This will be less religious than humanitarian. That they aren’t the same thing is a little sad, but human division is exactly the topic I want to confront.
Shock to the System
Over the last couple weeks the #metoo movement has really driven home some of the scarier aspects of human nature. Chief among them: the propensity to barbaric dehumanization of others.
If you aren’t familiar, #metoo is a call to women who have been sexually assaulted to come forward and tell their story. Now ostensibly the intention wasn’t just for women, but there is where the problems start. Critics of the movement claim it is compelling women to become (or remain) victims, that it is blinded to the abuse men may have suffered as boys, and that it is political posturing. This highlights a variety of problems, but chief among them is the need to criticize in response.
Very, very rarely does a movement spread with the same intention with which it was started. A movement is just an idea, and as with any idea it changes in the passage from one to another. Let’s go through a few not-fun examples:
- The Civil War was initially an issue of States’ rights but became an issue of slavery.
- The Nazi party was originally a worker’s rights movement but grew into a movement about racism.
- Planned parenthood began as a racist eugenecist project but became about helping young women.
- Black Lives Matter started as a call against racism, but became a force for violence.
- The Bible started as a historical record but became a tool of war.
- The Federal Reserve was started as a way to regulate currency but became a system of socialism.
- America started as a way to escape oppression but became a far more oppressive system.
I could go on and on, but I stop here because it is very likely in at least one of these I stirred in you an ire, a desire to correct or argue or add on. It is that specific feeling I want to point out in hopes of changing the world a person at a time. And yes, I felt the eyeroll you wanted to do when reading that.
In Mark chapter 9 we get a very popular story about prayer and faith and the power of Christ. If you can’t recall it: Jesus has just come down from the Mount of Transfiguration, and He finds a father with his possessed boy. The disciples had been trying to exorcise the child, but had little success. The father asks Jesus to help him in his unbelief, and Jesus cures the kid. Lovely sequence, strong message, lots of things to mine.
But there is one verse, 19, that gets overlooked a lot, and when it is lectured on it seems most pastors and scholars get it wrong. Horribly wrong. In the verse Jesus says something critical:
“O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you?”
The NASB renders it:
“O unbelieving generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you?”
Sharp words, yes? Well, no; the tone is completely wrong because of manipulative translation.
The word “suffer” or “put up with” there is the future tense of the verb άνέχω, anecho, which means something altogether different. The actual meaning is “cling to” or, perhaps better, “support”. Think of a column holding up a building or a parent holding to the seat of their child’s training bike to steady them; that’s what this word refers to.
Holy men and brainiacs have claimed these were the words of an exasperated man, a Christ disgusted by people’s inability to “get it”. They won’t say it that way, of course. They tell you that this was an admonishment or a rejection of Satan’s influence in us. But do you see the death-worship in that? How it twists the meaning to a darker, more critical condemnation? That’s the tool of a man who wants to either control you for power or push you down to make himself feel more glorious. I don’t say that to be mean or unfair to them; their behavior is a cover for deep insecurity and pain, nothing more, and I don’t condemn them. That’s not even my place to consider; I just want to show them a better way.
What Christ said here was said in pain. His heart ached, and He was expressing the urgency of His mission. In modern words, He was saying “Guys, you don’t even recognize where you have blinded yourselves to My Father’s power; you do understand that I don’t have much time here, don’t you? That I don’t have much longer to be your instructor?” He wasn’t condemning, He was showing the Love He had for us and a sincere wish that we lean in closer, pay more attention, take more active part in our relationship. He was acknowledging that He didn’t have enough time to do what He wanted. Have you ever felt that same rush? I imagine it’s what a parent feels trying to finish their kid’s Halloween costume — the sense of urgency pressing down, but the overwhelming Loving desire to do a good job and finish to see their happiness (if not gratitude) at seeing it the next day. He wasn’t mad, He was scared of letting us down.
How do I know that? Because — and this isn’t the only example — in John 8 when meeting an adultress — adultery being a sin God Himself told Moses a woman should be stoned to death for (in Deuteronomy 22:22) — He said “Neither do I condemn thee”. If He wouldn’t codemn an adultress He sure wouldn’t condemn someone who struggled to believe against their nature. He is a God of mercy, grace, and Love and He cannot act against this nature.
Christ’s desire not to fail us we twisted into a condemnation. Typical of our brokkenness and death-worship, but make no mistake: IT’S NOT AT ALL TRUE. Jesus Loves you. Yes, even you. He knows your name, He knows your nature, and He Loves you because of it, not in spite of it. Don’t buy this “he sees your treeness” crap. Yes, He sees the future. Yes, He sees you fifth-dimensionally (if you don’t get that reference just ignore it — it is not important enough to worry about). Yes, He knows who and what you will be someday. But that has zero to do with why He Loves you today; you don’t Love your children because of what they will grow up to be and neither does your Father Love you for who you will be.
Sorry, got into a sermon there. Here’s why I brought up that story from Mark, though: Jesus was heartbroken He might not be enough. It is another place where He shows his servant nature, and He was pointing out exactly why the disciples couldn’t exorcise the boy’s demon: they were trying to exercise God’s power instead of trying to help the boy. See the subtle distinction? They were trying to be men of God instead of servants of man. Pro-tip: God doesn’t need publicists, He wants His kids to get along.
We spend so much effing time beating ourselves and each other up. We get offended and we lash out. Oh, sure: we tell ourselves it is because we are trying to correct or enlighten, but that’s complete crap. Not one of us ever argued on an internet thread because we were trying to help that person. No one ever has, because — news flash — arguments don’t actually work! Sorry, but they don’t. The best case, the absolute most positive you can hope for from an argument is that it expresses enough repressed emotion to allow the apology to do the changing. But if we had a better way to deal with our feelings we wouldn’t need the argument that so dangerously allows the irrevocable to be said. We don’t need to go 10 rounds with our opponents, we need to control our emotions and stop seeing our brothers and sisters as opponents.
Social psychologists have shown that in an argument you objectify the other party, you reduce them to an aggressor. You literally fail to see them as a human and instead see their position as a thing you need to kill. Your empathy all but shuts off, making you open to say things you otherwise wouldn’t or in ways you don’t realize are counterproductive. Many people are in a constant argument with themselves, so they are in a state of social shutoff which exposes the world to whatever it is that their flesh finds soothing, be it shooting up a concert, beating a spouse, raping a child, or spouting bigoted nonsense. My wife has a favorite saying: “hurt people hurt people” and it’s incredibly accurate. The #metoo movement has shown that full blast.
On the one hand are the hurt people who need to attack the men and women telling their stories because they fear someone might tell their story. On the other are all of these men and women with these heartbreaking stories of their abuse at the hands of others, often of people they knew and Loved and trusted. We so easily treat each other like dirt. Actually, less than dirt: we’re ecologically minded enough we actually care to take care of the dirt more. I am proud of those standing up with their story. Are some lying? Maybe. Are some playing victim? Maybe. Are some blowing their experience out of proportion to get attention? Maybe. But the exceptions don’t negate the rule: thousands of people have stood up to say something painful that has shamed them for, in some cases, decades. They have finally said it, publicly. They have put themselves out there to the rest of us to help them heal. How any rational person could condemn that is beyond me. Hurt people hurt people.
There is another campaign out there. I think it’s great for the objects of abuse to take back their self-worth, but the bigger social change is in opening the gates of guilt. The #Ihave campaign is for those who have wronged others to own it and seek help moving on, releasing their pain and grabbing hope. It takes more courage, and it requires more compassion to receive. I will give mine in a second.
We do more than just share air here, people. We are social creatures, and that means we need each other. Biologically this is proven. Hold hands with a stranger for 10 seconds and your bodies WILL produce oxytocin. You will feel bonded to that person, you will elevate them from an empty shell in your world to a living, breathing human you share life with. That’s unarguable biological fact. We are meant to be good to each other. I don’t even need to know God to say that definitively: even anarchists concede that point. We need to keep this in perspective: unless you are being physically attacked you don’t have an opponent. The first step of any change is defining the problem.
I am telling you: the problem is not the number of abused people; the problem is the number of abusive people. I propose #Ihave as a means to own the pain we have inflicted on the world, to identify those left in our wake, to identify our abuses and grow out of them.
So let me take a first step:
When I was 16 my girlfriend was high on prescription pills and I took advantage of her, then denied it and guilted her into letting it go. When I was 19 — and married — I developed a very unhealthy obsession with a 17-year-old girl I worked with and I basically stalked her for a couple weeks without her knowing. At 27 after telling my ex-wife I wanted a divorce I had angry sex with her and hurt her. On purpose. I have been a part of the problem; I’ve used sex for power, I’ve made women feel lesser, and I’ve treated people as objects of my rage. I am so very sorry for it, and I have spent years trying to cleanse myself of all of it, even before I was saved at 35, to change the patterns that led to these things. I will work to do so for the remainder of my life. But, yes, #Ihave
Care to step out with me?