Tuesday, February 12, 2008

So That We are not Misunderstood

Greetings and Blessings,

I had a negative experience this past weekend in my gaming group. The gaming session itself went just fine, but afterwards there was a line of conversation that has made me consider certain motivations and courses of action for the present time and the future.

Now let me say a few things first before I get into what actually took place, so that I am not misunderstood. My religious beliefs are that of the Protestant line of the Christian Church. Yes, I believe that Christ was born of a virgin. Yes, I belive that He was crucified on a cross for the purpose of being one last sacrifice, a final atonement for the sins of the world, for each and every one of us. Yes, I believe that, just as importantly, He rose again from death, having conquered it once and for all. I believe all of this and more. And, I have found that there is a standard set for those like me that is at once amazingly staunch and unrelentingly hypocritical. This standard is not self-imposed, at least not in any societal sense, for most Christians want to be seen in the best light possible. Instead those who are not Christian have imposed it upon me and those like me for reasons that they believe are just and good but are ultimately selfish, biased, and (to be blunt) the personification of faults and shortfalls perceived to be present (either consciously or not) in their own lives. I am speaking, of course, of the Standard of Tolerance.

First, I have to speak of what tolerance means for those who are doing the imposing. Tolerance is a magical word for a magical world. It is the key to ushering in a utopia of good feelings and no more evil (if such a thing even exists) in the world. In this world of tolerance nobody is wrong to have the views he or she holds to. In this magical realm, nobody has the right to say that anyone else is wrong about anything. There is only what the individual holds to be a personal truth. This multi-faceted embracing of all world views and religions begets an age of peace, harmony, and understanding between all peoples.

Now this "Tolerance" thing may seem very nice to a lot of people. No more fighting about who is right about this or that. No more squabbling about my god being better than your god. A Christian is just as right as an atheist, as a Hindu, as a Druid, as a Muslim, as a Buddhist. I do not want to stop here to discuss why this is an ignorant thought. Instead, I wish to discuss why this thought is either so repulsive to me and those like me or why others with the same views strive to cut off pieces of themselves in order to be seen as someone who is tolerant and able to fit into our society.

As a Christian, the "Standard of Tolerance" is at once a very funny and a very insulting thing. On the one hand, I see a society (a group of people) pushing down upon me to accept this view, a forced theological and philosophical change for me, just to be accepted in society. If I do not, I am branded a hypocrite, cast into a dark room of social nothingness, scorned for standing next to beliefs that are too harsh for a fragile world to endure. On the other hand, should I bend to the Standard, then it will be perceived that my convictions were not so important to me in the first place (as I have just compromised them in order to fit in), and society will take a look at the beliefs I hold and judge them to fall short of consideration because so many have bent and broken them in order to fit in to society.

Everyone knows an example of at least one type of person that I have mentioned so far. Many of these examples hurt the ability of the Christian people today to effectively minister to those who are in need. Some in society hold the faults of Christian people against God and Jesus, failing (or refusing) to realize the difference in God and Man. As with most situations, the bad outweighs the good, if only in effect and memory, even if the bad does not actually supercede it (which it rarely can). A Christian then has to come across a difficult decision. This decision is one that needs to be understood before it can be judged and accepted.

To one side, the Christian has a chance to fit into society, to be seen as a member of something, a group participant, as tolerant and not a biggot. The Christians who choose this path ultimately must, out of need, cease to be Christians. The Standard or Tolerance and the edicts of Christianity can not co-exist in the same place. Christianity is anathema to the Standard. The Christian choosing the Standard does so under the assumption that he is proving to the world that he is not a biggot, that he can operate "correctly" around others and that he can not hold it against others what their beliefs may be. How fuzzy and warm.

I have not yet touched on why this Standard of Tolerance is repulsive to me. That is because it may be the hardest part for most people to accept. I find the Standard of Tolerance repulsive because I am by definition and declaration of faith a most intolerant person. As society would have it, I am to be tolerant of all other religions and notions of right and wrong, accepting them as if they were true for the person who hold them. I can not do that. Jesus is the right way for eveyone, not just me. He's the only way. End of discussion. I can't be tolerant! I can be respectful. I can choose to not fight constantly to assert my beliefs. I can choose to accept those around me for the wonderful and amazing creations of God that they are, as special to Him as I ever was and just as precious. But, I am unable (I use "unable" here because we as Christians actually do not have a choice in this.) to accept that any other view of right and wrong besides that which finds its source in Jesus Christ, God the Father, and the Holy Spirit. Any Christian who contradicts this is, I am pretty sure, not very familiar with what Christ actually said.

So what does that mean? Where does leave us? We live in society, among its people, eating the same food, breathing the same air, buying the same cars. We are integrated into society by the very nature of being human. But we are not society itself. We are different. Those who follow me to this point without jumping off at the point of conforming to the Standard will share in my dilemma. Our message has to be heard, but we can not assert it to the point that we drive away those who would otherwise hear it and believe. Where is the balance?

In short, I am tired. I, myself, have conformed too much, given up too much to allow myself to operate in a group (not a specific one, though that will come later). I am tired of staying quiet when I hear people speak ill of my Lord. I am even more tired of staying silent when I see other Christians do it, through word and deed. I am tired of being Peter as he was in the gospels. I want to be Peter in Acts, and later, in his letters. I need to be that, and I realize that now. I am an intolerant person, and to not embrace that is tearing me up. To use an analogy, as many of you know I am fond of doing, I am going to play this hand of cards, no matter how bad it may look. God gave it to me for a reason. Each and every card in my hand is there because He knows it needs to be there. No more folding.

Now, most of you are probably wondering what brought this on. Well, I am part of a roleplaying game group that meets on Saturday nights. I am running the current game (meaning that I am the guy telling the story while the others interact through character actions and drive the sotry through their decisions). This group has been together for about half a year now, and we play really well together. I am the only Christian in the group, however, and while conversation can occassionally lean in ways that cause me to withdraw participation in the discussion I have had no major problems with the group. But last Saturday I got that straw that may have broken my own personal camel's back (he's one strong animal!). We were all talking after the gaming session and the topic changed over to one of parenting (one guy in the group is a father, and we were at his house, talking with his wife). That topic quickly degenerated into "scary" Christians and their beliefs about parenting and how Jesus doesn't love you if you misbehave or Jesus likes to see kids getting beat, really some pretty crass stuff. Well, I quickly withdrew from the conversation, a fact little noticed by the rest of the group, and waited out the topic until it changed. But I said nothing.

I've never heard a silent cock crow so loudly.

Maybe saying something would have made the guys not want me in the group anymore. Of course then they'd be pretty intolerant, wouldn't they? Maybe I'd have been engaged in a 6 on 1 Jesus attack. Maybe I'd have been laughed at and told to keep my religious views to myself. (And they should try the same! Expressing a negative view of Jesus is a religious view, too!) I'll never know now, though, because we're never told what might have happened. But I wish I had said something. I wish I had drawn my sword and shield and, come what may, fought to defend my Lord (I'm not saying He really needs it, but I need it).

I don't know what the future will hold for me with this group, but I do know that I'm not going to fold anymore. I'm going to live as like a Christian (read: Narnian) as I can, even if it costs me everything I have. To do otherwise from this point on, I would have to cut off pieces of myself. And I like those pieces.

In Him,

D.G. Martin
Book of the Bible Read today: Mark 6

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