A Teachable Moment from the Opposition
“If you can cultivate the right attitude, your enemies are your best spiritual teachers because their presence provides you with the opportunity to enhance and develop tolerance, patience and understanding.”
-Dali Lama XIV
Someone had taken the cloning of Facebook accounts one step further not only using my profile picture to create the fake Derek Tailor [sic] page but also using other pictures of mine to create fake posts with captions that misrepresented and maligned my character. Then to be truly extra they had used this account to follow me. I think the idea of followers is creepy in the first place because my connotation of followers is cult members and stalkers; this person seemed to be in the latter category. I reported the account as malicious to Facebook and it was deleted. Perhaps I should have saved screen shots of the account in case I needed to report further harassment. Actually I would have been more interested in studying the posts to try to identify the person’s agenda. Clearly they were trying to send a message.
At first glance I thought it was just someone pulling a bad prank. The First images I noticed were pictures of apes with captions implying that they were my relatives. That was at best a mockery of my video “Monkeys on the Brain” and at worst a racist insult, but I was not too terribly triggered by it. The next picture I noticed were pictures of me wrestling with captions implying that I was intent upon forcing a homosexual act upon my opponent. That was a bit rude. I do remember in college the preppy roommate’s statement that wrestlers are wimps triggering me to put him in a front headlock and squeeze. He refused to tap out so I just kept squeezing. Then another roommate who was a 6’2” 250 lbs. tackle on the UCD football team got all agitated and started screaming hysterically, “DEREK –YOU’RE CHOKING HIM –HE’S GOING TO DIE!” I kept the headlock and looking back assured him, “Don’t worry –they pass out before they die.” However, I have reached a kinder and gentler age and I am not so easily provoked to respond with aggression. Even still I was deeply troubled by the next post I read.
The imposture had posted a meme showing a quote from Christian Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer who was imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp in during World War II and eventually executed by hanging on 9 April 1945 for opposing such policies as euthanasia and genocide. I wish I had saved that post because the meme had a beautiful quote from Bonhoeffer regarding love and grace. The quote was something like this one from The Cost of Discipleship: “Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.”
What I did note was that the imposture had posted a caption above representing me as saying I don’t believe any of that because I am among the self-righteous who does not have empathy for anyone but am filled with judgement and condemnation without mercy. In fact in the fake profile of Derek Tailor [sic] said he was from the “Land of Judgement”. Clearly this person was so deeply caught up in the projection of his/her pain that they had either lost sight of or never knew who I am. Somehow I was much more deeply affected by the misrepresentation of my faith than mocking my racial identity of misrepresenting my sexuality.
I am out of the closet about being a Christian but no one should get too intimidated by my Christianity because I am not a very good one. I have broken all Ten Commandments and I hold the ignominious distinction of having been kicked out of a church. (I have a friend who exclaimed, “How do you get kicked out of a church? I mean me and my friends got kicked out of a bowling alley once for being drunk and disorderly, but whatever did you do to get kicked out of a church?” Further details on that and some of my more prominent failures as a Christian can be found in “Days of Elijah”. Understand I did not undertake to list all of them because there was neither room for nor point to it; furthermore, I did not dare cross the line between confession and bragging. The point is that as the average sinner I do not feel compelled to judge anyone, contrary to what my imposture represents.
However, when speaking of judgement many people get judgement and discernment confused. In the New Testament Jesus says, ““Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 7:1-2) I must consider that I have received an incredible amount of grace to have found favor with God even though I was a pretty miserable sinner. Having received mercy I must extend the same level of mercy to others. What people don’t understand about this passage of scripture is that it talks about judgement as far as condemnation. The first premise of the Gospel is that, “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:17) Therefor if Jesus’ function in this world was not to condemn people then neither is mine.
However, there is a difference between judgement (condemnation) and discernment. In the same chapter of the new testament Jesus said, “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” (Matthew 7:6). What this means is that I must be discerning about how I distribute the gifts given me. For example, if someone I know to have a bad drug habit, who has lied and repeatedly stolen to get drugs, comes up to me and asks for money, it is wise discernment for me to not give them money because I have a reasonable expectation that the money would go to buy drugs. I might offer them food instead or a ride to an AA/NA meeting or a rehab center. I am not judging them for having a drug habit, because I know from personal experience how hard it can be to overcome bad habits. My role is to love that person the best I can while they are in the midst of their struggle because that is the other part of the Gospel, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” God’s love is not conditional contingent upon you having overcome your bad habits but an immediate and ever-present gift. Thus there is no person that I should not love here and now knowing that I can only see their present struggle and not the future that God sees.
That being said I still had to contemplate who would seek to malign my reputation with such a mock site. Clearly someone feels I have hurt them, that I have not empathized and extended mercy and grace to them. I will admit that expressing empathy is something that I have had to deliberately work on over the years. I like to think I have gotten better at it. Still the same I think the perceived hurts of the person who sought to do this have more to do with confusing my discernment with judgment. Discernment guides me to not reach out further when someone has stated in clear terms that they will never forgive me and only becomes enraged at the most benign contact. Discernment allows me to recognize that certain people have demonstrated threatening level of emotional instability and further attempts to engage them while doing the things necessary to protect my spiritual and emotional health as well as that of my family would only frustrate and possibly enrage both of us. Discernment leads me to disassociate from people who regularly express their bigotry through racists, nationalistic and xenophobic posts. Reporting certain extreme posts is not a judgement against the person but my discernment as to my responsibility to the world: Dietrich Bonhoeffer also said, "Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” I am sorry if any of these people feel that I have judged, rejected or abandoned them. I wish that I had the capacity to do more for you. I struggle to overcome my own weakness and I hope you will not judge me too harshly for coming short of your expectations. I struggle daily in my feeble attempt to live up to Christ in this:
“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 4:44-45)