“What will the racist Christians do now? Will they hate on gays or Muslims?” Those words and others just like them came through my facebook feed in response to the tragic shooting in Orlando yesterday. It hurts to be misjudged, to be mocked and ridiculed, to be labeled a hater when nothing could be farther from the truth.
To add insult to injury, all but about five people on facebook are my friends and family. These aren’t strangers saying these words, these aren’t keyboard warriors, these are people I walk along side of in real life. Friends. This is what they really think of me, of my faith, that I’m a racist and a bigot. This is the environment I have tried to raise my children in, tried to convince them that Jesus Christ is the way and the truth and the life. A tough sell, because who wants to be an outcast, thought to be a bigot, a hater, an oppressor who could walk into a night club and mow down innocent people?
Oh wait, that’s not what a happened at all, but it doesn’t really matter does it? Perception is 99% of the truth and what we perceive to be true often rules the day. Christians didn’t do that, I didn’t do that, my God didn’t do that, but I can protest till the cows come home, I can speak the truth from the rooftops and yet I cannot stop the tsunami of lies that shape people’s perceptions.
I started to get angry about a decade ago. I am a servant, I care for people’s elderly relatives, I clean houses. I’ve lived in this community for decades. I don’t hate, I love people. I nurture, cherish, and serve people. The truth of who and what I am, doesn’t speak to anyone, they can’t even see me, I am invisible as an individual, completely erased. Right in front of me, they speak of the horrors of Christians, right in front of my children they shame and mock and ridicule His followers. We’re all crazy, psychotic, hateful, bigots.
I’ve swallowed bitter for so long, kept quiet, kept the peace, until one day I just had enough and said, no, you can’t be hating on me, you’re not talking about some obscure group out there, you’re talking about me, you’re disrespecting me. You’re disrespecting the God I serve, you’re disrespecting His people. And you’re lying, you are flat-out lying.
I understand what bigotry really is, and racism too, I’ve been there. I know what it is like to be erased as a person, to be assigned a group identity that isn’t even true, to be dehumanized. To be lumped in with the lowest common denominator and blamed for crimes you didn’t commit, if only in the court of public opinion.
I probably don’t need to tell you that I am now rather friendless, that so many of my relationships of the last 40 years have been based on a lie, they were dependant on my ability to swallow the bitter and keep my mouth shut, to let the lies float by, to deny I was a Christian or to at least keep silent about it.
This country needs to come to grips with the fact that all things are not equal, that Islamic terrorism is not caused by alleged Christian bigotry, that denying the truth that is evident all around us is downright dangerous. We need to name the evil for what it is and address it and hold it accountable. What we are doing right now is just insane.
Christians need to speak up too, loudly, becasue children are watching us, becasue children are learning about what is perceived as socially acceptable and what is not. We can raise our kids in faith but it can be very challenging for them when the world is telling them that Christians are bad, dangeous, potentially violent. That theme already dominates my neck of the woods and if we don’t create a culture of acceptance all across this country we will have failed our children. When following Jesus Christ becomes socially unnacceptable and politically incorrect, few will be strong enough to follow Him.
I’m not complaining here, but it is hurtful, challenging, painful for someone like me, older, rooted in faith, who really doesn’t give a crap about what people think. To someone younger who cares a great deal about their social groups, public approval, being a member of the community, this kind of environment would soon become unbearable.
Call me a bigot if you must, but I happen to object to an ideology that mows down gays in a nightclub, that tosses them from a tower, that stones women to death, that crucifies children. Wake up people, before it’s too late. These aren’t Christian values that are threatening us.