Saturday, June 14, 2008

I Don't Mean to Irritate People

I get myself in trouble a lot, socially at least and it's not about how to hold my fork, it's my words.

I’m often left scratching my head thinking, “How did my innocent comment stir up so much anger?” Am I a social klutz? I mean I really am surprised by the responses I get sometimes.

I spent the first part of this week in hot water on a (non-Christian) medical forum. A colleague was arrested when he (45 years old) attacked a 13 year-old boy, choking him and holding a kitchen knife to his throat. Why did he do this? He said he did it because the boy had rung his doorbell as a prank and then ran and hid in the bushes.

My commentary about the event was simply, as a medical profession, our public behavior is under more scrutiny than the average person and I would consider that an over-reacton. We medical practitioners have to practice more restraint, especially if we are angry. While a construction worker might recover professionally (in otherwise keep his job) after such an event, it would hard for a doctor, nurse or PA to keep their job. This story was the headliner on the person’s local paper. I was really surprised (taken back in other words) when three or four people on the forum became very angry at me and continue sending me hate-mail, even though I apologized for even mentioning the event. I have not responded to their very personal attacks. I haven’t tried to defend myself on that very public forum, but several of my colleagues have spoken up to defend me.

But the point I want to make, is that I did not see that response coming at all. As a sociologist (pretending to be as I am not) I wanted to try and understand what had I said that pushed their buttons. I really thought there would be great agreement that this was an inappropriate response to a silly prank. I think they misinterpreted my words as me condemning the person from some kind of a higher moral ground. A few of them know that I’m a Christian, but I try not to wear that fact on my sleeves because I don't want to be quickly pigeon-holed as the typical obnoxious Evangelical.

But if these people knew my heart, how I have been severely humbled by my own failures, they would understand that I would never look down my nose at other people. It is not like I think I have been spared from such bad behavior because of my great integrity (eyes rolling here). But I was speaking as an objective observer of our profession. I also walk this fine line, and have gotten myself equally misunderstood on Christian forums/Blogs, including this one. I seemed to come across as highly critical of Evangelicalism, and maybe I am. But I am not critical in the way that I think I’m on some higher spiritual plane with all the answers.

I do think that Evangelicalism has lost its way. I haven’t completely found my way, but I think I see things more honestly than I use to. The reason isn’t due to some great spiritual attributes of my own. I got to this point by being a total failure . . . a failure as an Evangelical, a failure as a missionary and a failure in many other ways. In the same way that Luther (not making any personal comparisons here, but acknowledging that there have been thousands if not millions of people like Luther) came to his spiritual awareness through his spiritual failures, so have I.

Some Evangelicals, especially the Joel Osteen -positive thinking, perpetual smiling types, see me as negative or critical. But I don’t feel that way. I do feel like Alice in the Land of Wonder at times (as I try to live within the Evangelical world). But I have tremendous hope and positive attitude because we are all, completely cleansed by the blood of Christ and we don’t have to play the games anymore.

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