I am sitting here today holding feelings that are familiar to me. But feelings I don't want to carry around. These feelings started in my childhood. At a pretty early age I remember feeling like spanking me because I was bad was not right. I felt like hurting me, wasn't what the adults in my life were supposed to do. (before I get lots of hate mail here, my parents and I have talked about this...this is all they knew...we are good) Even then using force to teach didn't feel like the right thing to do.
Then in my teens, I remember sitting in the choir loft at church. An evangelist and several men in our church, were all in a room somewhere in the church praying over a female teen because she had declared she was a lesbian. I remember feeling in my gut that this was coercion, and it could not be right.
Then I went to college. One morning in convocation or chapel we had a professor speak. This professor had been my first religion prof. He was amazing. He constantly asked questions, and really listened to your answers. He questioned us until we answered with our thoughts, not the thoughts we had been taught in Sunday School. He was the first person to "give me permission" to voice the doubts in my mind. It was an exhilarating experience. But on this morning he spoke about something that I knew very little about but would change my life forever.
He spoke about pacifism. He told us about being in the war and the struggles he had with his conscience and what the Bible said about killing. I had always hated guns because I had lost several friends as a kid to gun violence. Before this morning they had simply scared me. But that day, I found a place inside my soul open up, as if it had been waiting for a crack to let it shine. Killing is wrong. We as Christians should not condone war or the death penalty. We should be about God's love, that is what Jesus taught. Peace.
Then as an adult, I came face to face with Evil. How as a Christian did I deal with this issue? I was choosing peace over war, love over fear, etc. But what about these evil people. I taught in the inner cities and saw these abused, poor children who at the age of 7 already had walls up around their hearts so high and thick I couldn't get through. Seven years old and they had already learned that no one cared. I envisioned these young kids growing up and I saw into their futures...it would not be much different than those of their parents. So, that means these evil people in the world were once small children who deserved a chance, but didn't get it. That seemed so unfair.
So, I went to several people and discussed evil with them. They were from different walks of life, and all people that I respected. I got lots of different answers and yet there was a similar theme. In truth, we are all born with evil and good in us. We all have the capability to be evil or be good. It is a matter of life circumstances, choices, and sometimes luck.
Today I am sitting here with conflicting feelings. I just read a blog post about my husband's appearance on the Bill O'Reilly show. It was filled with hate and venom. So much so that shills went down my spine as I read. I am also sitting here reading facebook statuses, watching tv news, seeing people question other's patriotism if they are not cheering over Osama Bin Laden's death. All of these people are Christians. They have all chosen to live their lives for good. So how does one mesh all these thoughts and feelings together?
For me, it always begins with empathy. I must, I believe, put my self in their shoes, feel their pain, and try to understand what brings them to this place of hate, or judgement. When I do this, I can see why they might be in the place they are, without condoning their actions. It is not easy. It is much easier to yell back. To get angry back at them. But this is not what I feel called to do by Jesus. I am called to love my neighbor as myself. To treat others as I would want to be treated.
So today I must choose to listen, possibly ask questions, and to love, even those who are questioning my faith and my patriotism. I must stand up for those whose rights have been taken away. I must choose grace and mercy. For this is how I want to be treated in return.