Like many young people who follow the path of non-violence and pacifism, I was severely bullied during junior high and high school. We were targets for the ‘big boys’ who were feeling their developing testosterone; most of us were labeled weak sissies because we were strongly encouraged by our families and church to resist physical and verbal conflict. Today I look back on those challenges with a sense of gratitude for having been blessed as a young man with a sense of civility. But unfortunately, back then, I took my seething anger and self-loathing deep inside resulting in a bevy of addictions which controlled my life for many years.
My classmates called me “sledhead”. It was, to them, an endearing term describing my naivete; to me it was condescending and painful. My faith in an entity which would allow this pain was severely tested. Today, some folks, not all of them friends, see my faith as an uneducated devotion to my imaginary friends, God and Jesus. I’m sure you also in your faith walk have encountered the same.
“So you talk to Jesus, do you? Have your ever seen God? Do you really believe Jesus rose from the dead? And oh yeah, that story about him healing the blind man. Hmmmmm.”
You can see the wheels churning within their brains. Nutcase, delusional, hallucinating, foolish…..sledhead. I don’t, anymore, attempt to explain my faith to them. I don’t share my experience walking with my Lord unless they initiate an interest. I don’t expect them to understand, just as the bullies in high school did not understand my commitment to non-violence. I endured name-calling, shoving, and punching with words like sissy, wimp, momma’s boy, coward. Sadly, by the time I could call myself a young man, a high school graduate, I agreed with them.
That was 50 years ago. But, baby, take a look at me now! Check out what I can do with the power of Jesus and God ahead of me, within me, and behind me! We have put a hurting on the addictions which controlled my younger years. We have shown the world of aggression and oppression that there is strength and courage in the words of peace and compassion, the words spoken by Jesus before he was taken by the cowardice and hatred of a bullying, hypocritical, self-serving theocratic society and was nailed to a wooden cross.
Don’t get me wrong. The negativity of people who try to bully me with their condescending air of superiority, their need to ridicule my “imaginary
friends, and attempts to discredit my truth does sometimes bring doubt into my life. I am the character of ‘doubting Thomas’, show me the nail holes in the hands and feet, I want to see the pierce scar in the side. Let me touch you, Lord.
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” John 20:27
Recently, I heard a comment on NPR regarding world poverty. The woman being interviewed stated that the predominant characteristic of humanity was “goodness”, but, it was often quietly unseen and unheard. The thought that we are predominantly violent and selfish is assumed because that is the loudest voice in our civilization. Therefore, we hear the raucous noise of intolerance, bigotry and injustice over goodness, mercy, and compassion.
Goodness, mercy, and compassion. That’s who my friends Jesus and God are. That’s whom I commune with every day. I see them in people on the street helping other people. I hear them on the radio when listening to a contemporary Christian artist singing his heart out for the Jesus he loves. I feel them in a sanctuary with other worshippers praying for the homeless, the poor, the addicted ones, the forgotten, the discarded, the downtrodden. I can touch them in an AA meeting when at the end of the meeting everyone stands clasping hands and reciting the “Our Father”.
My faith is in the inherent goodness, mercy, and compassion of humanity. Therein is Jesus, therein is God, and therein is nothing imaginary. Real, visible, omnipotent!
Edward Mote, 1797-1874 “My hope is built on nothing less. Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness; I dare not trust the sweetest frame, But wholly lean on Jesus’ name. On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; All other ground is sinking sand.”