God doesn't like me.
God is angry at me.
God is offended by me.
Or so I am told.
What a way to wake up in the morning. After a night of bad dreams, I got up and checked my e-mail to find a letter (a kindly thing to call it) from someone who has seen me lecture recently. He wanted me to know that, while I had not offended him in my presenation, I had offended God. Then he called me a 'overweight, disabled, foul mouthed, drunk' ... OK, there's a tee-shirt in there somewhere.
I know my lecture style isn't for everyone. I know some are put off by my real world examples with real world language. I never swear for effect, I do use 'cuss words' and am aware every time that I do. I know that some won't be able to hear the message because of the way the message is given. But because truth is such a fragile thing, if I change stories, the language of stories, they suddenly don't sound real anymore. I don't make up situations, I colour them in the telling like any storyteller, but I don't conjure them. I'm afraid if I alter the language the situations will sound contrived, like a story made for the point rather than having a point drawn from a story. I get that people don't get that. I get that some simply don't like how I deliver a message.
What I don't get is that someone I don't know, who knows me only from behind a podium, feels that they can speak for a God who knows me from both the deep and shallow ends. How someone feels that they can tell the state of my faith, my values, my heart by sitting and listening to me from within a bubble of preconceptions.
I read the letter to Joe, this guy clearly hadn't picked up that I was gay too - he'd probably run from the room, and Joe openly worried that the letter would bother me. I suppose because I'm writing about it, it does. But then again, not really. I just thought I'd suggest to all of you, and remind myself, that it's good to remember that there are other people on the end of your comments, human sensibilities at the other end of your disapproval, real feelings that can be hurt ... all on the other side. I think it's easy to forget that a comment, a letter, a criticism is aimed at someone else who will feel.
Readers of Chewing the Fat are a lovely lot. Some of you have really disagreed with what I've written, but for the most part you've been deft at doing so kindly. In fact, some of the comments here - kindly given, have led me to rethink my position and sometimes even change my mind. This is why I started writing this blog, to have a conversation, to learn and to throw things out to see what bounces back. Sometimes, even if I haven't changed my mind due to a disagreement, I'm still glad to have been asked to think more deeply about something.
The fellow who wrote me a letter worries me. When you put words into the mouth of God, much is at risk.
Words...they are an arsenal, arent't they? And when we launch a missile in God's name, we had better be sure he is behind it. Hey, though! He is not a missile launcher...he loved us so much that he laid his very life down for us.
We must all offend him but he LOVES us. He has much to say if we listen, and he really doesn't need human voice. His words heal and change gently and without condemnation.
I only recently started reading your blog. I know exactly what you mean. I felt this same way when someone discussed whether or not my child's life had meaning...or not. It hurts more than someone physically attacking you. I admire your strength - even when you doubt your own abilities. Carry on, your message did get through even if that person couldn't tell it like it is and had to hide behind God.
I can never understand how someone can say God is offended and then use language that is offensive. Can they not see that they have just offended God by using such language, by degrading others. It always boggles my mind that people don't see what they do is exactly the same as what they have accused (wrongly I'm sure) of others. MDN
"human sensibilities at the other end of your disapproval, real feelings that can be hurt ...", how true Dave, not just in your blog but in our everyday dealings, there may be times that criticism is necessary, but know that there is a human receiving it. Personally, I distrust most people who speak to me on behalf of God. I think my personal line with him is much clearer - and he doesn't typically give me messages to relay to others...so I'll stick to checking in with him myself rather than hearing it from others. God never struck me as the type to gossip anyway!
Hope you have a great week-end.
Wow..."when you put words into the mouth of God"...that is profound. This is why I have such a hard time when people who claim to be followers of God condemn groups of His children for merely being who they are. Thank you for this post.
Lina you took the words right out of my mouth....DITTO! I have been reading for about 5 mths now and have agreed and disagreed but ALWAYS left enriched, thoughtful, and thus better for my visit!! Keep it up Dave!! BrAvO!!!
It has been comments and thinking like that which for a long time led me personally away from God. I didn't understand hate mongering or how it could possible realte to God. I now proudly call myself a christian, but still feel a little sick when someone uses God as a reason for hate or dissaproval..."Judge not lest ye be judged" right?
The honesty with which you tell your stories helps them to hit home, and in todays culture I have difficulty understanding how using real world language can get in the way of your message. We see and hear violence and oppression daily, but that's somehow less diturbing than a few swear words or frank discussions about our bodies?
I can't think God would approve of him lashing out in that way.
Agreeing with MDN.
I got similar treatment from some people when I commented (in response to a news story one of them linked to where a mother said her disabled daughter would be cured in heaven) that many disabled people don't want a heaven in which they're made normal. Some people even claimed to *know* what heaven would be like for their child. Ridiculous.
I'm an atheist, so I don't care about offending god (there are so many! too hard to keep track of!). And, rather obviously, whatever that person's god is, it isn't the one you have talked about, not one you believe in.
"Overweight, disabled, foul mouthed, drunk" would indeed make a great T-shirt. I am curious about the "drunk" bit, though. What happened? Did you drink the guy's beer? Grab the last bottle of MD 20/20 from his trembling hands and chugalug it in front of him? It looks like he came up with three things he didn't like about you, but felt that any list of insults needs a fourth, wholly gratutious, term in order make it obvious that you were being insulted and not merely described.
You share in a way that touches most people very deeply, please never edit yourself. :)
I'm so glad that you invite conversation too because to me that is the beauty of human interaction and evolving as a person. I not only learn from you, but learn from your commenters as well.
Thanks for being who you are!
Everyone thinks they know what God wants/needs/feels/says but no one does! I think if we can treat each other kindly and with curtesy if not respect then we will do fine.
No one knows what God wants but I hope he/she/it/they loves us all.
We can know what God wants, sometimes. Some things are objectively good, some things are objectively evil, and for some things it depends. But none of us is in a position to judge the state of another person's soul.
God hates some behaviour that is contrary to his plan for our lives, but he loves everyone, whether or not they're foul-mouthed, drunk, or otherwise distasteful to your correspondent with the attitude.
Ooooh, I wish I knew exactly what God thought too :o)
As a Buddhist, i dont' believe in an outside, greater authority kind of god. We as human beings all have the divine in our selves - so don't you worry about a thing. There is no great judge out there. You should be the judge of whether you live your life well and in service of others. And we know you do. I hope you know it too Dave, otherwise I'm gonna have to jump on a plane and come and give you a serious hiding.
And yeah, go and make a T-shirt. And if you make one that says "fan of Overweight, disabled, foul mouthed, drunk" I will buy one! And be proud to wear it. For sure!
Heike - I love the fan of . . . Tshirt idea - I'd be in on that one too!
I could not refrain from commenting on your mention of peace and how it has been disturbed by the letter you received. One of my favourite quotes about peace is from Robert Fulghum - the Everything I need to know I learned in Kindergarten author. He says, "Peace is not something you wish for; it's something you make, something you do, something you are, and something you give away!" Dave, I gotta tell you - in my estimation you are one of the peacemakers in this world because of the work that you do and your honesty and upfront style. I am guessing that peace is something you do and something you are and something you give away Dave Hingsburger! You speak the truth as you know it in the real hope of making a positive difference in the lives of people who have been oppressed and terribly wounded by our society, in the hope of making a better society for us all - that is peace making. And this person cannot steal that away from you! or from the rest of us!
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