Injustice, Double-Scooped

Here’s my problem with grace.

Terrorists attack New York City, killing thousands of people, and a conservative public figure follows an illogical accusation of feminists, gays, and pagans by saying that the people who died probably deserved it.

Forest fires ravage parts of southern California, and a famous radio and television host tells its victims they had it coming for hating America.

Young men die overseas, and a Baptist pastor brings his extended family to their funerals with signs saying “Thank God for Dead Soldiers” and “God Hates Cripple Soldiers.”

A hurricane takes a tremendous number of lives and livelihoods along the Gulf of Mexico, and the founder of a Christian organization blames the destruction on New Orleans’ wickedness.

An earthquake destroys much of the poorest country in the Americas, and a prominent televangelist tells them they brought it on themselves by making a pact with the devil.

A seven-year-old girl is beaten to death by her parents who are steadfastly following a parenting movement, and the author of that movement laughs in response.

A college student subjected to a cruel invasion of privacy ends his life, and it’s only a matter of time before someone issues the first official “good riddance” statement.

There are many, many Christians doing immeasurable good in the world, but it seems like the ones who get the most attention are the ones spewing prejudice, judgment, paranoia, and calls to violence. It makes me so furious I can’t see straight, their bitterness blurring my vision and reflected back at them. I don’t hear a trace of Jesus in what they say, but I’m afraid that their victims do, and the injustice eats me alive.

Enter my problem: The Jesus I know—the one who taught compassion and wonder and unfailing love, who healed heathens and hung out with society’s rejects, who befriended prostitutes, who famously wept at a funeral, whose words still inspire incredible acts of kindness—came to bring a double scoop of grace to people tied up in laws and traditions. He showed that all the religious regulations people tried to follow were tyrants and insatiable ones at that. He came, despite the murderous impulses of near-sighted men, to demonstrate the spacious love just beyond their line of vision.

Which means there is compassion for the Jerry Falwells and the Pat Robertsons of the world too. While the injustice of indiscriminate grace gnaws at me almost as much as Christian hate-rhetoric does, it’s also the main difference between the God they know and the God I am growing to know… and that one difference makes all the difference to me.

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  1. This is really good. It’s something I need to remind myself of when the Falwells and Robertsons of the world get under my skin.

  2. What beautiful balance. Thank you…

  3. Yes, grace extended to sinner and pharisee. It’s good to remember that God was able to save Saul of Tarsus too.

  4. I was reading a fiction book to my kids this morning about the early Puritans and realizing afresh that this kind of behavior is all too common throughout world history, not to mention our own. One of the characters, a pre-teen boy, reminds his father that he had come over from England seeking freedom and needed to extend it to others. Later, he boldly comes to the rescue of a Native American friend who is about to be executed just because he is a “heathen” (which he isn’t, since he had become a Christian). Fortunately, the town minister, arriving late to the scene, stands with him. I’m glad my kids get to read about these issues. My sons are also reading The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth Speare. One of my own ancestors, Margaret Scott, was the last and oldest person hanged during the Salem witch trials.

    I notice you are in Italy. My friends Lee and Jeannette just moved with their family from Udine to Chiavari seeking to establish a grace-filled evangelical presence there. Their newest blog post is here: http://waltiworld.blogspot.com/2010/10/god-loves-chiavari-praise-god-for-his.html

    Virginia Knowles

  5. So loved this post. Until I became and adult, I was in churches that taught varying levels of gracelessness toward sinners, always heavily leaning toward hate. That kind of rhetoric feeds self-righteousness. What a joy it was to begin to walk out of the Christian ghetto and to rub shoulders with fellow sinners as Jesus did (of course he was not a fellow sinner…but I was…). After living in that closed “us vs. them” culture for so long, it was an amazing revelation to understand that most of the world does not think like I do. It was also amazing to learn that much of Christendom does love with the kind of grace-filled love Christ modeled. I had just never run in those circles before.

    And you are right, grace is even for the graceless. I’m thankful for those who loved me and extended God’s grace to me when I was in bondage to unloving self-righteousness.

  6. It’s a shame the haters get so much press, but since they need to be stopped somehow and people need to be aware of the ugliness as well as the beauty in order to achieve balance, hopefully it all evens out in the end. Great post, Bethany.

  7. We’re more like Jonah that we want to admit, at least, I know I am. It’s all too easy to remember how much we didn’t deserve the first scoop of grace we received. And when it comes to people like the Phelps, holy moly. I just don’t get it. I think about how their mind is going to blown when they encounter God…that His goodness and grace is so much wider than the few centimeters they defined Him by…

  8. Beautiful post.

  9. You have just articulated my husbands whole problem with religion. Unfortunately, he believes that is how ALL Christians are: Self-righteous, hypocritical, evil spewing crooks. Well, except ME, of course. This is why I have a problem attending church. I have yet to find one that doesn’t make me squirm. Even if it is only once a month, squirming is not how I want to be in church. I have too much of a problem when church gets all “religious” and slants toward that self-righteous, be perfect, us vs. them place. Thank you for labeling it so perfectly.

  10. Lewis – Thanks. It’s something I need reminders of too, especially when I get on Facebook. Yikes.

    Hillary – It’s so much easier to swing between extremes, but you’re right, this balance is beautiful.

    Laurie – Great example, though I’m a little miffed that God doesn’t tend to strike people blind to make his point these days. 🙂

    Virginia – It’s great your kids are getting a historical sense of all this, and having an ancestor hanged for witchcraft probably makes it all the more personal for you all. (P.S. – Thanks for the link. I think we know some other people working with that group, so we may run into them sometime!)

    Grace – “I’m thankful for those who loved me and extended God’s grace to me when I was in bondage to unloving self-righteousness.” Me too, friend.

    Liz – I’ve always liked the idea of having a news publication focused solely on the positive stories and the people making a good difference in the world. Maybe if the press attention shifted from the haters, their influence would fizzle out.

    Sam – Few centimeters? I think that’s being awfully generous… 🙂 I don’t envy people like him for the day they realize the truth about their lives’ work.

    Shadowspring – Thank you!

    Megsie – Originally, church was about community and God applied to everyday life (or at least that’s how I interpret it), and I fail to see how self-righteousness and exclusion fit with that (much less fit with Jesus’s teachings). I tend to get squirmy in church too, but it’s always the people that keep me coming. Thankfully, there are plenty of us who do genuinely love each other!

  11. thank you. i needed to hear that tonight.

  12. Ahhhh.
    When I heard about the girl being beaten till death, I wanted to cry and scream.
    Oh, grace.
    (cue my sigh)

    I love this post.
    “He came, despite the murderous impulses of near-sighted men, to demonstrate the spacious love just beyond their line of vision.”

  13. I have read this book called “The Naked Gospel” by Andrew Farley, and it keeps coming to my mind as I have read your posts. I don’t know, but maybe you would be interested in the book: http://www.thenakedgospel.com/home
    I have found it to be quite profound. The author takes a refreshing look at grace and freedom from the law. Liberty and freedom are intrinsic to the message of the Gospel. And yet those are the things that many people who call themselves Christians omit from their doctrine as they attempt to dominate the lives of others, ascribing their faulty beliefs to their view of God, which is skewed. I encourage you to check out the website for the book…it has summaries of each chapter and also an introduction you can download for free.

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