His banner is love
Where are the Christians whose love compels them, like Jesus, to die for those who are yet their enemies?
I felt Rusty’s genuine care and concern, his openness and acceptance. And we did just fine. Much different from some Christians. Rusty died of cancer Jan. 5, 2007. He was 42.
His banner is love
The difference a real Christian makes
By Stacey Warde
In the heat of frustration, a Cayucos Christian recently blurted, “I’ll be praying for you and hope that nothing happens to you.”
He rumbled off in his pickup truck in a huff, fuming over my sinful lifestyle (I live with and love a woman to whom I’m not married) and because I had called him a “fucking hypocrite.”
I stood dumbfounded in front of the Cayucos Library, where I had planned to deliver our most recent [January 2007, “Love Blues”] edition. I felt like the good Christian had just threatened me.
“Hope nothing happens to you” came off sounding like a warning from the Soprano family: Accept Jesus or die!
Most likely, the comment was meant to convey genuine concern. But, it sounded more of malice than love. It barely masked the frustration of a Christian living in a world of sin, a person unable to cope with life as it is. And that’s what bothers me most about Christians. In one breath, they can say the most beautiful things like, “God loves you.” In the next breath, however, because of fear or ignorance, they’ll say something uninformed and stupid like “homosexuals want to change the laws so they can have sex with boys.”
It’s the fantasy Christians create to stage their religious wars against other faiths, and homosexuals and women and people who don’t agree with them. They’re like Islamofascists that way: “Turn or burn” isn’t a far cry from “kill all infidels.”
Worse than the Christian hypocrisy, though, I was pissed at myself for wasting my breath on such a silly conversation. Christian or not, this guy took up way too much of the precious little time I have on this good earth.
I yelped another sinful expletive when I saw that the library had closed in the hour or so that I’d been arguing with the guy. I walked back to my truck with a full stack of undelivered Rogue Voices under my arm.
“What a waste of time!” I muttered. “How do I let myself get suckered by these jerks?”
It’s got something to do with their passion to live a good life, to be right with God, and to have joy and freedom. Plus, I’m always a sucker for anyone who claims, “I found it!” Sadly, as I’ve discovered with so many Christians of this ilk, he demonstrated very little of the freedom one might expect from a child of God. Instead, he showed incredible ignorance and fear and malice, the worst kind of bonds—worse than love and fornication, I’d guess.
Somewhere I read, “There is no fear in love. Love casts out all fear.” Where are the Christians whose love compels them, like Jesus, to die for those who are yet their enemies? Not much boldness of love to claim falsely that all gay men want to make love with boys, or to tout anger and war as the answer to our grief.
I drank some water and cooled down and shook off the piss from a sour moment with another ignorant Christian, who proclaims love through the gospel and fumes and rages against the world without understanding the way world works.
Things might not have been so bad—after all, we were talking about Jesus and the love of God, for Christ’s sake—if he hadn’t made that stupid comment about homosexuals.
“What?” I stopped him. “What did you just say?”
“You haven’t heard of N.A.M.B.L.A.?”
“The North American Man/Boy Love Association. They want to have sex with boys.”
“Are you telling me that all homosexuals want to have sex with boys?”
“It’s a fact.”
“You show me the study, the evidence, and maybe I’ll believe you. In fact, I think you’re making it up. I don’t know any homosexual who wants to have sex with boys.” I was getting downright indignant and then it struck me: the guy’s the very sort of Christian who sickens me the most. “How can you spread the love of God,” I jabbed, “while spreading falsehood at the same time? I don’t get it. The two don’t go together.” He was stuck for a moment and couldn’t say anything. “You know what,” I paused for effect, “you’re a fucking hypocrite, just like the rest of them.”
He caught his breath, and looked me in the eye, and with his best John the Baptist imitation, said: “And you’re a sinner.”
That ended our conversation—not very pretty or dignified but pointed. He jumped in his truck, gave me a look—exasperation, pity, scorn; it was all there—and backed out of the parking space while telling me he’d pray for me and hope that nothing happens to me. Frankly, I hope never to see the guy again.
“Don’t nobody know my troubles but God,” I thought later. “And thank God he’s the only one who does know. Ain’t nobody’s business but his and my own. Praise the Lord! Nothing can separate me from the love of God, nothing, not even ignorant and bullheaded Christians.”
Then I went to a memorial for my friend Rusty, who died last month from cancer. He was 42, just getting started in life. I learned some things about Rusty that I never knew. He’d gotten hold of Jesus the last two years of his life. And there were plenty of people whose lives he’d deeply touched, including mine.
But I never heard a word about the Lord from Rusty; I just felt his genuine care and concern, his openness and acceptance. And we did just fine. I admired Rusty’s quiet courage, and his ability to listen.
The memorial went off like a church service, outdoors in Cambria in the late afternoon sun, with preachers and hymns and testimonies, and I wasn’t sure what to make of it until a young woman, stunningly beautiful in her big-looped silver earrings, sunglasses and black attire, came to the microphone.
“Jeeze,” I thought, “that girl looks really familiar. I don’t know where I know her, but she’s a knockout.” I notice these things—beauty, especially in a woman.
“I used to hang out in front of Rusty’s shop,” she began, telling the story of a bunch of troubled Morro Bay youth who clustered around his Mud Fudge store because no other businesses would tolerate them hanging out in front, smoking, kicking up skateboards, spooking tourists on the sidewalks.
“We were trouble,” she said, “and Rusty accepted us the way we were. He talked to us. He paid attention.”
Because of his love and acceptance, she added, she found her way back to a healthier path, got her self cleaned up and excited about life again. She was vibrant, radiant in her new life, and wonderfully articulate.
“I know who she is,” I almost exclaimed. “She’s that skanky girl, a druggie, who used to smoke and hang out in downtown Morro Bay with her friends. I thought they were good for nothing. Now look at her! She’s an entirely different person, a woman, and stunning.”
The young woman said that had it not been for Rusty, and his quiet acceptance of her and his encouragement to think better of herself, she might still be waffling, going nowhere fast, living a frustrated and unhappy life. It was clear all that had changed.
I can’t explain the difference between Rusty and the Christian who confronted me in front of the Cayucos Library. They both proclaimed a love for God, one more quietly than the other. And I’d have to say that the one who didn’t preach, the one who didn’t cast stones at the sinner, Rusty, is the one whose life showed the love of God. §
Stacey Warde is editor of The Rogue Voice. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.