Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance: the five stages of grief. As a Christian, I’ve gone through these over the last few years, and now I’ve arrived at acceptance.
I denied that God could remove His hand from our blessed country, America; that divorce among Christians was just as prevalent as the non-religious. I denied that our youth were ever more questioning Christian teaching and doctrine, and were leaving the faith of their parents in droves. I denied that the country was becoming more and more deaf to our 24/7 obsession with preaching the Gospel. I denied that the church was becoming more carnal and unmoored from Biblical teaching year by year.
Then I was angry.
First I was angry at Christians for sitting on their hands for 50 years. For letting prayer be banned from our schools and doing nothing about it. For letting the scourge of abortion rule our land for four decades. For letting our military become hostile to Christianity—even innocent use of Scripture verses. For allowing our culture to move away from God’s commandments, ever accelerating into a future without faith.
Then I was angry at non-Christians for celebrating when they won victory after victory for their causes: abortion on demand, purging prayer from the public square, and now, gay marriage coast to coast.
Then I bargained with God. Lord, if only we would humble ourselves and pray, you would break open the heavens and pour out—the way things used to be. If only, Lord, these blind guides would see the light, please let them open their eyes.
Then I became depressed, because I realized that many non-believers did open their eyes, only to have Christians poke their fingers at their eyeballs to remove the speck there, when we have entire trees sticking out of our own eyes. I became depressed because I saw a tipping point where the outcome became predictable. I was not shocked when the Supreme Court ruled for gay marriage in every state. A year ago, I wrote that the battle was over, and we were in the mop-up phase, and that the federal courts would be doing the mopping.
We’ve been mopped, and it’s depressing to be right about these things.
Now I have arrived at acceptance. America is as it is, and most Americans believe it’s a good thing. From the White House to the Empire State Building, the rainbow no longer represents God’s everlasting covenant to not destroy all life on earth as it did in Genesis. It now represents the “me” spirit of the age, which puts individual rights to live in any way, any relationship, any kind of family, as long as it makes “me” happy, above the petty concerns of Christians touting Bible verses. Because “love wins.”
These latest decisions by the Supreme Court, along with the mass celebrations of them as victories, are the end of a long national nightmare for unbelievers, who can finally breathe the “me” air and fulfill their love without being told what love is.
For so long, it’s been like a horror movie for non-Christians in America. An old, black and white, B-movie at that: Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Christians are the pod people, different from everyone else but similar enough to pass casual inspection.
We Christians were an infection from outside the world, where some strange alien life-form came to earth and took over our bodies, our selves, totally remade them, and handed them back to the world, looking the same but different in a profound way. And pod people have a singular goal: to make others into pod people like them. Fitting in around normal humans makes it easier to do that, but when the plot is uncovered, non-pod people tend to react negatively.
In America, the Christian pod invasion through infiltration is over, and today Christians are easily identified. See us mourning same-sex marriage. See us forgiving our killers, as in Charleston. See us handing out water at gay pride rallies. See us get spat upon because we happened to walk by a pride parade in New York City, and then remark “Oh well…I deserve worse.”
Love wins, even when the price of that love winning is Christians being lumped in the “not love” dustbin. Is that fair? Not really, but first we have to define what love is before we can say it won.
What is love? And more importantly, how do I, as a Christian, accept that “love wins” according to what happened in America?
What is love?
To answer, we have to leave America and head to…Greece!
The English language is such an inadequate conveyor of thought—really it is. This is why we borrow words from other languages, like Schadenfreude, a German word meaning pleasure derived from others’ misfortune. Filipinos have a word gigil, which describes the unbearable urge to pinch or cuddle something ridiculously cute (like a kitten).
In Danish lykke means that feeling of complete contentedness, ultimate happiness and life’s perfection. The stern Danes also have hygghe, a single word best described as kind of like the TV show “Cheers” meaning the comfort of enjoying food and drink with friends and family. The Dutch call it Gezelligheid.
Who knew that the reserved and verklempt (Yiddish for speechless with repressed emotion) Danes could have so many words describing contentment?
Our words are so limited that Americans only have one word for “love.” In the Greek of the New Testament, there are three words for “love.” First, there’s Eros (Ἔρως), the god of desire, from which we get our English word “erotic.” It’s pretty obvious what this love is about, it’s visual, visceral, and carnal. It’s the kind of love a teenager has when he or she first awakens to sexual attraction.
Most teens awaken to attraction to the opposite sex, but some smaller number awaken to same-sex attraction. Although non-Christians seem to believe that Christians think homosexuals can turn their desires “off,” it’s pretty obvious that’s not the case. (See denial.)
If heterosexual teens get hot and bothered over each other (and hormone-soaked boys fantasize about girls they can’t have and don’t know they exist), then imagine the pain when a gay teen fantasizes about the football team or a fellow wrestler who does not share his sexual attraction.
It’s got to be incredibly painful and identity-defining. How can it not be? (See depression.)
Eros is something we have in our makeup, our DNA, our endocrine system, and it’s part of being human. Not that people all have the same strong sex drive. Some kids are more interested, some less, and some are totally, consumingly obsessed.
When I was growing up, we didn’t have as sexualized song lyrics or performances as we do today, although it wasn’t Bing Crosby either. It’s hard for me to imagine how much more difficult it is in this porn-saturated world, with free access to hardcore images and videos on the Internet, for young adults to avoid sex.
But kids have actually coped well, with teen pregnancies falling by 13 percent for girls 15-17 years old between 2012 and 2013. This is not all attributed to birth control—teens are just having less sex. Perhaps they are so bombarded with it that it’s just boring and unexciting. I don’t know.
Another word for love in Greek is Philos (φίλος), which means friendship, or in the case of Philadelphia, brotherly love. When I first became a Christian (I wasn’t always one), I felt I should be friends with everyone. I also felt that being a friend meant banging them over the head with a Bible. Look at me, I’m a friend, and would you like to come to church with me? Can I pray for you? Do you know Jesus? You do? But do you really know him? Yes, I was one of those pod people.
Then I swung the other way: don’t cast your pearls before swine, and by the way, your tail is curled and your snout is in my face. Why should I waste my time with unbelieving, unforgiving, unloving fools? I reserved my Philos for other Christians, and my arguments for the world.
By the way, it doesn’t work so well trying to win people to Christ by berating them for their unbelief. (See anger.)
There’s a third word for love in Greek: Agape (ἀγάπη). It means “goodwill.” It means preferring another person’s good to my own; subverting my own will to theirs. The best marriages thrive on Agape.
The love Christ calls Christians to is Agape. Crying with the bereaved, laughing with the mirthful, and comforting the angry, we are to bear one another’s burdens. We are to take burdens from the shoulders of those who are struggling with life, not add new ones.
And in this Agape, I found my acceptance of America.
Arriving at acceptance
Christians are indeed aliens here. Perhaps we have always been—at one time the aliens were white Europeans among Native Americans. Some of the natives received Christ, but most did not. Then we were aliens among merchants and expansionists claiming “manifest destiny” to conquer the continent. Moving west to spread the Gospel is one thing, but befriending tribes only to betray them is not Christian.
So the crimes of the white man, who stole ten million black lives, rest squarely in the roots of the Pilgrims, who were authentically here to honor their Lord, but bringing with them the seed of unrighteousness that lies in all humankind. But then Christians showed remarkable Agape in ending slavery within our shores—the abolition movement was led by Christians, both in England and in America.
Christians have always been aliens here, mostly blending in with the rest of America. The only difference between Christians of 50 years ago and the ones today is that the unbelieving world is through wearing masks to look Christian. The masks are off and we now see exactly how America wants to live, without the artificial restraints of Biblical teaching.
I use the word “artificial” with purpose. Biblical teaching is only genuine if it’s accepted by believers. Non-Christians who attempt to live by Agape only frustrate themselves, and in fact damage themselves. Humans aren’t built to live like that without supernatural assistance. And even with that assistance, we fall (but we get back up).
I now accept that America is today a place without God as much as it’s ever been, and that it’s accelerating at a rapid pace away from any Biblical principles. I accept that Christians who hold to Biblical principles and absolutes are truly “salt and light” to the unbelieving world. We stick out like torches deep in a cave, and to the world we taste like salt cod—too salty to eat undiluted—and they spit us out.
Christians are not normal, and that’s a good thing, because the Bible says we are a “peculiar people.” (1 Peter 2:9: “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;”)
Now I accept that America is not, overtly or by veneer, a Christian nation any longer. I accept that tolerance of Christian thought and ideals is to be limited, or even actively punished. I accept that America is the land of the free, free to be “me,” wherever that belief takes us. I accept that I live in the land of altered family structure, where families are whatever the culture decides they are.
I accept that I live in the land of free relationships, that whoever we decide we are, and whoever we decide to love, is by definition, protected if it makes “me” happy. I accept that God is grieved by our nation’s behavior, but that His mercy and grace covers us while His loving correction is applied. I accept that God’s grace doesn’t mean we won’t suffer difficulties, persecution, and even national tragedy.
I accept that I am one of the pod people, who will never be “normal,” who will likely always live at the fringe of society, because I don’t watch the TV shows others watch (what is “Game of Thrones”?) or listen to what others listen to (I have never heard a single Miley Cyrus song).
I accept that I am a Christian, and will remain, as much as possible, unpolluted by the world, yet living in the world, making real friendships (Philos) and putting others first (Agape), and will continue to do so even while I am hated for it.
While we’re on the subject of hate, I need to express this thought: Christians are hated because our message is that God will not be mocked. A man shall reap what he has sowed. It’s all fine to cater to “me” as long as it doesn’t affect “you.” But we all know that’s not true.
Hate and hedonism
There’s a very strong strain of hedonism and ruin running through the gay community. People outside the community rarely see it, unless they attend a gay pride parade and witness the debauchery. There’s some satisfaction they gain from getting straight people to perform gay sex, because some people are curious, and without any moral limits to sex and relationships, why not try it before you buy it? (This has always been true, just listen to the lyrics of The Kinks song “Lola”.)
The same people who say they were born gay and cannot change are perfectly happy to tell straight people that gay sex is better, and that once “converted,” straight people tend to prefer it. If you want to confirm that, just go to some of the gay online forums (warning: NSFW, NSFH, CBU, NSFL*). The gay community would be more than happy to welcome straight people into their free-sex, hedonistic lifestyle, with open relationships and self-pleasure as the goal.
Another strain is the value and worship of youth, beauty, and sexual prowess. Not that those things don’t affect the rest of America (they do), or cause problems in Christian marriages (they do), or destroy even traditional families (they do), or result in unplanned pregnancies (yes, they do), but the lack of structure and restraint in gay relationships really highlights the phrase “youth is wasted on the young.”
While there are some old, committed, even monogamous same-sex relationships–and these are the ones trotted out in support of “equal rights” in marriage, along with other areas of society–there are many more temporary and fleeting live-ins, all the while looking for a younger, more virile, more perfect sexual experience with another partner, because it’s all about the spirit of “me.”
These people absolutely despise Christians and the Christian message of repentance from sin, obedience to God, and love for God first above all other things. They would rather deny God’s existence (and most do) and place the blame for Biblical values on Christians as people–people who in their view have an obsessive-compulsive desire to turn them into pod people and spoil the fun.
But God will not be mocked, and I accept that as a truth so profound that it allows me to endure the hate spewed at me by those who see Christians as power-hungry oppressors and lords over them. Most Americans don’t feel that way. Most Americans don’t hate. Since the haters (I’d say haters on both sides, but genuine Christianity does not exhibit hate) tend to be loudest, it’s tough to accept this fact, but perspective demands that I remind myself lest I fall. (See depression.)
I’m okay, and it’s okay to be different
Most of all, I accept that the good people of this nation—though they don’t believe what I believe—still believe in the concept of good, and they believe that what America is doing is good. They are, generally, good people**, who don’t murder or steal or pathologically lie. They just don’t believe what I believe, and they see me as an alien because I’m different. I am a pod person.
I accept that the America we’ve arrived at may not understand me, but I also accept that I have to Agape love them. All of them, because I walk in the marvelous light.
(image source: Shutterstock)
(crossposted from sgberman.com)
*Not Safe for Work, Not Safe for Home, Not Safe for Life, Cannot Be Unseen
**Yes, I know that Christian doctrine says “no one is good, no not one” and that only God is good. But if you’re not a Christian does the word “good” lose all meaning because you don’t believe? Non-Christians judge “goodness” from their own yardstick, and, thankfully, God has given us all a similar knowledge of morality, so we can, in fact, measure “good” from a purely human standpoint. It doesn’t change a thing about sin, judgment, Hell, and salvation, but it does unveil motives.