The Tulip Driven Life Podcast

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

To My Former Fellow Students and Friends From Grace

I actually submitted this as an assignment for my Communications class, but I think what I said may be helpful for some of you who I knew from high school. I hope and pray that this will shed more light on why I say and do what I do and that I do care about each and every one of you in the love of Christ.

Perception, Self, and Other
I believe that many people perceive me as a pompous jerk, and I say that without any exaggeration. In fact, I know this is true because I have been told this on numerous occasions. Even though we live in an individualist culture, enculturation and traditions leave certain issues almost too American to question or challenge. I think this is where I run into trouble; I often talk about religion, the Bible, and my issues with many in the Church and what the Church is teaching.
It is not that I am an atheist, on the contrary I want to be a pastor and I am very conservative in my beliefs. You could even call me a fundamentalist, yet my critiques are often of fundamentalists. I believe that the American Christian culture has had a strong, legalistic, fundamental mentality and belief system for so long now that to challenge it is almost equivalent to challenging God Himself. It is what children believe because their parents believed it, and their parents believe it because their parents taught it to them. It is almost more of a tradition than it is a religion, yet to mention this very point is sure to evoke the wrath of many who take the name of Christ. It is, in some respects, a culturally sensitive issue- to question the way Americans view God is to commit an American cultural faux pas.
I went to the same Christian school from the time I was five until I graduated high school. They were affiliated and supported by a church, and this church and school is the perfect example of what I am talking about. There was not hardly any dialogue about other Christian positions, nor was there a strong defense of the school’s official theological position. In short, it was almost as if the school thought their position was the only position that existed, and anything else was not even worth considering because it was simply wrong.
Well, once I got to college I did realize there were other Christian positions. Other conservative, fundamental Christian beliefs, and these fundamental Christians actually addressed why they believe what they believe, and they did not just spat off about what they believe without defending why it was true. I quickly began to see that a particular fundamental Christian perspective known as Calvinism was both logically true and biblically true. At the same time, I realized that many of my friends from Christian school and the teachers there not only where non-Calvinists but were in many ways anti-Calvinistic. I decided something needed to be done about that, so I began blogging on Facebook about my new beliefs and why I felt the Christian school’s beliefs were wrong and dangerous.
As you might imagine, this did not go over very well. The stereotype of the people and church I was trying to address seemed to be that anyone who questions their beliefs and viewpoint of God and the Bible could not possibly have pure and loving motives for doing so. I was accused of being judgmental and divisive, which for them was automatically and always a sinful thing. On top of that, I was publicly disclosing not only private information about myself in order to help people see that I was not trying to take a holier-than-thou attitude, but I also disclosed information about one particular student whom I graduated with who was now the poster child at the school and church for being a sound Christian. In fact this person was going to be a youth pastor, and currently is one.
This did not have the intended effect. I told through a blog that I wrote on Facebook that this particular person who wanted to be a youth pastor was doing some things, and believing some things, that should raise question and caution over whether this person should be a youth pastor- or if he was even a Christian at all. I pointed out that the guy was leading Bible studies at one point and was agnostic at the same time. I also pointed out some conduct that was recurring in his life that he tried to cover up to save face and keep his Christian reputation. Knowing the person as well as I did, I concluded that this man was probably not a true believer, a Pharisee, and certainly should not be a pastor of a church.
The person I was talking about on Facebook, and other students from the Christian school I went to, as well as some of the administration became very upset with me. I believe they thought in part that I was experiencing the disinhibition effect because I was communicating all of this personal information online and they thought I would never talk or behave this way in person. Further, because you cannot as easily connote your intentions and expressions online, I believe this only convinced them more that my motives for doing what I was doing was sinful and mean-spirited.
In hindsight, I can honestly say that my deepest, strongest motivation for doing what I did was because I cared about the school and the guy I was exposing. At the same time, I was very angry because I began to see how wrong in many key areas the school was, and how hypocritical my friend who wanted to be a youth pastor was. At times, I let my anger affect my tone in a sinful manner, which caused those at the school and the person I was talking about to think I was just trying to be a self-righteous, divisive jerk. I do think that I was a victim of overattribution- although at times I got angry and expressed my anger in a negative way, I believe the majority of the time my anger was righteous and I spoke the truth in love. The students and administration could not see this however because of their culture and bias against me.
More recently I apologized both on Facebook and in person to my friend who wanted to be a youth pastor for the way I sometimes said things, although I made it abundantly clear that I was not apologizing for my position or my accusations. I have come to realize that the more I talk with students and the administration in person, the more they respect me and realize that I am not a pompous jerk but someone who is passionate about the truth of God and living as He commands us.
I feel that this response (speaking with people in person) has been effective and appropriate, helping both them and me. I think they can now see that although I am direct and blunt, I am polite and compassionate. We are both able to empathize with one another more easily, keeping an open mind and thus having more effective dialogue. While I still have many concerns and issues with the school and some of the students, and they with me, we have come a long way and I believe that we can both see that deep down we are most concerned about serving God and serving others, and effective face to face dialogue is a big reason why.

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