An Unfractured Fairy Tale About Listening.

An Unfractured Fairy Tale About Listening. March 22, 2014
space princess
space princess (Photo credit: postbear). I’ve gone from “not knowing this mug existed”to “needing
to own this mug” in about .3 seconds flat.

Today’s story is about a space princess and the person who listened to her, and what happened afterward.

Not too long ago, I wrote a piece calling attention to a group called Quiet Christians. The gentleman running it will be known here as TQC (the Quiet Christian) as that is the only name I have ever known him by, which is okay by me since I am obviously not really a military captain nor the owner of a yacht.

This is a pretty small blog still, despite having the awesomest band of friends that a blog could ever possibly hope to have, so I was a little surprised that I even pinged his radar, but I did. I got a polite note in my messagebox from him advising that he was writing a post in turn about what I’d written.

I will tell you here, gang: I kinda dreaded seeing it. I’ve been on the receiving end of what Christians think passes for “dialogue” before. They’re very fond of telling me what I think and how I feel, and they tend to react very poorly to being criticized, even by someone like me who tries to be polite when I know I’m talking to someone who’s trying to do the right things. It’s not that non-believers ain’t talking; we talk plenty. It’s that Christians don’t tend to listen.

And yeah, the response post was not initially very promising. I’d just misinterpreted everything, which was of course my problem and not TQC’s problem. We had some email back and forth, though, and a very polite discussion ensued.

I was pretty surprised to learn that TQC took a little more time to think about what I’d had to say and has revised a lot of the stuff on his blog that I’d objected to. Actually, “pretty surprised” is a huge understatement. I was blown away in the best possible way.

If you go to his “about” page now, you will see that a lot of the questionable stuff’s been removed and reworded to sound a lot less suspicious to outsiders like me. He’s even added a column about women’s rights, which are super-important to a number of folks, not just me, advising that his group is all for women’s rights. I hope he makes more clear just what he means by “women’s rights;” I’ve run into a number of forced-birthers who think they’re all for women’s rights–which includes the right to be forced to gestate pregnancies whether they consent to their bodies’ use or not. (Related question: exactly who the hell do those idiots think they are fooling?)

I hope that TQC will not mind me mentioning that he’s said he got a lot of pushback from his group about listening to a non-Christian.

That news just dismays me. The whole goal of his group is to avoid offending and alienating outsiders. His original posts did both to more outsiders than just me. Yes, I belong to my own little cabal of ex-Christians and my interpretation was not unique in any way–I worded it more politely, that’s all, and I said it out loud on a blog with HTML links that he likely noticed instead of grousing about it in person or on Facebook where he’d never have heard anything. So given that the site’s mission statement was to avoid alienating outsiders, why in the world would they be upset about him rewording his “about” page to stop alienating outsiders?

I mean, look, I’d never tell Christians what to do. I have a lot of suggestions and unsolicited advice, yes. But ultimately, those suggestions and pieces of advice are about how to interact with people like me, not demands for changes to how they pray or worship or what they do in the privacy of their own churches. And they are cries from the heart about places where Christianity’s stated goals do not match even in the slightest with its tactics and behaviors. It just flabbergasts me that Christians would react poorly to being confronted with a very obvious place where their walk does not match their talk. You’d think, if they really wanted to be loving toward outsiders, that they would be vitally interested in being told about a serious problem in their operating system.

Apparently TQC was supposed to love non-Christians on his terms, not on our terms. When I went hunting for examples of Christians saying precisely this, I got quickly overwhelmed–it seems like a lot of Christians are convinced that the only way to love someone is on “Christ’s terms,” not the recipient’s terms. And whoa nelly! They don’t like that idea of meeting someone on their own terms. We might as well ask them to condone molestation and murder, which is what I saw the idea compared to a few times, like if they’re not allowed to treat people like crap, then they might as well not talk to us at all.

But all they do is demonstrate that they don’t know what real love is. It’s meeting the other person on their terms. If a Christian is doing anything else, that’s not love. “I’ll love you–once you totally change to make me happy,” is what outsiders are inevitably going to hear. “You’re going to have to seriously shape up for this to work,” is the ominous threat we perceive. And why should we care? In a world that is constantly demanding attention from a thousand different angles, why should we care what someone demands we do to become acceptable enough for them to lower themselves to love us? What, are they paying us or something? It’s downright mystifying why they think their approval is something we need that much. I don’t get why they think that withholding their approval is going to devastate us into behaving like good little boys and girls. It’s like a quaint little holdover belief from when Christians dominated everything. OH NOES! A Christian doesn’t approve of me! Let me get my smelling salts… And here’s TQC flying in the face of all of that. Yeah, I have no doubt at all that there were some elements in his faction that didn’t care for what he did.

Remember, the person who gets to decide if a behavior is loving is the person viewing or engaging with that behavior, not the person performing it. Christians are very good at ignoring that simple fact; it is how they can insist up and down that they “love” sinners and hate sins, when what they do feels an awful lot like just hating sinners.

Nobody cares how Christians feel about anybody or what they do in private. Not anymore. They’ve all but guaranteed that we don’t care by now by their hateful behavior and Orwellian newspeak. I don’t have the faintest idea of many of TQC’s doctrines or what he thinks about X Bible verse, any more than I do about any other Christian. My days of pulling out the spiritual ruler and measuring people up against it are long, long over.

What people actually care about is how they treat everybody.

Christians, if the only way you can share your religion’s “love” with outsiders is in a way that offends and alienates us or demands we conform to your standards, then that’s not really very loving. Demanding that we just put up with it, or worse yet insisting that we relabel the behavior as “loving” like you have even when it goes against every single thing we know to be loving is not going to accomplish anything beyond reminding us of what a sick religion Christianity has become and push us away further and make us even more hostile to your attempts to seize control of society. Just because a given Christian has no idea what love really is anymore doesn’t mean we have to buy into the creepy redefinition of it as well.

And let me inform you Christians of one thing right now: folks like me can tell the difference between relabeled hate and real love. That is why we are not converting in any large numbers and why we are leaving in such large numbers: because it is painfully obvious that humongous swathes of Christianity are more about denying progress, disapproving of outsiders, and trying to control the lives of utter strangers than it is about loving anybody. If we want to love people, we sure do not look to Christianity for a framework to accomplish that goal.

I realize that I’m not the target audience for TQC’s group. I’m in no danger whatsoever of reconverting, any more than I am of suddenly deciding that Santa exists or that Amway is an awesome business opportunity for me. But a Christian who keeps to his own business, is a good neighbor, and can talk to non-Christians without being a total asshole? That’s fine by me. That’s a Christianity that I can at least get along with. That’s a Christian I’d invite to my holiday party and have over for Turkey Day MST3K marathons–because he’s actually a decent human being above all. He seems a lot closer to this love thing than his peers. I get the impression he’d be a good neighbor, and I guess in a sense he’s a blog-neighbor at this point. I don’t mind that idea.

Jem!
Jem! (Photo credit: edwick). This is a little unrelated, but apparently there’s going to be a Jem and the Holograms live-action movie soon.

I’m still wondering if his group will come out on the side of women’s bodily autonomy or if they’ll be the standard-issue forced-birther “women’s bodies are actually public property” fundagelicals I’m all too used to seeing. I emailed to ask for clarification and haven’t heard back yet, which is why this post is a bit late tonight. But this has been a promising bit of communication, and I’m very pleasantly surprised by how it all worked out. No matter what he replies to the email I sent asking for a bit of clarification, at least he listened that one time, and in that episode, he is already pulling ahead of about 99% of his brethren. That his group is all for LGBT rights and the establishment clause is a promising indication that they’re also all for women’s rights to control our bodies, and what he’s written so far is encouraging.

Isn’t it crazy that a Christian who actually behaves lovingly is such an amazing change from what someone normally sees? Almost as if the religion’s not really being very effective about teaching its adherents how to love. But that would be just crazy, because that’s the whole thrust of their religion…. isn’t it? What if it wasn’t?

I hope that loving Christians can right this Titanic they find themselves sailing on. I hope they win. It’d be good news for all of us. I wish TQC and his group all the success they can handle. They deserve it a lot more than many of the other groups I’ve seen.

Speaking of those other groups, we’re going to talk next about fear, uncertainty, control, and Cosmos. It’s been downright awesome watching fundagelicals freaking out about two little bitty episodes of one little bitty science show. Their reaction has been revealing a lot about why fundagelicals tend to be so anti-science–and yes, we’re going to talk about how, ultimately, their frantic fight against this show is going to play a role in the downfall of their unwarranted privilege and backwards mindset. Science, folks: it works. Please join me as we throw down the gauntlet and rip away the curtain.

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