The other day I dove head first into a facebook debate. I knew it was a bad idea but I did it anyway. I just couldn't resist the topic. I deflowered that conversation like a cheap box of chocolates. I've always fancied a good debate. What sets me apart, however, is my cheeky way of turning a serious argument into a three ring circus. Watching people explode into flaming tirades has always been a source of entertainment for me. Instead of getting mad, I flippantly antagonize. It's a contest. I feel like if I can make the opponent lose their temper and act a fool, I've won. Sinister, I tell you.
Some time after I became a Christian, I came to understand that provoking people is wrong and I thought I'd killed the little antagonist minion inside of me. But, last night, she woke up from her coma and came out to play. By the time I was done with that online debacle, my opponent was yelling in caps, ending everything in exclamations, "liking" her own statuses and I was rolling in sick, gleeful laughter. It felt eerily satisfying. Then the endorphin started to wear off just before bed and I noticed the oh-so-clever and sarcastically appropriate name I called her was spelled wrong. Then I felt silly. I started thinking that maybe poking fun at mean people (even if they deserve it) is not very nice and doesn't set a very good example (to said mean people), which was ironic because "being nice" was the topic of our discussion.
I had an epiphany though. Until this very public, erm...discussion, I thought I was a tolerant person of every religion, race, creed, and sexual orientation. Alas, I am not. I am bigoted towards mean and nasty church people who profess to follow Jesus Christ. I didn't think I could resent a sect of humans as much as I dislike them. But put me in a chat room with a couple religious bullies and I will sink to their level by my fourth post. It was a disappointing revelation because I, also, claim to follow Jesus Christ.
I hear them justify their position with statements like, "The bible says Christians will be hated" and "to rejoice when we are persecuted for our beliefs." I know that there are folks out there in the world who don't know me and will hate me simply because I am Christian. I just think its unnecessary to hand them ammunition and I blame some of my fellow bro's and sis' in the Lord for making our already controversial faith ever-more taboo. Their actions make me feel defensive and embarrassed for my association with them because I'm afraid the rest of the world will assume I'm like them.
By "them," I mean the people who impose their biblical rules on non-believers insisting they follow a moral code of conduct they're not aligned with; the people who preach with scare tactics in attempt to 'win heathens' into the kingdom with threats of hell-fire, heckle and interrupt other religious public speakers or ceremonies, those who assault innocent bystanders with graphic bloody abortion posters, crash funerals of fallen soldiers, spit and spew at gay protesters, advocate white-supremacy, plot world-domination-- all in the name of Jesus. They just plain lose their manners and excuse their rudeness with righteous indignation against the "abominations." Though these behaviors and attitudes are the minority sub-culture of "Christians," they are rife with sentiments that echo our terrorist-jihadist enemies and it is no wonder "we" Jesus people are so reviled. Not to mention the most racially divided group on any given Sunday. Having this reputation makes it real hard for me to boldly tell perfect strangers about the Jesus I know or the Christianity I follow.
God granted everyone free-will and no one is going to willfully swallow what is thrust down their throat. The Bible even says that the church cannot expect the world to live by Christian moral values. That includes America. I consider the United States fortunate that its constitution was founded on Christian principals, but let us not forget the savage and un-Christ-like way we took over this country in Jesus' name. Ultimately, Christians are the ones called to live a lifestyle set apart from what the world considers 'normal.' Abiding by a biblical standard is a result of following Christ, not the prerequisite. But some clamoring brass, cymbal tinkling, bible-thumping church people have got it backwards and it just makes my blood boil when I see them imposing their lifestyle on others who haven't even taken the first step of faith. It's God's prerogative to call anyone unto himself and if an non-believer is not persuaded by my story, then maybe it's not their time. Your 'testimony' might be one of many someone needs to hear before they believe. Perhaps they never will. Christ-followers have got to learn how to not take that personal.
At the end of the day I just hope my life exemplifies something attractive. A lifestyle choice that's not offensive, rude, boastful, proud, self-seeking, impatient and intolerant, even towards mean Christians...Though sometimes I just find that loving non-believers is easier than loving some of my obnoxious brothers and sisters in Christ. Lord help me, to remember the basic tenants of my faith and be gracious to them in spite of their frothy mouths and gnashy teeth, maybe they will eventually be convinced to be nicer to people also?
What are your thoughts? Do you have any examples of how you turned the tide for better in an ugly confrontation? How do you keep from loosing your cool when someone is being mean or unreasonable?