Stop Dehumanizing Your Opposition

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   I’ve been trying to write this for weeks. I sat down a couple of times to write and came up with a dozen scattered paragraphs that didn’t coincide, so to help me collect my thoughts, I had some conversations with people I trust, and I really appreciate them taking the time to listen to me.

After engaging an atheist friend on Facebook, I began to take more notice (and Facebook kept putting into my newsfeed) the memes and tweets that they were sharing about Christianity. I was a bit put off. It seemed this person has nothing but derision for Christians, mockery and blanket statements. Each time I read their posts, I thought, “Don’t you realize that you are alienating anyone who might want to discuss this with you?”

This gave me pause and I began to consider, “Why do they share these posts anyway?”

I can tell you, it wasn’t to engage in dialogue. It wasn’t to understand the other side. It wasn’t even to be understood. It was simply to validate their position, rally to their side, and reinforce where they stood on the issue of topic.

I’m not blind, I’ve seen this all over. But these past few weeks I’ve taken more notice and seen it so abundantly. To my discouragement, I’ve seen it scattered liberally across most Facebook accounts, Christian and non-Christian alike.

Perhaps we are all so wrapped in our bubble of like-mindedness that we don’t realize how scoffing these posts can be until we see it in an opposing worldview to ours. Perhaps we simply read posts that say so concisely what we stand for and share them without considering how someone on the other side is going to perceive it. Perhaps we are simply so drawn to what makes us feel good, we post what we like without much further thought. But we need to stop.

I’m noticing 2 main problems:

  1. Posting to validate our position

  2. Assuming the intent of the opposing side

First, what’s so wrong about posting to validate your position?

If you take a stand on objective truth, you should not need to constantly validate it.


Scoffing at the other side, drawing the applause of your friends, boosting your conviction in any area — these are not necessary if what you believe stands to scrutiny and genuine conversation. If you can’t discuss and articulate your position in an honest way, truly seeking to understand and be understood, then your position deserves to be challenged and you need to reexamine yourself.


Prove to me that you stand by what you believe by getting off of your high horse and discussing it with me. I want to understand. And I want to know that you understand me. If you are making fun of me, then my (correct) assumption is that you don’t understand where I’m coming from. And until I know that you understand me, I’ll take everything you say with a degree of doubt. Your influence on me is next to nothing.

Secondly, perhaps the saddest mindset that is prevalent on Facebook and other social media platforms: assuming the intent of your opposition.

Several times my family members have commented on my political or religious posts or articles that I’ve shared on Facebook with an opposing point of view. You can guess what happened. My (hopefully well-meaning) friends pounced to defend my point of view, villianizing my family member and assuming that a) their motive is wrong, or that b) they haven’t researched this issue or thought about it. I felt like screaming at my friends to LEAVE MY FAMILY ALONE!

Can we just do this?


Stop assuming pro-choice persons hate babies.
Stop assuming pro-life person hate women or support rape.
Stop assuming atheists persons are hateful or arrogant.
Stop assuming Christian persons are hypocritical or simply traditional.
Stop assuming persons of the Democratic party are all power-thirsty.
Stop assuming persons of the Republican party hate poor people.
Stop assuming homosexual persons are wallowing in sin and loving it.
Stop assuming persons who oppose homosexuality are judgmental.
Stop assuming homeschooling families are religious prudes.
Stop assuming public schooling families don’t care about their children’s education.
Stop assuming anti-vaccine parents are conspiracy theorists.
Stop assuming pro-vaccine parents are brainwashed conformists.
Stop assuming that white persons are racist.
Stop assuming that black persons are victims.
Stop assuming anything about someone you don’t know.

I understand that there are persons in each category that do fall under that stereotype and do a disservice to everyone else, but have the maturity of mind to know that not everyone who holds a position does so from evil motives or lack of information.

What I’m not saying:

I’m not saying it is wrong to challenge the other side or hold hypocrisy and inconsistent reasoning up to the light. But we need to do so in a way that invites civil discussion, not discourages it, challenging the ideas without demonizing the persons who believe those ideas.

I’m not saying that every side is right or true. I believe in truth, God ordained and governed. But let’s be transparent enough to admit that we don’t understand it all and need each other to challenge us and awaken us to things we would not see otherwise.

What I am saying is that we need to be lovingly open to conversation, willing to articulate our position and educated enough to do so (or willing to admit that we cannot.) We need to stop assuming that opposition is all wrong or uninformed, and we need to challenge ideas, not the people who hold those ideas.

Christians, I’m calling you out. Are you simply unaware? By sharing the tweet making fun of Islam, by posting blanket statements about homosexuality, by shutting down discussion with conviction of hatred, you are shutting out the very people God called us to minister to! Every Christian today was not once a Christian, but was once of the world. Of all people, we should have the most love for those who are blinded, the most patience for sinners, the most hatred of the sin itself. Or did you forget that we are to be known by our love. Don’t compromise your beliefs. Don’t hesitate from sharing the truth. Don’t be ashamed of the gospel. But by all means share the truth in love. Remember the forgiveness and compassion of Jesus our Savior to the women at the well. Wife of five different men, and the man she was currently with was not her husband. And yet Jesus extended an invitation of kind discussion with her, leading her to the gospel.

As Christians, we believe that the gospel of salvation is a revelation of God and a work of the Holy Spirit. Until then, spiritually, the world is blinded, but please note that doesn’t mean someone who is not Christian is not educated or a deep-thinker or even un-spiritual. We can fall into thinking that an atheist or skeptic just doesn’t have enough information. How arrogant of us to think in this way. Let us instead love and pray for this world.

As I prepare to post this, I am aware it was written with more passion than most of my posts and it is possible that I have written some inconsistencies of reasoning. I would love nothing more than a civil discussion about a post about a civil discussion. I hope we can all be more aware of the people on the other end of the screen who are reading what we put out.

Sincerely,
Ellie

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It’s enough to know the next step

“Publish Blog Post” says Google Calendar. How can I publish what I haven’t written? I’m pretty sure I deleted the last reminder though and I don’t want to skip over this one, so as I brush poptart crumbs from my keyboard, here’s your latest installment of “How long will it take for Ellie to realize the obvious?”

I take very careful mental notes of everything new, whether new people, new ideas, or new experiences. Depending on how much coffee I had that day, I can usually recall with decent clarity the day I first met someone, thought of something, or tried something. I like to live in that moment and think, “One day this will be a memory.” I’ll store up that feeling and later recall just how it felt, just what I thought, and what came out of it.

It’s a good hobby! I think it comes so naturally to me because I always expect something wonderful to come out of everything. Being on the young side, I realize that small things that happen now could lead to huge changes for the rest of my life. People I meet, places I go, they could one day mean the world to me.

But I’ve found myself lately trying to figure out exactly who that is and where that is. I want to know! I want to know exactly where God is leading me, and I want to pay special attention so one day I can think, “I remember how it all started, and how it felt.” Several times, many times, I’ve thought, “This. This is where God is leading me,” but just as often those doors have been closed, those ideas have failed, or sometimes I just decided it wasn’t for me after all.

So you can imagine the tears, the disappointment, the discouragement, when I am called just to wait and pray. I’ve been tempted to think and feel that there must not be a plan for my life at all. I think I’ve forgotten that waiting and praying isn’t a bad thing, in fact, it can be very, very good.

It also came as an epiphany (although it should have been obvious) that I don’t need see the entire plan before I take the first step. I have so many wonderful adults in my life! As I think of all the conversations I’ve had and all the advice and prayer I’ve received just in the past few weeks, I’m so overwhelmed with gratitude! Maybe I should write a blog post about seeking advice from godly adults. But for now let me paraphrase one of the many helpful people I talked to, “If you believe you want to go to college, than I’d say go ahead and start. You might get a couple semesters in and realize it’s not what you should be doing, or you might get a degree under your belt and decide to go farther. Be in such a relationship with God and be so receptive to the Holy Spirit that you know, not the whole plan, but the next step to take.”

We were talking about college, but the principle applies to the rest of my life too. I can just forget about trying to lay out the whole map of my life. If I can just be so in tune with God that I know the next step, even if the next step is waiting, His plans will come to pass. And I know His plans are wonderful!

With love,
Ellie

Anxiety vs Our Big God

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Photo credit to Lily Caldwell, thanks girl!

What do I have to be anxious about? Nothing, right? I am a child of the Creator of the Universe. But I’ve been struggling with anxiety and fearfulness for a few weeks now. Anytime I’m alone, I’m subject to a wave of terror and nervousness sometimes displaying themselves physically with shivers and a lump in my throat so big I have to cough to breathe. In a nutshell–I’m afraid of myself and my sin. I’m afraid of destroying relationships and people that I love. I’m afraid that my future will be one disasterous spiral as I mess up again, and again, and again.

I’m not used to anxiety, because I’m usually optimitic, sometimes even unhealthily to the point of not thinking about consequenses. So this new anxiety has paralized me, to a certain degree, but more than that, it’s forced me to lean on God, and for that I am thankful. When I feel my throat seize up and dread of impending doom settle in my stomach, I have two options: 1. fly apart as I believe that I am in charge of my life, or 2. acknowledge that Jesus is my Savior and my Master and He has freed me from the power of sin.

Isn’t God greater than sin? Hasn’t God directed me this far? Hasn’t He held me so very tightly that not even I can destroy our relationship? How dare I doubt that the God who can control stars can control my life, every single hour of it! From atoms to galaxies, He is Lord.
We’ve been going through a Bible study at church called Behold Your God. It’s wonderful. Through it I’ve come to see that what we need most is to see God for who He truly is. It has been my goal in the fear and anxiety to fix my attention on God instead of on myself. Psalm 139 has been my fallback scripture since I’ve been working on memorizing it. This is what I have memorized right now.
 
Oh Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up. You discern my thoughts from afar. 
You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. 
Even before a word is on my tongue, behold O Lord! You know it altogether. 
You hem me in behind and before and lay Your hand upon me. 
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me! It is high, I cannot attain it. 
 
Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence. If I ascend to heaven, You are there. If I make my bed in Sheol, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me and Your right hand shall hold me. If I say “Surely the darkness shall cover me and the light about me be night” even the darkness is not dark to you and night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you. 
 
For you formed my inward parts, you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works. My soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from You when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance, and in Your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me when as yet there were none of them
So wonderful and soothing. My God is big enough to calm all my fears. He is faithful and patient and will never let me go.
In Christ,
Ellie

Ten Questions to ask at the Start of a New Year

 

I think I broke my record for “Quickest time learning to write the new year instead of the old year when I write out the date.” If that doesn’t make sense, don’t worry, it’s not important.

I realize that it would have been helpful to pass along these ten questions at the beginning of the year or slightly before when everyone was making their resolutions and hardening up to be a better person, but maybe it’s best that that didn’t happen. It’s about now we have lost the excitement of the New Year and realized that we’re still the same old people we were last year, and only hard work and prayer is going to change that. So maybe now is the right time to examine ourselves yet again and decide to implement what we’ve resolved to do.

I didn’t write these questions, I’m only sharing them from what Don Whitney shared here. He also has 21 more questions if you’d like to ponder 1 question a day for a whole month. Let me tell you now, it’d be an overwhelming, but probably edifying month. And it’s a very worthwhile article.

Anyway, I want to share these 1o questions with you for your consideration.

1. What’s one thing you could do this year to increase your enjoyment of God?

2. What’s the most humanly impossible thing you will ask God to do this year?

3. What’s the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your family life this year?

4. In which spiritual discipline do you most want to make progress this year, and what will you do about it?

5. What is the single biggest time-waster in your life, and what will you do about it this year?

6. What is the most helpful new way you could strengthen your church?

7. For whose salvation will you pray most fervently this year?

8. What’s the most important way you will, by God’s grace, try to make this year different from last year?

9. What one thing could you do to improve your prayer life this year?

10. What single thing that you plan to do this year will matter most in 10 years? In eternity?
Convicting, no? Definitely a lot to swallow and think about, but don’t forget to put it into practice too. I’m setting reminders on my phone and Google Calendar to come back and think about these questions every month to examine my progress.

 

Love in Christ,
Ellie

A piece of my journal

November 14th, 2015

A scene comes to mind, one I heard of years ago. Why does it come to haunt me now? It disturbs me even more than it did then. Is this the manifestation of the fear that comes from ISIS and hearing about their plans for global domination?

The scene was told by the mother. A cartel invaded their town and began ransacking homes, plundering them and killing everyone who was found in them. This mother gathered her children who were in the house and as five men broke down the front door, she fled with her children out the back door and into the woods, where they ran straight into another cartel that was lining up people to chop off their hands.

She stood in line with her children and her heart began to plead with God to save them somehow. Then her youngest, a little girl, began to cry. She tried to quiet the child, but she only wailed louder. The desperate mother could do nothing. They tore the little girl from her mother and held the screaming child as they dug a hole in the ground. The girl cried until the very end when they buried her alive, her wails silenced by the earth.

Oh God! How my heart inside me melts and my spirit is burdened with the weight of this pain and cruelty! How can people do this? The battle inside hurts, this never-ending struggle to know: is man totally evil, only doing good when it benefits ourselves? Is there any decency in a man left to himself? How can one human being do that to another? How can one ignore this instinct to love and protect children and murder one so small? Does their conscience tear them? Do their morals scream for attention? How can such atrocities be accepted anywhere by anyone?

What happened to her? Was she and her children saved? And how could she ever be happy again having seen such things?

And while men and women are being executed on the other side of the earth for their faith, we struggle to wake up in the morning to read our Bibles that are easy to access in whatever format we want. We read without any fear of arrest, but then toss it away like another box on the checklist. And then we complain that the weather is not to our liking. We whine about people who rub us the wrong way and think that we ought not be forced to put up with these kind of people. We wish the pay checks were higher and our time free to spend at leisure.

What ugly pigs we are. How foolish and shallow I am. Lord, if there is anything I can do, show me. And remind me again of the pricelessness of your word.

Why I Battle

I have noticed in myself an apathy, and it concerns me. I haven’t struggled against sin like I should. I haven’t fought for righteousness and holiness like I ought. I’ve sat back and let sin trample me, throwing me down and around until I have absolutely no choice but to throw it off.

My own lack of passion has concerned me, usually when I am around other Christians who are striving for the life that the Lord would have them live–and I can barely managed to pray every day. Or when my brothers and sisters are convicted of sin–and I haven’t heeded my own convictions that fall like a puddle around my feet. It took me awhile to diagnose the problem. It is disbelief.

A few weeks ago at our church’s family camp, Mr. Tren Groat preached a sermon, linked here. He said in that sermon, “Satan wants you to believe that the sin in your life can’t be defeated.” I felt electricity course through me as I was lightning struck. I thought, “Well then–it can be defeated?” My head answered, “But of course!” Jesus died to rescue us from sin. He overcame death and the grave. God has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of His beloved son!

I realized then that I wasn’t believing what my head was saying, and my head was quoting the Bible. I wasn’t truly believing the gospel, that I have been rescued from sin.

The next evening, Pastor Scott preached a sermon, linked here. It was a beautiful sermon: a beautiful picture of a beautiful person who served the church in a simply beautiful way. I could have melted right there, swallowed in despair and the overwhelming feeling that I will never get there.

I love my church family so badly! I get choked up thinking about all my brothers and sisters in Christ. I want to serve them wholeheartedly, without prideful thoughts, without selfish intent. I want to be the person God has called me to be! But unconsciously I have been telling myself over and over that I will never get there, so why even try?

That question has beaten me up in the past few days. I couldn’t get around it. Why try if I’ll never get there? I know I will always have sin. I will never be able to do anything with a completely pure motive. So why should I try?

This is why I am not passionate. This is why I am despairing. This is why I am unhappy. Because I am not believing God’s promises.

I found the answer Wednesday night.

Why should I fight for righteousness? Because God is worth it, and our relationship to Him only gets sweeter and sweeter from here on out. If we could ever be perfect here on the earth, we wouldn’t experience His strength through our weaknesses like we can now. If we were perfect–there would be no grace. We hunger and thirst for righteousness because that is what brings us closer to God.

So why don’t I fight against sin? Because I don’t believe that I can conquer it. Which is true, but Jesus already did! I don’t have to subject myself to my old master. I’m no longer a child of sin, but a child of God.

Two things have really encouraged me through this battle to believe that the sin in my life is defeated, and I ought to fight against it.

1st, I look at people around me–and they aren’t perfect–but they’re awesome! I want to be like that. And I know that they didn’t get there by giving up. They got there by pursuing God with all their heart, soul, and mind.

2 Timothy 4:7
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

They struggled hard, went through trials, and sought after God as He worked in them to change them into a beautiful person. Those people–and if you know me, I’m probably talking about YOU–are the people that encourage me to love and good works. They inspire me to be more, to struggle farther, to follow after God and allow Him to work in my life. That’s why I need my church family so much! And for all those people–thanks.

2nd, the Bible is full of of admonishments to press on. On the one hand, that shows me that I’m not the only one who struggles with discouragement that leads to apathy.

1 Timothy 6:12

Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

And on the other hand, I know that it can be done and ought to be done.

Romans 8:10
But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

1 Timothy 6:11
Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.

And that is my battle from the last couple of weeks, believing that I am free from sin. This confession has tried to stay hidden for a long time. I didn’t want to write it. I didn’t want to be held accountable for posting it. I didn’t want people knocking on my door (figuratively) to make sure I was struggling on, fighting the good fight, warding off apathy. But what I have come to see, and what I hope you see, is that I don’t need a chart to make sure I am keeping up, but an encouragement in the promises of God. He promised that He would never leave me or forsake me. And He promised me that I no longer belong to sin, but I belong to Him. And through Him I will overcome the sin in my life.

And now with this freshly strapped to my forehead, I hope to fight on, not out of obligation, but out of a passion to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

Romans 6:17-18
But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed,
and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.

In Christ,
Ellie

I’d Like a Laptop….

Imagine me packing up my laptop to stroll in the park. Under a favorite tree, I would unpack, settle down, and write. Out in the fresh breeze, under the blue sky and leafy boughs,inspiration would flow, stories would be written, truths be sifted through and explained.

Or imagine taking the laptop with me to a coffee shop where, with stealthy glasses, I would watch people enter and order, and write them down as characters to use in a novel. And picking up my handy Criminal Writer’s Reference Guide, I would plot out a mystery novel. Or imagine me with the simple opportunity to withdraw into a quiet bedroom with coffee and cookies nearby to write to my heart’s content.

I would like a laptop. But so far, it hasn’t come to reality. I have to put up with a desktop in the living room where the entire family lives.

Even more than a laptop, I would like selflessness. I feel chained to my own desires and comforts so that I cannot love as I ought.

I would like diligence, the ability and will to complete what I start and struggle through trials.

I would like self-discipline, to read the Bible and pray consistently and faithfully.

I would like grace of speech.

I would like wisdom and discernment.

Okay, the list goes on and on. (Yours probably does too.) I feel like such a baby Christian sometimes because I lack in all these areas.

Well, I read today from the book “Pentecost-Today?” by Iain H. Murray. He was actually quoting another book that said,
“Some things that we might think desirable we may not have. Before Christ was brought face to face with the tempter, he was fitted for his service by being kept hungry for forty days; and it may be that some things we desire may in like manner be kept back. But faith should always claim that that which God has given us, and is giving us, is sufficient for present needs. If faith is only in lively exercise we shall know this, That no single thing we do not possess would be a help to us today. What does the Word say? ‘No good thing will he withhold’ (Psa. 84:11) ‘My God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus’ (Phil. 4:19).

That struck home. A laptop would not be a help today, nor patience or compassion, as strange as that sounds. Because for some reason in God’s grand design, I’m not supposed to have it. I don’t know when I might ever get a laptop, but God does. And after all, true freedom is being a slave to Christ, including a slave to His plans for me.

And since the key to contentment is gratefulness, I have already begun to mentally review all the blessings God has given to me. Material goods are all around me, including the green grass and sweet smelling lilacs. And even looking at my character, which can be depressing, I see how I have grown and matured and I’m very grateful God has been patient to bring me this far. With His grace, I can only grow closer to Him.

In Christ,
Ellie