Please forgive me for the awkward title, but this will likely be a rambling post (coffee drinkers, you might need to caffeine up!) and it was hard to sum it up in something pithy, yet it is all interrelated in some way. It is also poorly edited and quickly written, so beware, lest a misspelling or typo poke you in the eye.
This post is a follow up to something I said yesterday in my post concerning Mr. Dennis Luker’s death.
At the time when I went to my blog yesterday, I was thinking of posting some comments about lies and the lying liars who tell them (and, yes, it feels icky to borrow from Al Franken, of all people), because some new ones had come my way. For instance, a weird comment one made about Mr. Meredith surrounding himself with “yes men” — a subject I have discussed before (for instance: here and here) and mentioned that my personal experience (repeated numerous times in multiple contexts) is exactly the opposite. I’ve seen Mr. Meredith seek out contrary opinion, even strong contrary opinion, and I’ve seen individuals provide him with such. In fact, I, personally, respectfully gave him a different opinion on the phone once, for which he… yelled at me? chastised me? No: For which he thanked me. No one is perfect, to be sure (well, except, perhaps, for my Beautiful Wife), but Mr. Meredith is, indeed, surrounded by individuals willing to disagree with him–individuals he, himself, put in place. (Public service announcement: Just because someone doesn’t accept your ideas, that doesn’t mean that person only surrounds himself with “yes men.” It may just mean that after thinking about them the person thinks your ideas aren’t as good as you think they are. Learn to live with that.)
Another bunch of false stuff was brought to my attention on the website of a particularly self-righteous fellow, claiming that one of the new self-appointed prophets to join the ranks of self-appointed prophetdom is somehow having a “big impact” on the Church. Really? Where? I mean, seriously: Where? None of the members in my area have asked about where a bunch of people supposedly went. It didn’t come up in our Council of Elders meeting this week (or in any meeting this year, or in any Executive Luncheon I’ve been able to sit in on) or when I was in Charlotte last month. No single minister in the entirety of the Church has mentioned that they are suddenly missing folks that I have heard. In fact, things have been the opposite–this particular self-appointed prophet hasn’t really made any impact at all, much like most previous self-appointed prophets in the Church’s history (if not less than those). Really. None. And that’s pleasantly stranger than it should be. When someone goes off and starts his own work, it can sometimes become a magnet for those who were already grumbling and distracted by their own personal confusions, and you sometimes see a handful follow (until they find something else, of course); yet in this case I don’t even know of much of that–actually none at all. Even in the 1½ states I pastor directly, most didn’t even seem to notice he’d gone off to begin his own work. Of those few who did mention to me that they had heard about it, the sentiment of several seemed to be that they had sadly thought for some time that he might do something like that and that they would plan to pray that God humbles him lovingly and gently so that he might repent and come back one day–the sort of sentiment one would expect when you see someone hurting themselves in some way, all the while knowing that they probably have to go through the experience to learn what they need to learn. (I should add that it wasn’t that those few hadn’t read his own account of things; it’s just that the unmentioned reality that was present between the lines of that account were so obvious to them.) But beyond such prayers for the individual’s mindset by the few who even mentioned that they noticed, it hasn’t even been much of a blip on the radar.
(To be fair, the “particularly self-righteous fellow” who made the bogus claim on his blog about a non-existent bunch of phantom “departing members” says such a mind-bogglingly vast number of things that are so ridiculously and hilariously false to the point of being delusional that one can only assume that he is on medication. So, perhaps it is the peyote that is talking.)
So, having the weird, false comments of rumormongers, talebearers, and self-promoting accusers brought to my attention, I thought I would write another post yesterday (having already written one: “Warning: The internet is full of ninnies”) talking about the mental vomit that is gossip, rumors, talebearing, and accusation-farming. (My apologies for the phrase “mental vomit”–I know it’s not pretty. At the same time, that’s part of what makes it accurately descriptive.) But two things hit me, one at the time, and one since then.
The “since then” one was expressed well in a comment by iammarchhare on yesterday’s post:
I think I know the rumors you’re speaking of, and what’s interesting to me isn’t that there are those who will spread them. The Church has always been scattered because of the enemy’s tactics to persecute in any way those who love God. No, what surprises me so much is that so many will listen in with eager ears (“itching ears”?) to unfounded slander and insinuation, make mountains out of molehills, and give credence to those whom the accuser will use.
He’s right. The weird accusations of such folks will always be there. Satan is pretty consistent. The greater concern is whether or not we will actually spend time reading or listening to them — that is, to borrow iammarchhare’s words, whether or not we will give credence to those whom the Accuser is actively using. If we see the devil’s fingerprints on someone’s website, why continue to go there eagerly for “news” or to “get some dirt”? Don’t we dirty ourselves in that process? Isn’t it a bit like digging in the sewer for a bit of undigested food we might want? (Again, please forgive the yucky nature of that word picture, but, again, there is a reason it’s an appropriate one.) One person and I were joking about such a person’s website a couple of years ago (actually, it was the peyote user’s), and he said to me, “Yeah, I just hold my nose when I click there.” We laughed at the time — yet, if I am having to “hold my nose”, why am I there? And if so much of what is being said is rotten verbal refuse, is it worth digging into it to find something that may, in reality, be just as tainted as the rest? It’s like another minister in our own Church told me: “You know, all the things this fellow says about our own Church are so ridiculously wrong and full of fantasy, why in the world would I put any stock in what he says about other organizations?”
The Bible has so many warnings about talebearers, gossipers, rumormongers, those given to accusation, etc.–even in cases unlike these false ones I’ve highlighted, where what they say may actually be true–that it would be shameful to approve of what they do by participating. And if we think of every website we visit as sitting down for a “mental meal,” what sort of food am I eating while I am on their website? What is it turning me into while I’m there, chowing down? Aren’t the answers obvious? Talk about “unclean meat”… Can we really believe God is pleased if we scrupulously avoid a ham sandwich like it’s the plague, yet we dive in and digest “information” from places that He so soundly and passionately condemns? Really, can we?
While any time is a good time to examine oneself, the Passover season is a fantastic time. As we place in our mouths the bit of unleavened bread at Passover picturing Jesus Christ’s body broken for us, hopefully those who need to will have considered beforehand how much time they spend eating filth served by the Accuser — filth that same Jesus Christ hates very much.
And mentioning Passover brings me to the second thing that hit me. (Ha! You probably thought I forgot that I said “two things”! Well, frankly, I’m surprised I remembered also…) This one hit me the moment I heard the news of Mr. Luker’s death and stayed my hand on the post I was going to put up instead.
How petty is all of this stuff?
Now, don’t get me wrong. There are times when the petty things need to be addressed, too, but we need a sense of perspective. It does bother me that people can be harmed by stupid rumors that they hear, not because they, themselves, go searching for the websites of various self-appointed-ones and peyote-users (in which case, any harm would be self-inflicted), but because some of those who foolishly do so then spread the false information to others. On one hand — especially one-on-one as a pastor, but sometimes through little not-widely-read blogs like this — it is good to address the “small things.”
But it doesn’t do any good to lose sight of the fact that they are small things. Again, the self-appointed prophet I referred to hasn’t even been a blip on the radar in terms of affecting the Church or the Work of God. The same with the apparently-medicated rumormonger I had in mind, too. As loudly as the latter likes to talk about his self-proclaimed deep faithfulness to God (it is always amusing when someone boasts about their humility; they need to read Ben Franklin) and how much “impact” he fantasizes he is having in his railings against the “corporate churches of God”, what has been the result? Again, not even a blip. Not even a micro-blip.
[Side note: Could any of these individuals (not just the two I referred to) have any significant impact the future? Of course they could. Those who are unwilling to heed God’s commands concerning talebearers could certainly whip things up into a fevered frenzy, even if it is much ado about (literally) nothing or less than nothing. That’s always possible. Liars, gossips, and accusers do find an audience at times, especially when the Accuser, himself, is helping out so generously. But for the moment, and, frankly, for the easily foreseeable future? Nope. No impact at all. The only impact they seem to possess apparently exists mostly in their minds.]
So, here I am, talking about things of, fairly literally, zero importance and of microscopic impact: Individuals who currently have about as much real influence on the Church I am blessed to serve as a light breeze has on the Empire State Building–noted by the few who happen to see a leaf blowing by, but then forgotten as a trivial observation.
And that makes all their doings, sayings, mutterings, etc. simply petty stuff.
Then, in stark contrast to the petty stuff, Mr. Dennis Luker died yesterday. Even though I did not know him personally, his death simply highlighted to me yesterday the pettiness of all the other stuff. I believe that is one of the reasons King Solomon suggested as he did in Ecclesiastes 7:
“Better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for that is the end of all men; and the living will take it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for by a sad countenance the heart is made better. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth” (vv.2-4).
There is something about that “end of all men” that gives us pause and makes us think–helps the living to take certain things to heart. And the thought I had after hearing the news was that the goofy delusions and misleading accusations of a few prima donnas on the Internet was, in the end, equivalent to little more than someone throwing broccoli in a school cafeteria hoping to start a food fight. And, in the spirit of another passage in Ecclesiastes, there actually may be a time to hurl a brussels sprout back. There is a time for snark and a time to talk about things that deserve snark–even quite snarkily snark. But yesterday I was reminded that those times are rarer than living on the Internet can make them seem because such things and such people are, in the end, petty.
Then there is Passover. Faced with the magnitude of what Jesus Christ did for me and the death of the Son of God, how can I justify in this season focusing inordinately on the pettiness and the pretensions of Internet prima donnas? Yes, I note the irony that in a post addressing how silly it would be to snarkily focus on pettiness I did, actually, spend some time snarkily focusing on pettiness. I should pay more attention when I start writing these sort of “stream of consciousness” posts, huh?
Still, the point and the feeling remains. Again, it isn’t, again, that there isn’t a time for spending effort on such things, perhaps. I’ve toyed for weeks now with the idea of beginning an informal series of tongue-in-cheek posts that will be, I think, of value given the times in which we live and given the fact that last couple of decades probably only represent the first few floats in a parade of self-appointed prophets God warned about a long time ago. But, in the big scheme of things, such efforts lack even a shadow’s depth compared to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and it is hard to get one’s neurons firing on such topics when the mind is brain with such an awesome and humbling thing as that. There just isn’t room.
I will try to stop my ramble here. The fact is that the Son of God died for me. He died for the rumormongers, too, and I can’t ignore that. More than that, He lives now. And, miracle of miracles, He does more than live but actually lives in us if we are willing to allow Him, helping us to dedicate ourselves more and more fully to the way of life He taught and to the commandments He loved. At this time of year, we are confronted with the fact that the Ever-living Creator actually died–a seemingly impossible and wondrous contradiction–so that His creation might have hope of truly living. The heart of One whose own life defined what life is stopped beating, so that the hearts of those He loved might one day truly begin to beat. That thought is so huge that I struggle to try to type it out, knowing that the best words are certainly escaping me and feeling frustrated at the poor job I am doing at conveying such a simultaneously heart-rending and hope-inspiring truth.
Faced with that reality, food fights can wait. I have to leave pettiness to the petty, and should, instead, simply pray that I do not accidentally fall into their number–or, if in stupidity I have already wandered into their crowd, pray that He will mercifully reach in and pull me out. And then, to go further, I have to ask Him to help me see them as He does–with righteous indignation at their actions, to be sure, but with a real love for them that, without God’s spirit, would be beyond us. Certainly beyond me.
Let the ever-present ungodly rumormongers, devilish accusers, and faux-enlighted self-appointed-ones preach their little fantasies to their little audiences. God is bigger than the world they seek to craft with their tales. This is the season of more important things. If any of us have unwittingly assisted Satan in his work by dining on their poisonous words in the hopes of finding a tasty morsel here or there, or, much worse, by spreading it to others, may God have mercy on us. This is a great season for repenting of that sort of sinful stupidity and removing some bookmarks from our web browsers if we need to. It’s a season for focusing on things of more depth. More significance. Eternal significance.
The accusers, talebearers, and reality-challenged ones will always be there, and when this set finally passes out of the world–should the world last that long–they will simply be replaced by “new blood” recruited by the devil for his work of attacking God’s people, His ministry, and His work.
For us to give them our attention: That’s the real shame, and a leaven that should be put out of our houses.