Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Swine and Pearls

Matthew 7:6
Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.

The very first book, which I read as I was starting my journey away from Evangelicalism, was Frank Schaeffer's Sham Pearls Before Real Swine. It is a hard book to find. Indeed, I was lucky enough to get my copy directly from his mother. It had been one of the author's copies that he had sent to her. He had not yet fallen out of LAbri's graces so they had mentioned this book . . . although they didn't carry it in their bookstore. It intrigued me. Edith had one under her arm, which she had just received from her son. She gave it to me, having only read part of it . . . "Frank can be an angry man at times," she said in an apologetic voice.

That was 20 years ago. But the book took a very candid look (and in Frank's sometimes angry, sarcastic voice) at the insanity that is sometimes cloaked as America's Evangelicalism.

Of course, Jesus was referring to the Gospel in that passage. To those who understood it, it was a great treasure. To those who couldn't understand or appreciate it (like swines to pearls) it is like throwing something inedible at something (pigs) who are desperate to eat.

Of course, the same analogy can be applied to anytime that someone is trying to present something to someone who doesn't understand or care about it.

I've played the swine before. A couple of years ago, Denise took up with some Jehovah's Witnesses, who came by our house every week. She wanted to be neighborly and kind and sat for hours to listen to their spiel. Then they asked to meet with her husband (their usual strategy).

When Denise told me one afternoon that a group of JW were coming the next day (which happened to be a Saturday when I had a lot of chores to do) to meet with me, I felt really irritated. Denise sees the world through somewhat pure and naive eyes of relationships. I see the world, unfortunately too much like a Holden Caulfied, knowing that these people were up to convert me . . . and that's all they really wanted. All their smiles and compliments were bait on the trap.

So when they showed up, I was a little rude to them. I said hi but made it clear that I had not agreed to meet with them and had zero interest in what they had to say. Their pearls were being thrown to me and I was trampling them under my feet.

In my Evangelical days, I would have met with them, argued the Gospel to them ( which would be my pearls before their hoofed feet) just so I could then mention in Sunday school how I had shared the gospel with a bunch of JWs. I would of course embellish a bit, how they were deeply touched by the real Gospel. Maybe I would have thrown in a miracle or two.

But I didn't want to waste my time. I knew that I am barely a Christian on some days, and I (I know it sounds like a paradox) greatly favor Biblical Christianity over all other philosophical orientations. I would far more likely be persuaded to be an agnostic, a Jew, a Muslim, a Catholic or even and Evangelical than a JW. So why waste our time?

In my recent encounter with my Evangelical church, as I was leaving, the pastor was exchanging angry sounding e-mails with me. "I need to meet with you now! I need to bring this issue before the whole board on Oct 5th (which is tonight!) so I need answers now!"

"Leave me alone!" I begged. "There is no point in talking about it. I've made my decision to leave and it is final."

"You can't just walk away with being accountable to me. You have some answers to give!"

So, I made a huge mistake and started trying to explain why. I cast my pearls before the swine. I too was naive. I honestly was under the illusion that I could persuade him to at least think about my perspective on Evangelicalism. I even gave him the link to my book manuscript . . . which was truly my pearl. That book was a labor of intense feeling over a decade, a personal treasure.

As the Miranda Warning states, whatever you say can and will be used against you.

In the first Star Trek movie, there was this huge space ship coming towards earth to devour it (HUG may remember the details, I don't). Anyway, in the end they discovered that in the center of this huge space ship was a NASA probe, Voyager 6. In the movie that probe had been sent into deep space many decades earlier. Then it had evolved (can't remember if intelligent life helped it or not) and it came back to eat our planet.

My pearls, which I had sent the pastor over the two weeks leading up to our encounter, were regurgitated on my blue suede shoes when the pastor released his rage at me. My pearls had come back to me, but having evolved into hungry monsters.

My book manuscript was proof that I had turned my back on God, according to the pastor. But he had not read a single word (thank goodness) or even clicked on the link. But the fact that I had suggested that he would look at my treasure, my deep personal thoughts, my dreams and aspirations . . . were all deeply offensive to him (you would have to be there to understand the connection). All my other meager explanations for leaving Evangelicalism, not agreeing with the Ken Ham view that you must believe that the earth is 6,000 years old . . . or you are shit . . . each of them came back as proof to the pastor that I am really messed up.

But, this again is much bigger than my experience. As I am writing tonight, sitting here in Starbucks, four blocks down the street the Pastor is having a hearing about my leaving. If I were a fly on the wall, the things I would hear. He has no choice but to demonize me for leaving.

But, now I am wiser. I've always thought that those who give an answer without being asked a question is a fool. I think there are a couple of verses in Proverbs which suggest that. So, if someone has no interest in my views, I am the fool who offers them.

But I am the swine too. When my one last Christian friend on this island sees me, he is kind. He left this same church. He understands. But then he always tries to convert me to his denomination. That's when I tiptoe over his treasured pearls on the ground and make a shadowy escape


Anonymous said...

I am so sorry to hear about this. What a complete idiot that man is. May the coming years, as well as his ridiculousness right now, expose him for what he is to the people in his "care." Wolf...not good for sheep.

In the meantime, take good care of yourself. What you are going through is really traumatic, inwardly speaking...might not show up in outward blood and broken bones, but it's a beating, all the same. Be kind to yourself through this time.


Trevor Morgan said...

While I wouldn't wish your current experiences on anyone, I still appreciate you sharing them. Definitely food for thought.

If you were ever in my neck of the woods I'd love to take you out for coffee and share war stories!

Anonymous said...

Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.

As I've heard it explained, Pigs place NO value on pearls and a LOT of value on garbage.

"You can't just walk away with being accountable to me. You have some answers to give!"


When my one last Christian friend on this island sees me, he is kind. He left this same church. He understands. But then he always tries to convert me to his denomination.

i.e. The One True Way. (Last time that happened to me was when I too "left a cult-like church" -- I switched my home system from Mac to Microsoft Windows around 5-10 years ago and got turned into a pile of rocks as an Apostate and Heretic and Witnessing Target -- "APPLE AKBAR! APPLE AKBAR! APPLE AKBAR!")

Headless Unicorn Guy

P.S.(PLUG): Finally got a release date from my editor. Infinite Space, Infinite God II, including my latest SF novella, ships November 15th. (END PLUG)

MJ said...

I hope that I'm done mentioning this stuff. I mean, I do think I'm getting over it. I've slept the last two nights without pharmaceuticals, first time since the pastor encounter.

I talk about this stuff because this is my world. However, I know in the scheme of things, this is so minor. It doesn't compare to my leaving the mission field 25 years ago because then, I had no footing.

I know that there are many others out there, or who visit here who have gone through much more horrible things.

HUG, that's great news. Thanks for the plug!