Thursday, April 02, 2015

Dear Keith

I received an email yesterday from someone who follows me online at Facebook. The person, who asked to remain anonymous, shared some very profound insights and asked some very honest questions about the way we sometimes relate to one another via social media.

I'm sharing this email here, with the person's permission.

I'd like to ask you to read what they have to say and consider how you would respond.

Dear Keith,

I have been reading your stuff off and on for quite a while now.  I joined the facebook "community" too, thinking that it would be encouraging.  I have found the opposite to be true, however.

In real life, as well as here on the internet, it kind of feels like more and more I am "losing my voice" in the Christian community. At so many turns, I feel like the words  I have given as an encouragement to someone have been misinterpreted by someone else and provided an opportunity for attack against me or the person I try to encourage.  I am not a great communicator and I am not a biblical scholar, but I do know the words of Jesus.  So I have been a little surprised and kind of overwhelmed with peoples' responses.  It seems that, in large part, readers immediately see/hear/believe the absolute worst in people they may or may not know. It also seems that we are unable to discuss issues without resorting to attacks on people's character.  This makes me think that perhaps the internet is not the correct place for these conversations, and I have grown silent.

That doesn't mean that I have left my faith, or that I have quit trying to serve the people that Jesus puts in my path.  It just means that I do so more as an individual, and not in cooperation with my church(in my community/at large). Perhaps that is just what Jesus wants for me right now, to possibly grow me up a bit.

I wanted to share a couple of my issues, as they seem to echo here, as well.  I don't know how to reconcile things, and the last thing I want to do is start a new argument, but I feel like I must say something.

I have noticed what seems to me to be a political foundation for a lot of arguments on line.  I come from an area where the Republican party is basically labeled the Christian party, and the Democrats are basically seen as the "lost liberals".  I have seen people (I'm not lying!) shake their heads sadly on hearing that a dear friend voted for a Democrat and say "I thought they were a Christian..."  Maybe I'm just still too "young and foolish" but I have to say that seems so simplistic to me.  I don't get it . When I look at both sides, I have to say that I see good and bad.  We are all, after all, human.

I'm not even really discussing politics, although it all strangely gets lumped into that, it seems.  I just want to follow Jesus, and try to walk in the manner that He calls me to, and it seems that I offend my brothers and sisters in Christ as much or more, actually, than I offend the rest of society. I seriously don't get it.  At the risk of offending your readers, I have to share the extreme example that troubles me so deep down, I don't really know what to do with it.

My family has traveled through parts of the U.S.  We have friends and relatives spread out quite extensively.  I have been shocked to hear people I consider to be brothers and sisters in Christ laugh and joke (but perhaps with some seriousness) that they hope someone will "take out" our president. They have their reasons for not liking him, but this hardly reflects how Jesus told us to treat our enemies.

OK, so you're probably wondering why I would pick something so divisive and political to share here, but let me explain.  I consider myself a very conservative person.  I have committed my life to Jesus.  I am trying to love, honor, and serve Him with my whole heart and life.  Yet, in my little community, I live in fear of being labeled a "liberal" because I don't fit in with everything the Republican party stands for.  For some reason, they have the freedom to make jokes about killing someone, but I don't have the freedom to stand up for the poor or those suffering from racial prejudice. I just can't wrap my brain around it.  It is an alienating thing in a small community to be labeled a liberal.  So how do I/we look at issues without the bias of politics??? I am seriously open to suggestions here, because I am struggling.

The other issue that seems to cause incredible amounts of division is that of police brutality.  I have seen some pretty ugly stuff being said.  Let me say, first of all, that I have dear friends, and even relatives who are officers, and I know that their hearts are committed to serving others and sacrificing for their communities. They have a tremendous opportunity to bring the light of Jesus into some very dark places. As you know, and I have read you affirm, the vast majority of them are outstanding individuals, and many have a relationship with Jesus.

Let me temper what I am about to say first with a word of encouragement for you.  I have been reading your writings for a few years now, and I do not see them as "hate" filled.  What I do see in you is a desire to have a heart like Jesus, and to stand up for those that you believe He would make the extra effort to stand up for.  You seem drawn to issues of justice, and giving a voice to the marginalized.  I agree that those things are important.  We can't just put our heads in the sand and pretend that everything is wonderful just because it is for us. There are people for whom (in our country, as well as around our globe) things aren't that great.  In fact, some things are pretty awful. If my heart doesn't cry out for them, then what does that say about my perception of their value to our Savior? (And I realize the issues are so huge and so many, that it can be overwhelming and where do we even begin?)

We can argue back and forth about the problems of our broken system, the abuse of power, the lack of training of certain people for certain situations and specific people groups, and the issue of racial inequality, but in the end, we often end up with nothing beyond the arguing. So my question is, how do we have meaningful conversations?  And after that, how do we move forward to promote change that leads to living out the love of Jesus in these difficult things? I am seriously asking here.  I don't have the heart to argue, even though my heart is burdened with many of the same things you post. I feel a great need for something more productive, and I don't know what it will take to unify us as the Body of Christ into love in action. I don't even know how to encourage objective discussion that will open our imaginations for what the Spirit might want to do to bring His kingdom to this very dark world. But I feel like the love of Christ compels me to move from words into action.

I also wanted to encourage you, because I feel like I have been reading your stuff long enough now that I kind of know at least a little of you heart.  I can see that you are trying to focus on an issue, and I kind of feel like your character is being attacked.  I'm sure that probably hurts.  Perhaps those people haven't read enough of your stuff to see that you stand up for people who don't have a voice. At any rate, I'm sorry.  May we all be more sensitive to how easily our words are misinterpreted and how damaged we all are.

I remain hopeful for true conversation.  I pray for the Spirit's leadership and grace as we seek to find the common ground of the heart of Jesus for all of His children in the midst of so much ugly messiness. May He bring unity and His kingdom to our hearts and lives.

A broken follower of Jesus


Unknown said...


As I read this, my first thought was that it pretty much sums up the gospels. Jesus confronted and took a stand against every power group in Israel. Therefore, He was attacked and misunderstood on all sides. He suffered for being indwelled by the Father and living a perfect life. He said if we followed Him then we would experience the same thing. So, while it probably isn't much comfort to the emailer, going the way of the Lord is going to bring about a lot of suffering and hurt feelings. It is going to make one feel as if they are standing on an island all alone. This is why it so necessary to be a in group of believers that is seeking after the Lord and nothing else (I hope to find that one day).

Also, I would encourage the emailer to read Life on the Highest Plane by Ruth Paxson. It's all about living the spiritual life and not the carnal or natural life. It seems the emailer is wanting desperately to live the spiritual life but struggling with those who aren't - not in a condemning way but in a burdened for the Lord way.

Finally, American Christianity is largely given over to state idolatry. It worships the state, soldiers, war, and everything of the natural man without realizing. I imagine this is much what it was like at the end of the Roman Empire when it adopted Christianity as the state religion. Constantine was ruling a dying empire and used Christianity to hold it together a little while longer. But, Constantine destroyed the Christianity known by the first century followers of Christ. I think our leaders are doing something similar.

Like the emailer said, these things are very difficult to talk about in person even with people who should truly know each other's hearts. Therefore, it is virtually impossible online.

There's so much more that could be said but it is hard to write in a response to a blog post.

bpb said...

I found myself in this same place a few years ago but the difference was that I was the senior pastor of a church. I came to the place where I had a crisis of conscience and couldn't continue to participate in the expected 'pop Christianity'. This led to my eventual resignation with as little explanation as possible on my part. Since that time I have discovered that there are plenty of hungry people, inside and outside of the church, that I can minister to in a much more personal and authentic way.

That's easy when there is some common ground to work from but I increasingly wonder if the next step for me is to be more honest and 'come out of the closet' about these things in the larger context of my friends, family and denomination. People who almost certainly will not understand. While my instinct is to stay quiet, my sense is that there are others who need to hear that there is more to faith than 'the traditions of men'.

I would definitely recommend Brian Zahnd's book, Farewell To Mars, which talks about some of these things and contains an excellent chapter on the danger of following the religious crowd.

Continue your authentic struggle and follow the truth of Jesus. That is the Kingdom at work.

Anonymous said...

I see the internet as a awakening to all the issues that are out there, that people, people in church, could not express because they were in 'church'. The people of God 'the church' have been sheltered by the church and its paradigm that just stiffles what the family of God truly is.I see this time of turmoil very healthy in that it is bringing to the surface of what is important. 'His people, who are called by His name' who come together.... Just like steve said we are under the govt regime that will be broken soon, For this is not the kingdom of God. I see God's people starting over again by meeting together as 2 or 3 gather as true believers, and will be seen as God's disciples, that will be as 'examples' of God that will bring his people together in a divine way.

A. J. MacDonald, Jr said...

We need to realize most people who claim to be followers of Jesus aren't. People who live in fear and worship the military aren't following Jesus, despite what they say.

You can't serve God and Satan.

As for living in fear of being discovered to be "a liberal" we should openly proclaim the teachings of Jesus without fear. If people want to falsely accuse us of being "a liberal" that's their problem.

As for the internet. I usually comment or link a relevant article to a post and leave it at that. I rarely read anyone's response to my comment because most are ignorant and hateful. Occasionally I will get involved in a discussion, but not often. There isn't the time or space on Facebook to educate people to all that's going on. I drop a few suggestions and relevant link to get people thinking and researching on their own and leave it at that.

I think this letter writer needs to let his/her views be known in the town they live in. Most people in the town I live in know where I stand and I stand virtually alone. My town is a typical, pro-military, pro-Republican town, and I am hated by many ignorant so-called "Christians" and other military worshippers. I could care less. I learned to put up with their ignorance long ago. I pity them and pray for them.

the alternative1 said...

Yes the article and the comments are very good and do show the truth as to what is going on these days--I personally deactivated my facebook account for the very reasons that are exposed by this person and their email.