Sunday, June 17, 2012

Words You Must Never Say

It seems like I always have the provocation to writing and that's listening to Christian radio.  I don't normally listen to it. It is so odd, the repetitive nature of my experience, that is reminiscent of the movie Groundhog Day.  Friday mornings I borrow my wife's car as I work in our satellite office, which is a 35 mile drive. Her radio is pre-set to the Christian station.  I personally listen mostly to public radio, especially in the mornings. As I'm driving I start fiddling with the radio . . . but eventually catch a few minutes of the Christian station before I can find NPR.

This week the preacher (Dr. so and so from some Baptist church in Texas) was talking about Christian behavior that doesn't offend the weaker brother.  He gave the classic example of being caught buying alcohol. While he doesn't think drinking is sin, he did think that if a "weaker" brother saw him buying alcohol, that weaker brother could assume that he was buying it only to get drunk, therefore he never drinks alcohol. He couldn't drink it without buying it so to avoid buying it, he doesn't drink it.  He did (so feeble in my opinion) try to put distance to what he was saying and "legalism."  But in my opinion, the very essence of legalism is trying to put on an appearance to fit within the mores of the Evangelical sub-culture.

He also went on to talk about words that shouldn't be said, which then catapulted my brain into a far more philosophical realm of thinking.

I know I come back to this same theme, this feeling out of step with the culture around me.But there are so many un spoken words that we will take to the grave with us, that it is a crying shame that they have to be boxed up and put into storage . . . forever.

I love truth . . . even if it hurts. I get in trouble often for speaking truth, even though I do try not to. Putting in context, the society (in this case the Christian society) says that there are a list of things that you should not say (I'm not at all talking about damn, shit, hell and etc.), so if you do say them (and everyone in the room knows it is the truth) it is assumed that you did it with vile intentions.

Now, I'm certainly not talking about telling someone that they are fat, ugly or stupid. I will try to communicate this more clearly in the following examples.

I used my wife as an example a lot because she is very normal . . . I am not. She fits well into the bell curve of society accepts. She is loved by most, including me, while I'm seen as "odd" or even "a trouble maker." So, I will speak very honestly to her and if it makes her uncomfortable she is simply silent. But often my honest words are in the form of my intellectually questioning.  "I wonder if son x (who is in a band) uses drugs?  I hope he doesn't it but it is certainly part of that culture. I would like to ask him."

Her response is, to be normal, and say, "Why would you even want to know? Why does your mind even think  of these things? I would rather imagine that he doesn't and never ask."

Okay, it is Father's Day so I will continue talking about my kids a bit.

I have the same questions inside about what they believe about Christianity. I do ask them these hard questions sometimes, but it is awkward for them and my wife when I do. But I'm not doing it to stir up trouble. It will be hard for me if I found out they were using drugs, being sexually active, doubting God's existence, but still I just want to know. My knowing doesn't change reality. My wife's view is that these are questions should not be asked but if they want to talk to me about them, they should bring it up.

I wanted to say something about my old Evangelical pastor's abusive behavior towards his wife. But my wife said that would create total chaos within that church.  She was right. I know what would have happened because I got a taste of it in the end. The pastor would have turned his rage towards me, he would use is spiritual manipulative words to persuade the whole church to turn against me. But I think as I lay on my death bed, I will wander why I didn't speak up.

Years ago I was getting ready to face the board of directors of a Christian organization about a very serious matter.  Just before the meeting, one of the leaders of that organization called me. He wanted to give me a script of what I could say and couldn't say.  His point was I needed to start with a Bible verse, keep a smile as I spoke, show no anger, and point all my words towards giving "God the glory."  I hung up on the man. I hung up on him and he called back. He said, "Hey brother . . . it sounded like we got cut off?"  I said, "Hell no we didn't get cut off, I hung up on you. This is a very serious matter and you are calling me to tell me what I can and can't say?"  To which he replied, "I'm just warning you, if you don't come across as very spiritual to the board, they won't listen to you."

This drives me insane!  Things that are taboo to say and things we must say even if we don't mean them.

I look around church sometimes, even my new--much better--church and I think of things I would like to say to people.  Sometimes I do.  I watched a lady start a business with great excitement, then that business failed.  I don't know her very well but I did walk up to her and say, "Loosing that business must be heartbreaking."  I thought she would be grateful but I sensed her feeling angry at me for bringing it up. She quickly responded, "God is in control of these matters and that's all that's important."

I'm a business owner and if my business failed (and it has come very close several times) I would be damned depressed.  It would have nothing to do with God being in control or not, it would be about my emotions.

I just wish so much we could raise the questions, talking about the elephants in the room, without offending.  Words. Just words . . . sadly put to rest before they ever had the chance to mature into meaning and knowledge. I think of all the, "I love you," "I'm sorry," "Why did you do this," "How did you feel about that" and many, many unspoken words . . . that we take with us to the grave.


Paul said...

Good post. there are alot of things i don't say. I don't talk theology with my friends ( because they are all atheists or agnostic , and don't understand what i'm saying) and i don't talk about it with my family ( all of whom are practicing evangelicals). Sometimes it makes things very lonely.

Also here is something that you may enjoy. Much better than all that christianese music. Maybe let it play in the background if your at home working. :

Philip said...

Paul, just a thought as I've talked with many atheists and agnostics myself. Ask them questions and really study up on their world views if you get a chance. They will really appreciate that you care. And do it with no mixed motives of trying to convert them. If you do so, I bet you'll have some meaningful dialogues. I do a lot.

Paul said...

Hey Phil! thanks for the words. I never have the intention of converting that , that isn't up to me. I spoken with many thoughtful atheists & agnostics before. The thing is my friends really aren't that thoughtful & don't really have any sort of articulated worldview.