It’s been a huge week. My dear Dad fell, and the women in his life — Mom, my sister-in-law, and me — were completely helpless. We had to rely on the kindness of two selfless and available men to help lift him back to the bed. I had PTA duties. The Christmas tree is only half-lit since my brilliant idea to create my own “pre-lit” tree has failed now for the third year. The advent calendar is still in the box. My mom needed me to drive her to the eye doctor for a routine procedure that’s only scheduled at 4pm on Thursdays. Due to this and that, the kids had to come with us. We did manage to entertain all those other grandparents in the lobby, I s’pose.
Normal stuff, you know, life! It’s busy and worrisome and frenetic, and I’ve probably forgotten half of what I was supposed to do anyway.
One nice advantage to Mom’s current (and temporary, we believe) undrive-ability is that we get to chat a lot. Like old times. Yesterday, as we were pulling away from the pharmacy at 6:10, Mom reminisced:
You know, honey, you are laid back. You are. I remember those ladies in the Presbyterian church nursery saying, ‘She is so placid! She is such a placid baby.’ I used to worry that you’d never stand up for yourself.
And then Mom giggles. Lovingly and knowingly giggles.
I have really, really good parents. I’m not just saying that in a “I-should-honor-my-parents” sort of way. It’s the truth. They are really wonderful. They love Jesus. And they love their family. Those two sentences describe everything you need to know about them. And I know they love me. I know that. I’ve always known that.
When Mom was chuckling at her placid baby, I remembered this week in the cyber-world. I thought about telling her, but it’s not worth the breath. The words have swirled. I got called a “hater”–complete with scare quotes. And the name stuck. Congrats to the so-called “rational” middle on the name. ::yawn::
I get that I’m a kind of ballast in the IFB world. The gutter on one side of the bowling alley that you don’t want to fall into. The Malcolm X to the “rational”-middle’s Martin Luther King. I’m actually okay with that. I’ll be the Ralph Sheepdog to their Wile E. Coyote. We walk in together, clock in together, and then we frustrate each other. Each needs the other.
It’s checks and balances. The Sage needs the Prophet. I’ve studied it for decades now. I thought I was the Sage. I have a Ph.D. in Sagacity, remember. But I’m not the Sage.
But you dear, dear friends in the “middle,” you’re fooling yourselves. What exactly do you think I hate?
Let’s look at the words I’ve had flung at me. From this comment:
I’ve gone through your website and tried to find one time where you personally approached a person about something you disagreed with. Nil. Nada. Zilch. If you had such a problem with Berg’s teaching why did you not go to him and reason it out?
Here’s my simple — you won’t listen anyway because I’m not as smart as you — assessment:
– You are not saved. The reason why is you have never truly asked for forgiveness of your sins. Probably because you are better than God.
– You are a spoiled brat and you come from a family of them.
– You are looking for truth from, of all people, Janis Ian?!
– You are a schismatic.
– You are in love with the world.
– You only listen to people who tell you want you want to hear.
– You husband is too much of a pansy to tell you to your face you are a brat.
– You are smarter than everyone else. How did the world get along without you for so long?
– Did I mention you are a spoiled brat?
But, rather than consider that anything I have said is true, you will simply delete this comment and go crying to someone who will tell you what you want to hear.
Adding a “Dr.” prefix doesn’t make you more superior. You may have added more knowledge to your brain, but your character is in decline. At the very least, you are the same brat I knew about 20 years ago.
God is love. Jesus drove out the money changers. Those principles are not in conflict.
Or this one:
Oh, for God’s sake! Get over yourself. What a whiny, bitchy, attention-seeking-whore of a martyr you are.
You and I were at BJU as undergrads at the same time. I was gay then and am still gay. I got over my time there without looking for so much sympathy. Put it behind you and put your life to some good use. Good god.
Now, help me out here — who’s hating?
I’m not including the threats against my kids or my home. The private messages filled with passive-aggressive insults and mind games. The love bombs.
So what gets me threats? Let’s get an overview here. I have stated publicly that:
- I do not hit my kids.
- I don’t like square fish.
- I am tired.
- Jim Berg teaches a pelagian Keswick theology.
- I am praying for a second child.
- I don’t think the BJU administration understood any of my musings about God’s grace.
- I find a Janis Ian song expresses my mixed feelings over leaving fundamentalism.
- I am voting for Obama.
- I have a letter from 1957 that describes the conditions on the Bob Jones University campus when Billy Graham was planning a revival in New York City.
- The war wounds for fighting for fundamentalism are as real as fighting for anything else.
- I find resonance with the 1920s Ku Klux Klan and my experience in Bob Jones University fundamentalism.
- I have received audio copies of Bob Jones University faculty meetings and I will make those public.
- Fundamentalism is a cult.
- I am going to lift my head up.
That’s not an exhaustive list. It’s just what I remembered this morning.
See the connections among all that? I get the same threat-filled reaction to saying I don’t hit my kids that I get for my complaints about Dining Common food! My asserting my personal autonomy gets me insults just like my making an academic argument. There’s no hate; there’s just autonomous expression. It’s that I’m talking! And I’m talking outside the so-called “authority’s” control!
But that “asserting” is called “hating.” It’s not. Those who conclude that are confused. If you identify you yourself as the same substance as the ideology of fundamentalism, only then can you conclude that I am hating you. When I critique IT, you hear that I’m insulting you. I’m not. I see the difference between you and It. I see you. Heck — I see the difference between Bob Jones University and Bob Jones III!
When you identify so intimately with an organization or a system or an ideology so that any critique of it — of even its food — is taken as a slap against you? My dear friends, that’s a cult. Right there. You. You are proving it. You’ve proven it this week!
I see us in the New Kingdom. All of you in the middle and otherwise. You. We used to talk for hours. We disagreed. We argued. We joked. We laughed. . . . We will do that again. In the New Kingdom. With a good glass of wine at the Supper of the Lamb.
But that’s not for now in this broken world. Not right now anyway. Maybe tomorrow.
That’s what my mom sees too. In me. And in you, too. Your endless laments about my or my friends‘ “rhetoric” are really neither here nor there. Just the coyote scolding the moon for its bad form. While we sheep dogs guard the sheep . . . against you.
You don’t like it when I say things like “you’ll either be a reprobate or a thug for BJU?” because you want to be neither. You want to be middling which you perceive as “rational.” I understand. When you’re in the middling place, you really do think that you’re still in control. That your actions determine your consequences. That karma is true. That nothing bad will happen if you stand guard against what you wear or where you sign or “your tone.”
I know better. I’ve talked to the elderly (former) employees at BJU who are told they were fired because of their advancing age. I’ve talked to the burn victims and the incest survivors and the grieving parents. I know the coverups. You “middling” want to think deep down that you haven’t been pushed out of your job or your church because . . . you’re “middling.”
The myth of the middle only lasts so long. When it crumbles, you’re not going to be going to Chuck Phelps for support, and you won’t call on Bob Jones III either. I’ll have a cup of coffee and a plate of cookies for you while we talk over what happened. I’ll watch your kids while you go to therapy. I’ll do what I can. Which isn’t much really. Just being a friend.
But there’s no hate in it. Except for hate of injustice. And there’s no bitterness. Bitterness comes only in silence. And you know, deep down, that I’m still your friend.
God bless. I’ve got more singing to do.