catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 9, Num 9 :: 2010.04.30 — 2010.05.13


When you point your finger...

I was attending a new bible study the night that George Bush announced the impending assault on Baghdad. Before the study began, Kate and I stared at the TV, unbelieving, appalled.  Shortly thereafter things proceeded as usual, and being relatively new to the faith, this was as shocking as the news I had just heard.  I really wanted to believe that Christians were different than the protestors I’d seen on TV and the preachers I’d heard on the radio.

For days afterward I was tightly wound, a mix of shock and anger.  Having worked with the Voices in the Wilderness campaign during college, I knew that the people of Iraq had already suffered a great deal under economic sanctions.  During the preceding decade the children were hit hardest: hundreds of thousands had died from water-borne diseases, inadequate medical care and a crumbling humanitarian infrastructure.  And now this.

Almost a week later I was still stewing, caught between rage and disbelief that the world just seemed to go on normally while we bombed another country (for no good reason, in my opinion).  I was in this frame of mind when I turned off my street and found myself behind one of those SUVs with flags waving in the car exhaust and bumper stickers that said, “God Bless America” and “Bush/Cheney.”  My reaction was immediate.

“What an idiot! Ugh! God Bless THE WORLD not just America!” I yelled — at the car. I was yelling at a car.  And that’s when it hit me.  

I was acting just like a White Supremacist.

No, I wasn’t judging the driver’s intelligence and character based on the color of his skin, but on the type of car he drove.  In that flash of anger, I wanted to wipe that yahoo and everyone like him off the face of the planet so I could create a liberal utopia where no one gets blown up and no one goes to bed hungry.  It took me a few days of mulling all of this over to realize that no matter how often I thought that conservative fundamentalist Christians were put on earth to torment me, they are actually here for a purpose. They exist because God made them and loves them and…I have something to learn from them.

It was right around that time that I really started paying attention to my pastor’s words that all of us have places in our heart in need of God’s grace.  It is far easier to point our fingers and judge than to look at our own lives. I am at fault if I judge the multi-millionaire who won’t part with his wealth to help get treatment to people dying of AIDS. I am the one who suffers if I choose to judge rather than examine myself.

The only problem with this “obvious” situation is that it’s not as alluring as comparing myself to the girl next to me in the $200 sunglasses.  I always come out as the winner of the morality contest when I make the rules.  And here’s the sad truth: my proud liberal stance against those who use issues like abortion and gay marriage as their litmus test for who is and who is not a true Christian was really a façade — because I did the same thing.

Shop at Wal*Mart? Out.

Own a Mercedes?  Out.

Drink a latte everyday?  Out.

Drive a Hummer?  Most definitely OUT.

It took me awhile to realize that I had more in common with those I denounced than with those who have learned how to love.  I had created a mutually-reinforcing club with no one to keep me accountable because I’d dismissed dissenting voices. 

I do miss those days when the answers were obvious, the solutions easy to live out —  just don’t do this and don’t do that.  But that was the black and white world of a 25-year-old.  In the ensuing years, I’ve learned a great deal from those whom I dismissed for much of my twenties: namely, that my conclusions at the age of twenty-five were not the be all, end all. 

Thank God.

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