Monday, March 12, 2012

WWJD -- Who Would Jesus Dis-invite?

"What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun." (Ecc. 1:9) I have no doubt that the words of Ecclesiastes are true, but even though "there is nothing new under the sun," what happened today was new to me. I basically got "dis-invited" to lead a retreat at a certain location. Evidently, the person whose location it was found my theology suspect and so told the leader of the group that had invited me that he couldn't host the event.

I was stunned (as was the person with whom I was planning the event). I mean, I had come close to being dis-invited one other time before, but that was completely understandable once we talked about it. It seems that the leaders that time knew I was a writer and so went online to see what I'd written. Unfortunately, they had typed "Bill Brent" into the search box instead of "J. Brent Bill" and came across the number of titles that they considered slightly inappropriate. That's because "Bill Brent" is a prolific writer in a genre that is ... um... far different from mine. Once that mix-up was explained, the almost dis-invitation disappeared.

But this time, I did not even feel like reaching out to the person who dis-invited me to try to explain that there was no real need to fear my theology. Part of that was because he checked out my theological credentials as a Quaker (the Quaker part worried him, I guess) via the Internet. What he found on some site about Quakers alarmed him. Rightfully so, I guess, since we all know what a fount of verity the Internet is. The Internet, after all, is where Indiana State Representative Bob Morris did "a small amount of" (his words) research and discovered that the Girl Scouts of America is in a "close strategic affiliation with Planned Parenthood" and actively promotes premarital sex, homosexuality, abortion, and other things. The Girl Scouts are "quickly becoming a tactical arm of Planned Parenthood."

Yikes, and I had bought into what they said they did -- "Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place." Which is what it says on ... um... the Internet. That pesky Internet.

But back to my dis-invitation. Let me first say, I don't have a problem with someone not wanting to hear me or my thoughts. I also don't have any difficulty with a person disagreeing with my theology. But I don't think it's very Christ-like to make assumptions about what a person believes based on an Internet search of a denomination or faith group. Especially since there's so much misinformation out there. If someone wants to know what I believe, they are free to ask. And most times, I will be happy to answer -- especially if the question is sincere and not a form of inquisition and/or "aha-gotcha."

I am confident in my beliefs -- though I still have a lot to learn. In fact, I think I have more to learn about God and God's ways than I ever have before -- especially when I was a young pastor and knew it all. ;-) I guess I really do believe the words of 1 John 3, where it says "This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us."

My heart does not condemn me. I endeavor to follow Jesus Christ and love others as he commands. That's one reason I am a member of the Religious Society of Friends -- we take our name from the scripture that says, "You are my friends if you do as I command you."

I admit I don't always do as Jesus commands me, but I do, with God's grace, try to. And I'm always working on that "love one another" bit. And I worry a lot more about living in the way of Jesus and doing his commands than I do getting all the tenets of faith exactly right by some woman or man's theological yardstick. That's partly because there seem to be so many different theological yardsticks and I'd rather live for Jesus and hope to hear him say "Well done, thou good and faithful servant" than to meet some human's standard for whether I'm qualified to share what little spiritual wisdom I've acquired in over fifty years of trying to live a faithful life.

I am struggling a bit with that today because I am hurt. I know that's my problem. And I've been asking myself if I have ever dis-invited anyone from anything because I judged them without even knowing them and found them wanting? I hope not, but fear I probably have. And so I ask God's and that person's forgiveness. And will now, because of this happening to me, be careful not to do it again.

That's because, when I look at Jesus' life and interactions with people (tax collectors, harlots, Pharisees, and everyone else) I find that there's only one answer to the question, "Who would Jesus dis-invite?"

And the only answer I can come up with is "No one."

It's a lesson I needed to reminded of. So, to my dis-inviter, I say with all sincerity, humility and a prayer for us both, "Thank you for not having me, and may God richly bless you."

-- Brent

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

You have my sympathies, Friend.
D. Carter

Brent Bill said...

Thanks, but no sympathies needed. 'twas a good lesson for me

Peggy Senger Parsons said...

I am blaming Bob Morris for my waistline this week. I have been forced to buy Girl Scout Cookies as a testimony to the truth, and it is getting me in trouble, weight wise.


Getting dis-invited for your actual opinions is one thing, but guilt by association would mean that we would all have to Quit Quakerism, and then where would we be?

I've been dis-invited by a Friends Women's missionary society. They wanted me to talk about Africa and the work I did for EFI and THARS there. Then they found out that I was especially fond of someone whom they also actually like, but they didn't like how much we like each other, so I couldn't talk about Africa. Made sense to me.

Robin M. said...

I sort of think it's better to be disinvited early on than to spend a lot of time preparing for a group of people who aren't going to be receptive in the end anyway. Which can happen among Quakers as much as with any other group, I'm sure.

But even if your grown-up and mature head knows it's better, your youthful and vulnerable heart still gets hurt. I think this is a good sign. You know what Jesus said about being like a little child.

And you can come to my birthday party any time.

sta┼Ťa said...

Oh, Brent.

What a painful learning experience.

This brought back a time when something sort-of-similar, but not the same, happened to me.

I am sorry you are dealing with this.

You know, it strikes me that Jesus' theology was pretty suspect at the time...

Brent Bill said...

Thanks for all the blessings sent by friends and Friends. I really am okay w/ this and appreciative of the lesson it reminded me of (it seems more of my spirituals lessons these days are reminders of things I should have learned by now but haven't!). I hope to finally learn how to be as hospitable to others as I hope they are to me -- regardless of their beliefs and my "correct" theology!

ron said...

Brent,

Christ and the 1st century ekklesia were frequently dis-invited; this often took the form of threats, shunning, banishment from their communities and/or even brutal persecution. Considering this, it seems like you may very well be in good company.

Being dis-invited could imply that you are holding close to the truth. If a persons heart is right it possibly could be deemed a badge of honor.

Peace and Warmest Regards,
Ron


PS I know that my heart isn’t right because I was considering instructing you to ask for a formal dis-invitation so that you could frame it and post it in prominent place in your office. Just forget that I even mentioned this:-)

Michael Snow said...

Brent,

Yup, that Brent and Bill thing always had me trying to remember which came first when we were new at ESR. No wonder I could not remember Greek.

Mike