-enforce the principles laid down in the Bible, it only serves to solidify the foundation, the rock you have built your house on.”

Sitting on the Edge

Just some random thinking from today…

Somewhere along the line we went from a vivacious culture of active, individualist go-getters who believed heavily in self-reliance, self-sacrifice, and clear priorities, to a dependent, muddied-view culture of reality TV, It’s-not-my-job, let-someone-else-carry-the-load couch sitters who want someone else to pay the way.

The damage is cumulative, and the more people that sign on to that paradigm, the more likely the rest are to shrug their shoulders and join their friends on the couch.

What a small-government, liberty minded minority is advocating is hard, it’s the hard way. It requires effort, responsibility, and critical thought. Our national system does not teach that anymore. In fact, our current crop of public servants, who fancy themselves as leaders and as authority, discourage the entire mindset. They do it because it foments an attitude of reliance upon them, empowering them with more control over the lives of the citizens of this nation.

We are sick. A malignant cancer presenting itself as the shining solution ravages our national body and mind and the only final result is an unrecoverable flat line. Its insipid tendrils creep out from D.C. and they infect individuals first, and then groups, and then entire populations.

What is the cure? And are we (as a whole) willing to undergo the necessary procedure? How can that happen when a majority won’t even recognize that we are sick and dying?

These are the things I think about as my feet dangle over the bottomless canyon of despair.

Know Your Place

Where do you stand?

When speaking of children, it’s easy to get into debates with regard to how to raise them; what’s appropriate and what isn’t what is too harsh or what might be too coddling.

The following is a list of things that might seem perfectly normal depending on personal philosophy.

  • When they misbehave, you scold them.
  • When they challenge authority, you punish them.
  • When they don’t want to share, you make them share or maybe take their stuff away.
  • When they are aggressive, you shut them down, maybe even medicate them.
  • When they say what you judge to be inappropriate, you reprimand them and perhaps punish them.
  • When they play games that hurt no one but that you judge to be ‘inappropriate’ or wrong, you prohibit them from playing in that manner, or make it difficult for them to do so.
  • When they call another person names, you lecture them.
  • When they get into a fight, you punish them by restricting them.
  • When they are offensive, you censure them.
  • When they don’t want to contribute their fair share, you take their things away.
  • When they daydream, you force them to focus with drugs or therapy.
  • When they express their opinion unasked, you shush them.

One could argue that everything on that list is more or less common place when it comes the discussion regarding the teaching, control, and raising of children, right?

But look at that list again. Go ahead, I’ll wait…

What if I wasn’t talking about parents and children? What if I were talking about your relationship with the government? Does that change your perspective on that list?

Welcome to how your government sees you.

Once you see that in context, it’s very easy to add to that list, isn’t it? You could add that when you exercise basic human rights the government doesn’t like, the government does its level best to ridicule you and shame you.

You could add that when you refuse to follow government defined ‘norms’, you are shunned and your judgment is called into question.

You could also say that when you ask uncomfortable questions, you are defined as a radical and your character is impugned… the list is practically endless.

Everything has been turned upside down. The government is not our parents. The government has chosen to ignore that they are not the authority, they are simply the chosen representatives of the authority wielded by the true government, We The People; the citizens of this once-great country. The men and women who serve in government are not the authority; they are servants of the collective authority of We The People.

And they have forgotten that one, very important point.

What’s more profoundly important and disturbing is that We The People have forgotten that as well. We have. And that is a horrible thing. What once made us great, something that we have every right to be proud of; is that as Americans, we once had our hands on the yoke of our own destiny; from the individual all the way up to the entire nation; but that is gone.

We have been reduced to a divided group of bickering hens that would rather lie on the couch, eating chips out of a bag, while we watch the latest reality show or sports event. Most people would prefer to do that, than to actually stand and take a hand in steering our own course. We long ago shrugged a lazy shrug and handed our destiny over to power hungry, greedy lawyers who have more interest in their own enrichment, than they have a sense of duty to their country and their fellow man.

We have set about destroying ourselves from within; something that we were amply warned would be the case. And like so many other things we have put our hands to, we did a bang-up job of it.

But it might not be too late. There might still be time to set our course right, if enough people care. If enough people are willing to get up off of the couch and bust out of their comfort zone. If enough people have the will, and the heart, and the tenacity to take a chance on losing it all in an effort to regain what we once were, what it was once our destiny to be. We could get it all back.

It’s all lost anyway, if we don’t wake up.

The question is; will that happen? Are you willing to fight? To dedicate what the youngest and the ‘least’ among us signed up for when they volunteered to defend this country and its people from all enemies, foreign and domestic? Do you have the cajones?

Or will you gladly let others shoulder that burden while you lazily drink your craft beer you’re so proud of; and you work your way through that bag of chips as you tiredly root for the meaningless outcome of your favorite sports event?

Do you Know Your Place?

The Hard Way

Avoiding that ‘Missed Opportunity’…

This is a continuation of my previous article, A Missed Opportunity, where I pointed out how conversations can often go awry. What I didn’t do is offer solutions.

I recently read a status from an individual who lamented with regards to political debate and conversation, “When each side thinks the other is brainwashed, will true communication ever be possible?”

I feel her pain. I’ve often thought the same thing to myself, about people that populate all areas of the political spectrum, not just the folks who might oppose me in the arena of ideas. You find zealots everywhere.

It’s easy to get frustrated, especially when you have a lot of love and respect for the person with whom you are conversing, or debating. As a social animal, we all desire to be an accepted member of a group. We like to think that others in our group are as ‘smart’ as us, or, in other words think like we do, because we all think that we’re the smart ones.

But, let’s face it; there is a large contingent of people that you are never going to reach. Even, maybe especially, the people that hold positions that have an incredible number of inherent contradictions. We also like to think, or maybe even need to think, that the people we respect, or hold as close to us, are as smart as we think we are. It reflects on us, if it turns out that they aren’t.

So in the end, you have to cut bait with some people. You have to learn to recognize when the conversation isn’t going anywhere. You have to walk away when you understand they aren’t listening with the intent of discussing ideas, but only listening with the intent of driving their own tired points home.

There are some hard rules to institute and maintain if you want to be effective. First things first, you must remain rational. You can’t take anything personally or as a judgment that your opponent is passing upon you. You can’t resort to labeling and name calling, and you must always steer away from facts and opinions that cannot be substantiated. Your voice must remain even and reasoned, even in an online social media debate.

You have to resist passing judgment, or seeming to do so. Stick with substantiated facts, and logical progression. Resist the urge to speculate as to motive (of anyone else) and refer only to what has actually happened. Do your research. Admit when you don’t know something and be willing to pause the conversation while you check yourself.

Bring your morality to the conversation, but not your Faith. Leave your faith locked in your heart. Don’t use scripture of verse or morality tales of any type to present your point- it detracts from what you are trying to say. It opens you up to ridicule and doubt. Remember that yourlogic/morality baseline is not necessarily the same that someone else might be operating from.

There are basic truths and basic moral principles we can get together on without referring to faith. If the person you are speaking with cannot agree on things like the golden rule, the sanctity of life or respect for others, move on. You’ll never convince them of anything. You can’t ‘save’ them.

Which brings me to another point; you can’t ‘save’ everyone, regardless of how completely illogical their points may be or how much they contradict themselves. In fact, I would submit the more illogical and self-contradictory that they are, the less chance you have of helping them see or understand logic. And the funny thing is, they often view themselves as trying to ‘save’ you…

One of the hardest things to come to terms with is this: you might be wrong. We’ve been investing all of this energy and passion into backing our point of view, that it hurts to realize that you might have said something wrong. Even more so if it’s a lynch pin of your argument. Take a breath, let it go, walk away and rethink your position. The worst thing you can do is keep yelling at the top of your lungs because you don’t want to admit ‘defeat’.

Another hard rule to wrap ones head around is this; it may take forever for a person to see your point. You have to do your best and walk away knowing that you presented your most logical, sensible, rational points.

All of this is the hard way to do it. It’s the proverbial high road and it isn’t easy, not by a long shot. But in the end it is the only way. Yelling and name calling, accusations and speculations, unsupported facts and dominating the conversation seem to be, at the time, much more effective and satisfying. But in the end, do we engage in these conversations to blow off steam, or to change minds? Isn’t the goal to change minds? Aren’t we trying for that magical moment when our opponent sees that shiny nugget of gold that changes their perspective?

It might seem impossible, but we as individuals can only do what’s right- on any side of a debate. We can only keep waking up every day, keep our conversations rational and respectful, and keep moving on to the next person when nothing works.

It’s slow work changing minds. It’s frustrating and it can be unrewarding if you let yourself get caught up in ‘winning’ or if you demand immediate results. I have found that having a rational dialogue, never calling names or raising your voice, can bring people back to the conversation. It might be hours, days, week, or even months; but I can’t tell you how amazing it feels when you get someone who comes back and tells you that YOU are the reason they started thinking. YOU are the reason they stopped calling names and accusing.

It can work. We just have to remember who our audience is and adjust our conversations appropriately. Keep a political conversation logical, calm, and most important of all, POLITICAL. Don’t throw any other subject into the mix (like faith). It’s not about ‘winning’ the conversation; it’s about doing what’s right.

Mining for gold takes hard work.

A Missed Opportunity

My Conversation with an Evangelist Christian…

Several weeks ago, I published an article about crafting the message in a political conversation and why things that make complete sense are not received well, or at all, by people that we know that either think the same way or are logical. In that article, I asserted that it comes down to knowing who your audience is and adjusting your message towards them. Despite this,  many people find it difficult or impossible to keep themselves from injecting a religious message or judgment into the conversation.

This is why it can be so difficult to have a conversation with Christians, especially those of an Evangelistic bent. I don’t say all, as I have a lot of friends who have the same outlook. However, there is a large enough contingent that, through their constant evangelizing, alienate many people and end up just ‘preaching to the choir’, so to speak. It is a Shame, because it discourages conversation on other social and political topics.

A good friend of mine has gone through some rough times after a separation and subsequent divorce. He posted a heartfelt status on Social media recently, and that sparked a conversation with an Evangelist friend of his. The progression is as follows.

He posted:

I ask a question when interviewing different artists, “What do you want to be remembered for?”
As I ponder tonight, the events of my life, the twists and turns, the joys and pains, the successes and failures, it hit me. As a fallible man, full of mistakes made and challenges overcome, I would want to be remembered simply as a man that loved beyond reason. I will never be perfect, I am sure that I will disappoint those I love at some point yet again. I do know my heart, love without fail and Faith in something bigger than circumstances rule, at least from my perspective. Come what may, I am resolved to love, and no one can change that.”

The first comment on the posting was by the evangelist friend of his. I found it a bit judgmental and a little didactic in that it kind of passed judgment on the woman my friend had married and proceeded to tell him what he ‘needed’. It was hardly creative in its ‘support’ of my friend and relied heavily on quoting of verse and scripture as opposed to real world comfort or support.

She Posted the Following:

Because Your Heart is ”FULL ” of God Almighty and the Word of God ( Bible )…tells us…” God IS Love…You ARE A Wonderful Man…a Good Father and ”Yes” a ”Good ” Husband….What You Need IS a ”Good” Wife,that is Full of the LORD that ”wants” FIRST To PLEASE Her Lord and Then You as Her Husband and Her Family…Proverb 31 Woman…Lord You Made Her…now I ask You send ”that one ” YOU CHOOSE for J*** in Jesus Name…in the meantime J*** needs YOU Lord…Love Him..put Your Arms of Love around Him and Keep Him Safe in Jesus Name I Pray…amen…Ephesians 3:20..Philippians 1:6…Jude 24…Revelations 12:11…Hebrews 4:16…Psalm 46:1…Psalm 121…Love You.

That response irked me, so I commented as well. I will admit, to the close reader, one might find an underlying dialogue of criticism of the original commenter in the course of my words of support for my friend, but it was the best I could do.

I Posted:

So often we find ourselves lost and discontented for all the wrong reasons. We live full of expectation as opposed to seeing the world will deliver what it will and we take it from there- as far as we can go with it. We see ourselves through the lens of ‘other’ as opposed to our self, and from that we take so many things to heart, in a personal way that just aren’t our issue. We buy in to others telling us what we NEED and what we should be… 

To be able to drop all of that, to be able to realize that we need only be accountable to ourselves in what we do, and that to know that we have done our level best while we strive to improve, always, is the beginning of finding peace with the terrible things that others are capable of doing, and the unjust judgments they pass upon us in their pain and inability to cope with their own rough journey. 

That We know we have done everything that is within our power to the best of our ability may not rid us of the pain, but it can help us shoulder the burden with a straighter back and a better outlook on life.

To my utter surprise, I received a private message from the original commenter. It was as devoid of imagination and real world reference as her comment on my friend’s status.

It read as follows:

Enjoy ”your” comment on **** *******’s status….want to encourage YOU….All that you said was ”awesome”….would like to add MAIN ingredient…Jeremiah 33:3…Psalms 46:1…Ephesians 3:20…Jude 24….Without the ” Lord Jesus”…it doen’t make ANY Difference what others think or say ( myself included )…but it make a MAJOR DIFFERENCE what HE THINKS and SPEAKS…..amen?..js.

Okay, well, she seemed to be attempting to engage in a conversation. I chose to believe that rather than just assume  she was preaching at me, as I have come to expect from people such as herself. I try to give the benefit of the doubt, though, so I responded. My response was clear and descriptive with regards to my position on her choice of conversation material. I informed her that as an (well educated in the concept, chapter and verse) non-Christian that my support was in that vein and that I thought that our friend was appreciative of the support.

Inherent in my reply, to the close reader, is again the expression of concepts that question the logic and intelligence of her own chosen, epically rigid view of life. I also provide the implication that I did not appreciate being preached at. I had already undergone plenty of that and had simply chosen a different path. I expected that choice to be respected, as I stated that I respected her choice to follow her own path.

My response to her follows:

Good Morning, C****!

Thank you so much for your kind words this morning. J*** is a good man and a good friend and he’s going through a lot lately. We all do what we can as friends to help him through!

I have a deep admiration for your faith, your knowledge of Bible verses and your dedication to your faith and your friend, but I should tell you that I am not a Christian. And I am not a Christian not because I haven’t tried it on, but because I have. 

While I am a great admirer of Jesus Christ, his ministry, and his teachings, I fall more toward the Valentinian version of his life and message (though not in a religious way, so to speak), I am not a fan of the Paulinian version of events or teachings. 

In my studies and my pursuits, so much more has been opened up to me that I ever could have thought was possible. Through study, I have found myself in wonder at the unfolding of historic and religious events throughout the ages, and I am always in awe when I find that I know so little in comparison to what is out there.

I understand your reference to ‘the main ingredient’, And for me it is quite apt that you refer to Jeremiah 33:3. The inherent wisdom is inescapable.

While it is undeniable that the Paulinian version of Jesus and subsequently the New Testament has resulted in the world we have today with undeniable and miraculous events and progress, I find myself in conflict with the hard drawn lines too many draw around themselves as a result of that version which, at its heart, can be in conflict with Jeremiah. So for me, ‘Amen’ is difficult. I can support the immediate intention, but shy away from the greater result.

Again, thank you for reaching out. You earnestness and dedication is to be admired. With friends of such caliber, J** will, in the end, pull himself through such a trial and emerge on the other side more than he was, a better man for it and a better idea of what he has in this life.

J***, in the end, I believe, will be the arbiter of what his needs are. Through prayer and faith, J***, with his exceptional attitude and his dogged perseverance, will win through. 

All the Best C****! I hope you have a wonderful weekend and a more wonderful Spring.

All in all, I think that was pretty clear. As I am very well educated in the concept, I conveyed the message that I was not interested in Christianity; that I had tried it on and discarded it as a viable system for my life. I would expect that a reasonable person would extrapolate from that and realize that I don’t appreciate being preached to, and that I see being preached to as being talked down to, especially when I have stated that it something that I have already experienced.

This did not discourage our brave trooper, however. Rather than toning it down and having an actual conversation with me, she doubled down and responded with all of the deep thinking and imagination she already shown herself to be capable of.

Her response was this:

Blessings to You and Thank You…just ”let” me Share one more ”TRUTH” from my Heart…You Know and I Know by the Spirit of the Lord YOU KNOW….please don’t give validity to anything…facts or otherwise…to any other message other than Jesus Christ and Him Crucified…Message of the Cross and Power in His Blood…don’t lean to your ”own ” understanding…or the understanding of others NOT FILLED with HOLY SPIRIT…Spiritual things are Spiritually Discerned…Carnal Man cannot understand the Truths of God without HIS SPIRIT…1Corithians 1:18….v.27-31…Much Love in Him to you…Into His Care…I commit you. Philippians 1:6….Revelations 12:11..Jude 24.

That was it. I had handed to her, on a silver platter, an opportunity to explore in a rational and thoughtful manner, the thought process of a non-Christian; to learn and maybe, in her zeal, to help herself find better ways to bring people around to her way of thinking.

It was not going to work with me, but I had defined her audience for her, I had set the parameters describing who she was speaking to, and she ignored that like it had never happened. I did not shy away, I was not abusive, combative or accusatory in my language. I was rational and open to discussion. Still, she continued like a mindless robot with her mindless, zeal-ridden rhetoric.

I gave up. There was nothing else to do. I have attempted conversations with such folks in my past and it always turns out the same. I end up being preached at for the duration of the dialogue and then I have to walk away. I don’t judge her.  I can’t blame her- maybe it’s all she knows? Maybe that’s the limit of her ability to comfort someone and her limit of ability to converse.

I answered one last time…

::Sigh:: Ah well… I can only thank you for the prayer and good thoughts. It is often difficult to facilitate a normal conversation between those who see the world so differently, or with those who insist on one single ‘way’. But all the same, May you find joy, comfort and blessing in your chosen tao. Wishes for a wonderful Spring and Easter season to you and your loved ones.

If you are an evangelist Christian reading this, I don’t say that you are like this; I am just saying that it is a pattern I often see. I ask you to analyze yourself and see if you’ve ever caught yourself falling into this type of pattern? Are you recognizing who you are speaking with- who your audience is?

Some of you might honestly ask, why is it the other person’s responsibility to read me as their audience and adjust themselves? What absolves me from doing the same?

The answer is simple. I am not trying to convert. I am not trying to convince, I am not trying to bring the other around to my way of thinking. She was imposing her own view on what I had said, which was not biblically based. She injected her religion into my words of comfort. Any reasonable person would take offense to that. Instead, I provided an opportunity for discussion.

When it comes to political conversations, it is an extremely common pattern I see. Evangelists tend to overlay everything they say in a political conversation with religious overtones (and many conservatives are evangelistic in their faith); then they wonder why no one listens to them, even if the gist of what they are saying is completely logical and inarguable.

No matter your chosen way of life or where you are in life, when you engage in a dialogue and you are trying to bring another person around to seeing and understanding your way of thinking, then you really need to read your audience. You need to be aware to whom you are speaking and what they respond well to.

Or, you can go on asking why it is that no one ever wants to engage with you and then ignore anyone who tries to answer.

It’s your call.