My fiance calls my debate and speaking style “laser-like.” I am not much for rambling, and I am quickly annoyed by people that blabber on unnecessarily. However, for whatever reason, I saw a movie this past week-end and my mind cannot form one concise thought or argument on how the movie impacted me. Thus, I shall do the unthinkable, and attempt to ramble.
Blue Like Jazz. A tiny movie about a Texas boy with divorced parents who was active in a Baptist church. After the boy discovers that his mother is having an affair with the church youth pastor, he abandons his plan to attend a Christian college and opts instead for a crazy hippy liberal college on the West coast. While there, he questions his faith, doubts his beliefs, throws down God and Christ and everything Christian. By the end, of course, he somehow manages to balance the bad things Christians have done to him and the people he loves with his love of God. Yes, it is a feel good movie.
At the end of the movie, the boy apologizes. He apologizes to his friend who was raped by a priest. He apologies to everyone who has ever been hurt by a Christian in the name of their God. For whatever reason, I want to do that too.
If for some reason, a Christian has hurt you – I apologize. I apologize if you have been raped, or hurt, or beaten down or degraded or made to feel less than. I apologize for the churches you have attended that have told you God will not love you because you are X or Y or Z or have done A or B or C. I apologize for the kids that picked on you when you just wanted to be left alone. I apologize for the priest or pastor that told you that you could not be a priest or pastor. I apologize for the pain, the hurt, the grief, the agony. I apologize for all of that. It is ignorant to think that I have never caused anyone pain – so I apologize for myself. I have messed up a lot. I have hurt people. For that, I am sorry.
Not too long ago, I lost all of my faith. For a long list of reasons, I lost all hope I ever had in God or Christ. I cursed everything religious and any person who practiced a religion. I thought they were dumb, naïve, stupid and condescending. I hated God. I hated Jesus. Most of all – I hated everyone who called themselves a Christian, but actively practiced hate (yes, I see that irony now).
One day I woke up, and everything I loved felt like it was gone. On that day, I felt like I had no friends, no family, no job, no education – and no God. My options, frankly, were suicide or to find everything I thought I had lost. Obviously, I did not choose the former. Instead, I walked into a Lutheran church in a Polish part of Milwaukee. I don’t know why (grace, most likely), but that day – everything started coming back to me. An old man who was greeting in the church said hello to me. He invited me to coffee after the service. I did not stay. I came. I attended service. I left.
I left, and then… I started going back to church. However, I did something different this time. I hated going to church growing up. I thought it was boring, dumb and I remember leaving feeling like I loathed myself. Ick. So instead, I came back on my own terms. I went to dozens of churches and dozens of denominations. I listened to some Catholics, a Unitarian, a few Lutherans, a crazy Charismatic guy – and a TON of other people. I did what very few seem to do… I was lost, and I searched until I felt found.
Along the way, I realized what I think the main character in the movie realized. I realized that God does not hurt people and that religion does not hurt people. I realized – that people hurt people. Some of those people call themselves Christians or call themselves Muslims or Atheist or….. At a Christian place where I use to work I once had a lady tell me, “We are all Christian here, but we are all humans first.”
That is the simple truth of the movie. We are all human first. And, frankly, some humans REALLY suck. They hurt a lot of people. And I am not sure if there is anything worse than someone saying “It is okay I am hurting you because God said so.” People do that so they do not have to take accountability for their own actions. People do that so they can give themselves more power to be hateful and cruel.
For what do I hope?
I hope for honest and respectful discourse about the insanely diverse beliefs that we all have about God. Or about a lack of God, or the existence of multiple gods, and everything in between. I have had dozens of conversations with people regarding their religious beliefs – and not one person shared all the beliefs of another.
I hope that people admit that they are humans first. We mess up. We are not perfect. I know of a college professor who tells he students that he has not sinned in years. Pft, yeah right dude! Giving off the impression you are perfect does not make me envy you, it makes me feel inferior to you and thus fear you. We question God, we question the world, we question people, we questions our faith, we question lots of things. It is human to think. It is human to err.
I hope we can forgive. Confession time. I was once soooo bitter about things that had happened to me that when I would say the Lord’s prayer I would say “And forgive us our trespasses” but would leave out the “as we forgive those that trespass against us.” That is right, I was asking people to forgive me but doing nothing to forgive others – not my best moment. I cannot say I have forgiven everything in the world and should be a keynote speaker at a forgiveness convention (for that – call my fiance – dude is a pro!). I can say that I have learned to forgive and move along. I can say that it always gets better.
I hope that we can just get better. Starting… right…….now.