Tonight I met someone new, with whom I should have a lot in common. We both homeschool our kids, we both are Christians, and we both had our kids enrolled in the Bible Bee at the same local church. There I was, glad to see some familiar faces to confirm that I was indeed in the right place, herding my kids out of the car, picking up odds and ends, and putting on my nice-girl face for any new friends I might meet during the evening, when my first new face greeted me.
He seemed friendly enough, shook hands, asked my name twice in that sort of way that says “I care enough to want to remember.” He asked me which kids were mine (they’d already dashed off to join the others goofing about on the parish lawn) and pointed his out to me. Friendly enough. But one thing led to another and within a ten minute introductory conversation I had been party to his rather judgmental and opinionated form of conservatism, heard the public schools bashed, been told that his “good” neighborhood consisted of only a small number of (presumably bad) single parent households (well good for you, dude), and all that was before he started ripping into the Roman Catholic Church.
Now as a good Anglican, I am somewhat of an omnivore. There aren’t many of us Anglicans roaming loose at Bible Bees, so we don’t often get noticed when the brick bat comes around, you rarely hear Anglican bashing. But because we’re catholic, orthodox, evangelical, protestant and just about every other label in Christendom, when the brick bat heads for Rome, the catholic in me gets offended. (Likewise when the bat is aimed at Protestants, the protestant gets offended… touch not the East, unless you really want me hot under the collar!) Now I am all for honest criticism, after all, if I didn’t see the faults in any of the above branches of the family tree, I would join that branch instead of the tangled knot that is Anglicanism. (If you’ve never seen branches get tangled in a knot, come over before I prune my blackberry brambles and I’ll show you… its dense in more than one sense of the word.)
If you know me in real life, you know that I’m really not easily offended. My own opinions are so far off the beaten path sometimes, that if I only sought like-minded people, I’d spend most of my time in my room alone with only this blog to give me love and attention. But this guy, within ten minutes of initial meeting really did offend me. I was a little put off that he would throw all his opinions at me without the normal social getting-to-know-you rituals, but your bad social skills are not my problem; there is grace sufficient to cover such. But what really got to me was that he thought it was okay to dismiss the tradition of the church because his brand of fundamentalism was a me-and-my-bible-alone type which prefers Scripture in a vacuum (your choice, fella, all things “necessary to salvation” are in there, but you’re missing all the fun) in such an arrogant manner.
This person should, by reasonable reckoning, be on the same team with me, but within ten minutes I found myself under friendly fire. What’s up with that? It is this kind of behavior that results in statistics that say things like ‘most Americans would rather have a known criminal live next door to them than an evangelical Christian.’ (I don’t know if that statistic is true or not; I just heard it somewhere years ago. Still its interesting.) How can we show the love and compassion Jesus commands to the outside world if we can’t even show basic courtesy to one another. I sure didn’t get the feeling that this person loved me as a sister in Christ, enough to die for me (for Jesus did say “love one another as I have loved you”). If all men will know that we are Jesus’ disciples by our love for one another, what do “all men” see when we start shooting among ourselves?