I’m writing this to YOU. My friends. Those I actually know or who know me and who care. This is not written to garner “comments” or “likes” from people I don’t know, but to explain my behind-the-scenes motivation for much of what I’m doing these days.
If you follow my activity on Facebook or Twitter you will also notice that I’ve been interviewing people like the Imam of the infamous New York City mosque, the head of the KKK, a state director of the ACLU, an undocumented person (from Mexico) living in Arizona, an American Jewish leader (and within a week a late-term abortion doctor, the head of the PLO to the U.S., and others).
I’ve written three pieces for the Huffington Post and two for CNN: “Why Evangelicals should stop Evangelizing” and “Jesus would Support Palestinian Statehood Bid.”
You’ve all long since noticed that I use words differently than most. You could say I twist them. Or manipulate them. Or…even misuse them. I don’t call myself a Christian. I don’t believe in religion. I’m not for evangelizing. And…of course, it all depends on what I mean by those words and the new ones I choose to use.
Here’s my premise – I’ve been shaped by the years of living in Beirut, amongst Muslims. They always had a hard time figuring out what it was we were talking about. I came to the realization that if the hearer can’t understand – and if it’s because of the words I’m using (rather than them simply having a hard heart), then I should change the words. It’s what they HEAR that’s important.
How many times did Jesus say “to him who has ears to hear.” Sometimes that would refer to the persons’ state of heart. Other times to other elements. Jesus usually spoke in cryptic form. Parables that didn’t make sense. Not answering questions. Often confusing his audience. For sure offending the religious ones around him. Saying the opposite of what his hearers were used to hearing.
I am not like Jesus….but I’m sure trying to be. I’ve decided that most of this type of communication will be for the ears of those who haven’t heard. Even if it means I’m confusing my own friends. There is a cost to this. Believe me, I know. A literal cost. Because I don’t use the words we’re used to hearing, I get labeled as liberal, emergent, post-modern, anti-church, anti-semitic, anti-The Cross and other antis.
Here’s the thing – the type of crowd that would read CNN.com is not your typical church-going crowd. The hundreds of personal emails I’ve received from people who don’t know Jesus saying things like “I’ve never thought of this” or “I’m not a Christian but for the first time in my life I feel permission to read the Bible and consider Jesus” has been so gratifying. I am thankful for that…
I am strategically choosing my audience. Do I do that well? Probably not. But that’s what I think I’m doing. I’m open for suggestions…
Many folks today would assume that every Christian will attempt to evangelize them. Be pro-Israel. Be a flag-waving pro-war American. Republican social conservative. So when we come from that angle and give it our best apologetic us versus them approach – we shouldn’t be surprised when they reject that out of hand. Why not try something new? Laced with mystery. Some good questions. A new angle. With a dose of love for them and skepticism for me and mine. I think it’s a fair thought.
But with a great cost attached. I’m willing to pay the price. But it’s not much fun. It cost Jesus his life. It’s only cost me sleepless nights.