Today I received an interesting email. It appears that someone has taken it upon themselves to email what looks like most of Shelby County, Alabama’s pastors this email, which I have taken some minimal pain to redact for civility’s sake.
I won’t include each piece of my writing that this individual took offense to, since all of them are already posted publicly on the blog anyway, and anyone who was offended by them has had the opportunity for years to comment publicly on the blog or email me privately. And it would be pointless to argue that I wrote them–I mean, I’ve spent somewhere around ten years attaching my names to things I wrote online and wishing someone would notice them and give me a book deal, so it would be sort of pointless to get angry now that someone noticed just because I didn’t like why they noticed it.
Nor will I defend each item that the author of the letter takes offense to here; some of the items were taken out of context, some were intended humorously or ironically, some were positions I held a decade ago when I wrote them but might not feel the same way about now.
However, some of them were items that I do, in fact, believe quite strongly to this day. And that’s the point of a blog anyway, isn’t it? To believe something publicly. To say something in a space where people are free to challenge you. To put your ideas, your worldview, your faith out there and tie it to the whipping post and let people hack away at it.
To hash out ideas in a public space, to disagree about things that matter, to be constantly challenged by and moved by and changed by the interaction of our minds with other minds. Our souls with other souls.
To allow for intellectual and spiritual accountability.
I am not afraid of accountability. I recognize that it is quite possible that I am wrong (or at least unwise) on a great many things. That is why I have placed my faith in the forgiveness and redemption of a God who, at the end of the day, is not concerned with whether or not I have accurately solved the theological quadratic equation of his forgiveness.
He is my father. I am his child. And in that, I operate without fear.
The anonymous author of this email is a fearful human being. I assume so, simply because I have gone to great lengths to attach my name—my Self—to everything I ever wrote online or in print. I have never been so fearful of another man’s opinion that I hid my worldview behind an anonymous screen name.
It must take a great deal of fear to peruse and snip and collate ten years’ worth of someone else’s writing and then deliver it all, devoid of context, to a phone books’ worth of people with the clear message DANGER DANGER BAD GUY HERE! Especially when it would have been so very easy to simply, you know, just express your disagreement in the blog’s comments like a rational human being would. Or send an email. Or a call. Or, heck, walk into my office, since you clearly know where I am employed.
So for you, my anonymous brother, I will pray. And I grasp how condescending and church-y that sounds, but at the end of the day, it is all I have. It is all I have because it is all you allowed me. It took me most of the day to get to this point. I am quite human, and I have a very human response to being anonymously assassinated by e-mail. That very human response sometimes involves throwing things around the office and yelling unprintable things and gritting my teeth right down into powder. But now, with a few hours of seething under my belt, I will pray.
In fact, because of your anonymity, I can’t even pray for you by name. But I pray. My prayer is that you will find the grace that I’ve found—grace that I’ve learned I need so desperately—grace to believe big outlandish inexplicable things without being afraid that you’re wrong about them. Grace to believe that Jesus is far far bigger than his church and that, since he is so wholly other than us, we can be human without putting on the charade of perfection that for so long characterized my experience with the church. Grace to understand that nowhere does God forbid humor or frivolity or getting our eschatology wrong.
And of course, my prayer is also that you will find the courage to disagree with me in a way that allows me to argue back publicly. Because heck, that would be fun, too.