Sunday, June 28, 2009

Intolerance on both sides…

It's about midnight, I am sitting in Town Square, Southlake, TX in a court yard behind a restaurant Brio's. I am talking with my friend Ryan Griffin. As usual, we are talking about life and learning from each other how to be better Christian's. Out of no where, a women approaches us and hands us 1,000,000 fake bills with a cartoon picture on it. Ryan recognizes it immediately as a solicitation to talk about Christ. Trish, the women, states they are a community founded by the actor Kirk Cameron. Ryan was not familiar with the actor, so I updated him on who he was. The lead actor of a family program named "Growing Pains" and in the height of his career, he became a born again Christian and caused the show to go sideways because he tried to instill his belief onto the others.

The conversation started out ok, but things started turning wrong when Trish started telling us how she approached people using the TenCommandments as a reflection to get people to realize they are sinners. It came across innocent enough, yet very judgmental in her demeanor. She was using this fact and sudden awareness to scare people into becoming a Christian. I don't know if I can explain fully, but it came across as though she was being very judgmental.

So, then she introduces to us to a couple of other folks in their group. She tells them we are thinking of doing open air preaching and I am reading, "The Reason for God" by Timothy Keller and Armilo supports my reading. As we are talking, another group of people come into the square, they all stopped talking and the focus went to this other group they identified as Muslims and acted as though an enemy had just showed up and they would need to get ready for battle, they showed no tolerance or acceptance towards these people

The out of the blue, Trish asks me how I deal with the liberalism of the Church I attend, women in the ministry and their acceptance of homosexuality. I said, I am not that involved in the Church to be aware of these issues and I did not care about women in the ministry because…but I was interrupted by Armilio and challenged me and my faith and whether I was a Christian. I told him just a minute I wanted to answer Trish's question. He then interrupted me again and I said wait your accusations are going to get you an ass whipping. Now, I know what it sounded like, but I did not have a chance to let him know I meant verbally, but he continued to be insistent. His intolerance was more than I could stand. I was not going to defend my beliefs to this attack based on his intolerance. I looked at my friend Ryan and excused myself.

Ryan, however; stayed. Now, I am not sure why Ryan stayed, but this type of a situation is where I think Ryan does his best. To challenge him on his faith and worse to challenge him on his knowledge is an area not very many people can equal Ryan. So, I am guessing that this group who thought they were the preachers are now being the students. I am also guessing, they won't change their sense of intolerance, they will be impressed with Ryan's knowledge and possibly be humbled, they also will be more educated on what the Bible means and says. Yet, I feel there hearts are hardened and minds closed.

Ryan came back about an hour later, it was now 1:30 AM Sunday morning. In the end, Ryan realized the group in fact had formed opinions of who/what a Christian was by taking only pieces of scripture rather than applying it to the whole and seeing how scripture/the Bible was communicating overall. What went from a one or two person conversation turned into 4 to 6 of the group challenging Ryan. And instead of sharing knowledge, they attacked Ryan on his interpretation of scripture, his own personal beliefs, habits and values, which most of the personal items had nothing to do with the conversation.

I end this description of the encounter with this. Firstly, I believe this group is almost a cult, they have formed opinions which are not supported in the Bible, but they use parts of scripture to justify their beliefs. Secondly, they try and break people down to agree with them, they are not open to other interpretations. Finally, they seemed very judgemental, meaning they automatically judged you not to be a brother or sister if you did not believe what they did and finally, the way they reacted to the muslim group, showed an incredible intolerance for others as well.

Now, I just beat up on them, but intolerance went both ways. When I felt like I was being attacked by Trish, the Armilio, I showed an intolerance for their behavior. Instead of acting graciously and finding out more, I acted aggressively and then excused myself because I could not tolerate their behavior and opinions.

And Ryan, why did he stay there and talk, discuss, argue, defend. Because he was being intolerant of their intolerance. What burns him more than a non-Christian is another Christian not only disrespecting other Christian, but misusing the Bible to support their personal beliefs and values. So, he had the tools to 'defeat' them and I believe, whether they want to admit it or not, he did defeat them.

I did not walk away from this encounter feeling good and neither did Ryan, what we all did is exhibit our own weakness and intolerance. As I talked with Ryan about it and we were discussing our understanding that we too demonstrated equal intolerance and we felt we sinned, that the best thing we could of done once we felt the intolerance, would have been not to engage, but to disengate immediately and walk back to our bench and continue our conversation, demonstrating good Christian behavior.

What would you have done or what would you have recommended we do?

By the way, Armilio handed Ryan a card, on the card it identified Armilio as the Pastor of the Church - Ryan just defeated him in battle.


  1. Anonymous11:59 AM

    Hi Leland,
    Are you alright?? I haven't heard from you in a while, I am beginning to get a bit worried. I hope that all is well in your world and that you are happy. You remain in my prayers.
    In my state of insomnia I thought about your experience, however intense it was, your blog was very well written and you expressed your emotions and that of the crowd with great detail.
    Here are my thoughts, questions, etc. Please contemplate this first and reply in kind. "Do you fear God?? " My husband asked me that question once and I found it quite an interesting topic. It is the basis of some religions...isn't it? Your response to this question will interest me.
    Okay back to your night at the Cafe with Ryan.
    First off, I don't claim to be without sin. I believe that is why God gave us Jesus. "He who is without sin cast the first stone." Neither do I claim to be the best Christian, although I try to live by the Golden Rule and I have what I believe to be an intimate relationship with God. I know that Jesus is my savior.(I could elaborate but I think you know my story.)
    If in your situation with Trish and her gang of Christian radicals I think my response would have been to calmly state that "My God is a God of Love." If they persisted in their intolerant, judgemental messages proclaiming them to be truth. I would have had to be rude by stating that groups and people like them are the reason that I don't attend Church but chose to worship in private, also that I would keep them and their church in my prayers and wish them good day and walk away. End of story.
    Honestly....You can't preach on a sows ear, you truly can't change people unless they want to change themselves. You said it yourself pretty much...they had their minds made up.
    I am leery of religions or religious groups because they interpret the Bible in many different ways professing that theirs is the correct way and only theirs. I find that offensive and frightening. They pray for their religion in their church and not all people, not their enemies. they preach political affiliation, etc. Don't they even read the Bible??
    The Mormon's added a book.. the Jew's and the Catholics? no man Priest or Rabi..all against scripture aren't they?? Pray for your enemies? They are too busy condemning one another and professing to be the chosen ones or better than, etc.

    I took a little break and am back with another person's perspective....
    I just returned from a bit of time with my friend Val, another Christian. I mentioned this scenario to get her take. She mentioned that Trish's religious group could have been Mormon, Jehovah Witness, Seven Day Adventist, etc. all of which Val considers to be cult like. Also that they should not ask a questions if they did not want to hear the answers or get a response.(Something that she would have told the Church group.) Plus with regard to you and Ryan feeling like sinners when you left. My feeling was that you both were being too hard on yourselves and that you should lighten up. She agreed stating,"There is no condemnation under the Lord."
    I just thought that such a well put story deserved comment. I hope that you are interested in two folks from Martinez's view on the subject. Thank you for sharing your stories on your blog and also for your emails when you have time. I pray that all is well with you.
    God Bless and hugs,

  2. Anonymous12:06 PM

    What an interesting encounter! I am not sure how I would have reacted other than to state that only God is in a position to judge. While the Old Testsment shows us God's law, it is a gage to show us none of us can perfectly follow the commandments and we are all born into sin. The New Testament teaches us that God gave his only son to pay the price for our sins. Through our belief and faith in Christ our saviour, we can have eternal life. While we should repent, none of us are perfect and we will fail and fall into sin, time and time again. As sinners ourselves, who are we to condemn other sinners? Doesn't the Bible instruct us to love our neighbors as ourselves? I think rather than judging others, we should pray for them.

    Well, that is my two cents on the subject. What a strange thing to happen in Southlake Town Centre!

    Maria Belfield