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"It is better to take refuge in Adonai than to trust in human beings; better to take refuge in Adonai than to put one's trust in princes." -Tehilah 118:8-9

Bully - Believers' Style

There hasn't been much activity on this blog as of late.  I'd like to chalk it up to the fact that life has been busy (which is true) but that isn't the main reason why posting has stopped.  Today I listened to a sermon by Karl Coke entitled Feed My Sheep.  An element of the sermon involve the things in your life that can easily distract you from following the call G-d has put on your heart.  Some of the distractions he listed - work, kids, bills, etc. - are common enough and certainly impact one's ability to follow through on G-d's call.  But, I thought, they aren't my reasons.  My reasons for not moving forward (whether it be with this blog or any other aspect of life that G-d has put a calling on) goes beyond personal responsibilities to something much deeper and more stressful than paying bills or trucking kids around town.  I stopped writing because I didn't feel like I could get anywhere.  Based on the communication I was reading from the believing world (whether online or in print) I was pretty sure the simple message of unity found in Scripture and touted on this blog went against the current trends in thinking popular within the believing community.  And, much like a beleaguered parent whose warnings are repeatedly ignored, I grew exhausted and simply gave up.

The scary thing is, I know I'm not alone.

A lot has been made of "bullying" lately.  I don't know why the mainstream media didn't give a crap about kids beating up on other kids when I was in school, but for some reason "bullying" has become the latest cause celebre in pop culture.  I'm pretty sure the believing community thinks they have the upper hand on this one because of the numerous amount of Bible Pix distributed in Sunday Schools around the nation that contain the oft-repeated teaching to "love your neighbor as yourself."  I can't help but laugh at the idea of it when I think back and realize that I was picked on more often by believers than non-believers and for as much as I may have been harassed in public school, I was equally, if not moreso harassed in the church world.  So much for Sunday School.

The real problem is that the bullying that happens in the believing world doesn't go away as believers get older.  In fact, it gets worse.  Congregations become enclaves for clicks, loaded with attendees who become members the way someone would join a golf club for an optimal tee time and free parking.  The ambitious ones seek out the leadership, aiming for their own positions of power and relish in the authority that comes along with counting the tithes, running the children's program, or managing social affairs.  In turn, they use their titles to cultivate little popularity clicks around themselves, aiming to weed out the wheat (the beautiful, the monied, the socially entrenched) from the chaff (the ugly, the poor, the unknown in the community) among the congregation.  Of course, the chaff gets stuck doing the dirty work (aka mopping the kids' puke off the bathroom floor) while the wheat gets all the credit (for running another successful year of Sunday School).

Of course, these clicks all function off the same principle:  We do things a certain way and if you go against that grain, you're out.  Speak your own mind and forget it.  Not a subscriber to GroupThink?  Pass GO and collect your $200, only to give 10% back before the door hits you in the tuchus on the way out.  Thanks for coming, buh-bye!

My own personal experience of congregational rejection, while rooted in this common foundation, goes much deeper than mere social exclusion.  The Bible states that the test of a true prophet is that the word they speak will come to pass.  In my experience, the test of a true prophecy is that, if it is true, those in authority will become so threatened by it that they will use it against you in order to drive you out of the picture.  You know, as if G-d uses prophecy to call out "popular" versus "unpopular"...because G-d, after all, is nothing more than the Captain of the Cheerleading squad at Heaven Central High.  "G-d spoke a word over you and not me?!?!  GAH!"

Bullying is so detrimental, not because of the act itself, but because of the emotional ramifications.  The emotional wounds suffered at the hands of a bully last much longer than any physical wound or memory of social torture.  Having grown up with two parents who were physically and emotionally abused as children, I can attest to the fact that the emotional scars remain fresh long after the incident is over.  Why?  Because human beings crave positive relationships and thrive on the giving and receiving of love.  What are the two most important commandments?  To love your G-d and love your neighbor.  The idea that our successful survival is based on the healthy development of properly contextualized loving relationships is Biblical.  It stands to reason then that bullying in the believing world is exponentially more detrimental than secular bullying since the believing community is supposed to be built upon the tenent of loving one another unconditionally. 

If we raise our children to believe that G-d loves them for who they are and they walk into an arena of believers only to be treated like Daniel in the lion's den, what does that do to that child's faith in G-d, in themself, in the purpose G-d has for them?  How clever of the Devil to know G-d's tenants and pervert them through our own human nature.  And we allow it by pursuing judgemental attitudes and detrimental behaviors towards others!

I can't help but wonder how many believers are out there, in Messianic congregations, churches, even home study groups or chavurim, putting the purpose G-d has for them on the back burner of their life because they're afraid that if they pursue G-d's purpose, they'll be shunned.  How many young people have been geared away from what G-d had for them by leaders who were threatened by the visible hand of G-d at work in these young lives?  How many believers hop from congregation to congregation, looking for a fresh drenching of the Spirit and feeling like they have lost their way, all because they put too much creedence into earthly figureheads instead of the Heavenly source from which all authority comes?

Or, how many believers, like me, have given up on congregational life altogether because they're tired of being bullied into a corner for seeking and following after the will of G-d?

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posted by Shoshana @ 2:28 PM

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