Last night at Evening Prayer we were asked to move around, sit with people with whom we had never had a conversation. After folks moved around, we were asked to come up with things we had in common with the folks at our table. It was interesting because our table wound up coming up with the most on our list. (I know it wasn’t a competition–I’m going somewhere with this.) I don’t know what the other groups came up with, but here’s an example of a conversation:
My young friend, after being encouraged to share something about herself, “Well, this isn’t probably anything anyone else does, but I do Tae Kwon Do.” Turns out one other young man had taken for a while. No one else had. So instead we asked, “Who in the group can respect Tae Kwon Do and all that it is?” Everyone nodded. We found similarities in appreciating what was different. I think we might have been on to something.
Later in conversation, someone at the table mentioned something about “The New Testament.” A young man, high school age, responded, “Oh yeah, see, I can’t do that. I don’t like it.” (I almost spewed my water. Wait. What?) He kept on talking without pause. “Yeah, see I only like the King James Version. That’s the only true word. I don’t like any of that new stuff.”
Reminds me of a Twitter feed from “Things Bible Students Say.” If you have Twitter and enjoy reading things that make you shake your head, follow them. If you don’t have Twitter, it’s okay, it’s a lot of what you just read above. From Bible students.
To the credit of all who were sitting there, no one argued or got defensive. His opinion was respected; he has a right to his opinion and to speak his mind. That’s what is beautiful about our service. What broke my heart is I really don’t think this young man came up with this opinion, this line drawn in the sand, on his own. About the King James Version, I mean. We’re just going with a communication breakdown on the whole New Testament thing. I could be wrong, have been and will be again, but I’m betting he heard this from someone–a parent or another adult he respects. Friends, they are listening and they are taking it all in. For the love of what is good and right and makes common sense, please be careful what you are putting out there. (Ya got that, Tara? *hanging head* Yes.)
I read a poem by Thom Shuman yesterday and today that touched on this. The whole poem can be found here, but here are the words that punched me in my stomach and my conscience:
Heartbreaking and TRUE.
Even among those who claim to have so much in common, such as the people at our table, there are lines being drawn, things we will and will not accept, things that we lay out there that keep us from being ONE. Unity. Community. Communion. Respect. That’s what we are called to do, isn’t it? Be with each other. Love each other.
It breaks my heart to hear how those of us who claim to follow someone who was Light and Love personified are so filled with darkness and doubt and, in that, we hurt rather than love. Like a father who chooses things over his children, all the while assisting in leading worship. Or a family who tells their daughter her classmate and friend is not welcome in their home because she has different beliefs. Or the young woman in my Sister Circle who said she was stared at and felt uncomfortable when she walked into a local church–said she guessed she wasn’t dressed right or made folks ill at ease. Or a kind-hearted and funny young man who insists nothing other than the King James version is acceptable. (If only he had said it’s the version he preferred–this would have turned out so differently.) The lines being drawn are only hurtful and confuse those looking to us to help share the Light and Love we follow.
I just read something my daughter wrote tonight. It made my heart leap with joy. (Literally, I’m skilled like that.) As she wrote about her friends at college, she gave everyone a charge at the end of her post:
If we could do this instead of backstabbing folks with our judgments or slamming doors of intolerance in their faces or just plain ignoring folks–if only we could do this. Be the defensive tackles or running backs or tight ends and tackle folks with Love and Light, then, oh boy, THEN the pieces of our broken world could start healing, and maybe just maybe we could, in the words of Thom Shuman, we could be one.
(Boy that would have been so much better if I knew football positions worth a flip, huh? Grace abounds, people, grace abounds. Go tackle somebody. Love to all.)