The Oneness Between Us
The other day I followed a breaking story on social media about a prominent, outspoken fundamentalist Christian leader, who made the poor choice of posting some questionable photos from a vacation he took with family and friends.
The photos indicated that he had violated several of the rules of the Christian university he leads---rules which would have gotten a student of that university expelled.
Full disclosure... I have never been a fan of this guy, or his university.
The version of the Gospel that he stands for isn't good news at all, in my opinion---except for a very small, select group of people. And he tends to ignore most of what Jesus said and taught, so there's that.
So when I read that story, there was an initial moment when I said "Ha! You got what you deserved, pal. Hoisted by your own petard. Good riddance!"
Then a strange feeling washed over me as I started reading his response---a mea culpa that was filled with shame and regret. It was like suddenly I saw him.
You see, I know what it's like to live and move in the kind of environment that he has spent his whole life inside. Christian fundamentalism is a tiring, debilitating space for those in the midst of it.
Not only are you taught that "the world" (anyone outside of your group) is largely out to get you, persecute you, take your rights, you have to be wary of everyone around you on the inside as well.
Because they will turn on you at the drop of a hat if you violate the rules.
So in that moment the feeling that washed over me as I read the article with the guys' apology was simply this: sadness.
He had been conscripted into the family business (leading his dad's church, and the university his dad founded) to carry the family name and the leadership of their organizations forward.
I'm sure he thought it was a pretty good life, until it wasn't. Now because of some ill-advised, but probably harmless photos on a vacation, his career is probably over, and his shame is through the roof.
I felt sorry for him because I know what it's like living in the fundamentalist Christian world, and how quickly the people within that world will turn on you.
There was a moment when I felt his pain, and the isolation that I knew he was feeling, and I wanted to kick myself. I wanted to kick myself because I had told myself at some point that I wasn't supposed to feel empathy for someone like him.
But I slowly started realizing that he was someone like me.
I was listening to Alanis Morissette's new album the other day and her new song "Ablaze" caught my attention with these lyrics:
We seem to easily forget we are made of the same cells...It might feel dark, it might feel lonely and you wonder why you're hereYou may be overcome with darkness and a sense of hopelessnessBut it won't matter if you keep the core connected to the oneness…