“This is complete nonsense.”
The comment was made in response to a social media post, in which I shared words from an anonymous author. The words had resonated deeply within me and had pierced my soul. It was a post about the complexity of people and the contradictions found within each of our lives. It spoke of how we can be for Black Lives Matter and still support the police… about how a person can be both gay and Christian… about how Muslims can be the victims of terrorism… about how a person can be anti-abortion and pro-choice… about being a feminist who respects men. It spoke to my heart because I so often read opposing arguments and think, “Why must it be one or the other? Why must I choose a side? Why can’t it be some of both?”
I scanned the list of “likes” to my post and read each comment, and was gratified to find a very diverse group of political and religious perspectives, social classes, and ethnicities. That’s always a win, to me – when people from opposite ends of the spectrum see the wisdom in a viewpoint. That’s when I feel like there’s hope for us yet… that perhaps there IS some common ground that we can build upon.
And then, in the middle of basking in the glow of like-mindedness, came the jarring full-stop:
This is complete nonsense.
Disagreement I can live with – another person had commented that everything in the post wasn’t biblical, and while I disagreed with that assessment, I simply accepted the heartfelt opinion and hit the like button. It wasn’t the time or place for a debate on interpretation of scripture. In fact, I actually love thoughtful disagreement because it feels like progress is being made, whereas lack of dissent feels like those who disagree are just staying silent.
But… nonsense? Complete nonsense? Really? What an arrogant, dismissive response.
First it made me angry, and I shot back a reply. Others piled on, and it turned into long arguments and Bible passages being used as weapons. One of those social media exercises that is a complete and utter waste of time and energy… and must surely contribute to the blood pressure medication industry.
But underlying my anger was hurt. Deep hurt. While this person is an acquaintance rather than a close friend, she represents, to me, the establishment. The mainstream. The Church, with a capital C. When someone confidently represents themselves as the authority, it’s so easy to subconsciously accept that premise and retreat into defensiveness. And if we aren’t careful, we can even confuse the opinion of such a person as God’s opinion.
I should stop for a moment and give some insight into my own personality. I’m the youngest of five, and one of the favorite family stories to repeat occurred when I was around 4 years old. One of my older brothers, a teenager at the time, was making me a sandwich. When I requested something that sounded weird to him, he told me I couldn’t have that because the ingredients didn’t go together. According to family lore, I angrily put my hands on my hips and yelled, as only a bossy 4-year old can, “Well who made YOU the big sandwich boss?!?!?”
It’s the type of question I’ve found myself asking repeatedly in the nearly 50 years since then… although as I’ve aged I do usually (but not always) keep it to myself. And so after 2-3 days of fuming, and grumbling, and having arguments within my head (surely I’m not the only one who does that??) I finally pinpointed the question I wanted to pose to my facebook friend:
Who made you the thought police? Who gave you the role of sorting out sense from nonsense? Who appointed you the judge of who’s a “real” Christian and who isn’t? Who made you the queen of biblical interpretation?
Who made you the big spirituality boss??
Now I should make something clear. I do believe in accountability… and I have people in my life who I trust to listen and filter my thoughts and ideas. My husband, my kids, my close friends, my small group, my mentors, my pastors… those who know me and walk with me and understand when I’m thinking out loud, when I’m searching, when I’m debating, when I’m deciding, and when I’m asking. People who have earned the right to provide thoughtful input.
But being a facebook friend doesn’t provide that right. Not for you, or for me, or for anyone else.
You see, when I argue over social media — even over issues near and dear to my heart — the people I’m arguing with aren’t the point. Perhaps they may one day meet one of the millions of gay Christians in the world and recognize God’s heart beating inside of them… or run across a pregnant 12-year old caught in sex trafficking and fully realize her dilemma… or meet a Muslim who’s been victimized by terrorism.
Or, maybe not. Our “opponents” may never, ever change their minds or rethink their positions. And if that’s the case, so be it. Only God can change minds that have doubled down so hard or for so long. Changing minds and hearts is way above my pay-grade, and yours.
Our REAL job is, I think, very different but far more important: to breathe life into those who have been victimized by the self-proclaimed spirituality bosses.
If you have had the courage to voice your genuine, heartfelt, Spirit-borne ideas and have had them thrown back in your face…
If you are a walking contradiction…
If you feel like a misfit…
If you have been told your beliefs are nonsense…
If you feel as though you are never validated… never given the benefit of the doubt… never even fully seen…
Then I have a message for you: You are valid. You matter. You matter to God, you matter to me, you matter to the world.
Sometimes you are dead wrong, and sometimes you are totally right, and most often you’re somewhere in between. So am I. So are our parents… friends… teachers… doctors… pastors… writers… accountants… politicians. Okay, so maybe some of these are right more often while others are wrong more often… but you get my point.
But here’s a little tip: the more certain someone is of their rightness, the more likely they are to be wrong. And when someone expresses genuine uncertainty, they are almost always presenting us with a golden nugget of truth.
Jesus taught us, long ago: “Blessed are the humble… blessed are the meek… blessed are the poor in spirit…”
Why is humility so important in seeking God? Because the opposite of faith isn’t doubt; the opposite of faith is certainty. The quickest way to find ourselves opposing God is to be certain that we represent him.
So to all the self-appointed bosses out there… your opinion of me, my theology, my biblical interpretation, my musical tastes, my friendships, my words or anything else holds absolutely no power over me. There is one, and only One, who is my judge… and he chose grace.
And to all the outcasts, the misfits, the unnoticed, the dismissed, the rejected, the beaten down… to those who can’t seem to articulate your thoughts… to those who spout “complete nonsense” because you get so angry… if you are breathing, then you matter. Your beliefs matter. Your perspective matters. Your ideas matter. If you are the only person in the entire universe who shares a particular viewpoint… it still matters. We need you in our lives and in our world and in our heads and in our hearts.