Friday, 26 January 2018

When Christians Refuse to Follow Christ

"...if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and while there you remember that your brother has something [such as a grievance or legitimate complaint] against you, leave your offering there at the altar and go. First make peace with your brother, and then come and present your offering." - Jesus Christ

While this seems to be a fairly unambiguous instruction - which comes straight from the lips of the One christians profess to follow - I find it mind-boggling how often the exact opposite happens in christian circles. I'm particularly appalled by how many 'leaders' there are who refuse to engage with their brothers and sisters; who seem to have no interest in even listening to their 'siblings', let alone  making peace with them; and who continue to silence and shun those who voice their legitimate grievances.

I know there must be leaders out there who do deal with disagreement and discord - I have heard stories that they exist - but like unicorns and faeries, I have yet to encounter any of them myself. In fact, in the aftermath of the bullying and abuse I experienced at my ex-church, I asked a variety of people to sit down and talk things through, and yet none of the men who saw themselves as 'leaders' would do so.

And the couple at the centre of the power play consistently declined to meet with me unless it was with their pet "counsellor". (And as he had already told me that the church would collapse if this couple left it, I had my suspicions regarding his impartiality.) Three years later, when this couple attempted to take me to court, I offered professional mediation as an alternative way of dealing with things, but still they refused.

For some time, I thought that this behaviour was an aberration - that most christians took seriously Jesus' call to "leave your gift in front of the altar" and "go and be reconciled" with your brother or sister. Maybe there was just something in the water of this little church that led to such craven behaviour.

But then it happened in my "christian" workplace, too. As the office manager, I was dealing with a case of bullying amongst the staff when my boss suddenly stepped in and sidelined me, protecting the bully. Despite the testimony of several witnesses, this man decided to believe the lies of the bully and made several accusations against me based upon them. When I showed him proof that they were not true, he simply refused to acknowledge the evidence, and then ignored my repeated requests for a hearing on the matter.

Surely that was an unlucky co-incidence? Lightning might have struck twice in the same place, but...

...then, at the end of last year, it happened again! An incident at my son's 'christian' school exposed a situation which seriously disturbed both my husband and I. It led us to contact the principal whose behaviour and attitude we had found highly inappropriate. After it became clear that our email communication was not going to be fruitful, I offered to meet face-to-face in order to attempt some resolution of the matter. Apparently he appreciated the offer... but he was quite certain he understood us and therefore had no interest in pursuing my offer. (Of course, knowing what someone thinks and understanding why they do so, are worlds apart. But that's another story.) Once again it was a case of thanks, but no thanks.

Now, never let it be said that I don't profit by my experience! And I had reached the point where I'd actually come to expect this reaction, so I wasn't in the least bit surprised by it. And as experience has also taught me there's no point in pushing the issue, I didn't waste my breath any further. (I'm a great believer in letting people make their own choices in life.)

But that doesn't mean I think it's ok, or that I can respect it. And it sure doesn't mean I can reconcile it with those words of Jesus, who we each say we are following.

More importantly, what it does mean is that each time it happens, the credibility of christianity takes another blow, and it's most often from those who speak the loudest about their religion - and who lament the longest about how 'the world' won't take them seriously. But when people see us refuse to work through our disagreements, or deal with our discord, then I'd say they are wise to dismiss us. Until we can demonstrate we are not afraid to work through disputes, or contend for peace in the midst of conflict, we actually have nothing to offer. And I think it's about time we were honest with ourselves about that fact.