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new featureAn Out of Country Experience-Part 22
(Please check the archives if you've missed previous installments)

Rebecca L. Morgan
Copyright? I didn't see any..
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Tales From The Barstool By: Clint Lien
"Let's Talk"
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In My Opinion
By L.N.P.

Something To Think About

I know, unequivocally, that this is going to be by far the most controversial column I've ever written. Now considering that, at various times, I have expressed my views in this column on stem cell research, the war in Iraq, victimless crimes, George Bush, HMOs, the entire pharmaceutical industry, and other objects of my sometime enmity, sometime empathy (depending on the topic) it might seem hard to believe that I know without question that this topic will provoke, annoy, infuriate, and confound the majority of you. But trust me on this.

How many of you, upon hearing that someone is A Christian, immediately form a mental image, one that tends to make you cringe? Maybe you picture some televangelist preaching to a vast congregation of half-crazed worshippers, many of whom go up on stage to be healed as the preacher swats them gently on the head. Or, maybe Tammy Faye Baker-complete with big hair, fake eyelashes and scandals-comes to mind. For me, Christian (as a denomination, as opposed to just being Christian, which really means not being Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist etc.) was always synonymous with "those Bible thumping, Scripture-quoting right wing idiots," mostly because that's the way I'd always heard them described.

In fact, it's interesting to contemplate the fact that the denigration of Christians seems to be not only perfectly acceptable, but even politically correct, in this age when just about nothing is considered PC anymore. Because we've learned to be so careful not to offend anyone, you can say that you're a lesbian, a swinger, a dominatrix, a communist, an atheist, a Zen Buddhist, a psychic, a porn star, an adulterer, a gangster rapper, a cross-dresser, a drug abuser, a stripper, or just about anything else, and you will receive far more acceptance than if you admit to being a Christian. Just imagine watching a sitcom, and hearing one of the main characters say, "Oh no, here comes Yosef, that Koran-spouting moron again." Definitely NOT politically correct. Yet, substitute Joe for Yosef and Bible for Koran, and you can hear lines like that delivered on TV ten times a week. Christians are the last group (with the possible exception of the obese and pedophiles) whom it's considered OK to ridicule or be openly critical of.

In fact, if you really think about it, spend any night watching television, or a few hours at your local Cineplex, and you will undoubtedly not only be exposed to, but even feel perfectly comfortable with, gratuitous violence, graphic sex, rampant drug use and the free wheeling use of the "F" word in all its myriad forms. Contrast that with someone bringing up, say, God, or even worse, Jesus, and many more of you will suddenly be uncomfortable, concerned that your rights, your very freedom, is being threatened. Strange, huh?

But not really. When a dear friend of mine, with whom I had worked closely for years, began talking to me from a "Christian perspective" about four years ago, I looked at him as though he had two heads. How, I remember thinking, could an otherwise rational, intelligent, talented, kind man be one of them? Didn't they support the bombing of abortion clinics? Weren't they the ones who preached incessantly about being "born again" and considered themselves "holier-than-thou"? And didn't they treat the Bible as though it were some sort of divine book, constantly quoting from it, and living their lives according to what it said? What possible relevance could the Bible have in the twenty-first century? How could this have happened to my friend?

Well, a lot has happened in four years….to my friend, to me, to my family, even to our country. For one thing, I noticed that my friend never did grow two heads, bomb anything, or get all holy and pious on me. He didn't lose his intelligence, his talent, or his sense of humor. He did, however, set an example on how to be honest, kind, and considerate, while still living and working in the real world. What he seemed to do best was live a more balanced life than most of us could manage; he worked very hard at his career, but still found time to play an active role in his children's lives, be heavily involved in his community, be a working advocate for historic preservation and the environment, and an active, dedicated member of his church. Obviously, he had discovered some secret formula that seemed to elude the rest of us

During the same four year period, my husband and I went through our own series of triumphs and disasters, while drawing even closer to each other as we re-prioritized our lives. My beloved mother died, holding my hand as she took her last breath, putting me in touch with my own mortality, while also stirring in me a yearning for more faith. We suffered with the rest of the nation during and after 9/11, frightened by the finite nature of life, understanding the full extent of our vulnerability, perhaps for the first time.

We've watched as corporate greed ran rampant, destroying people's lives, as moral integrity seemed on the brink of extinction. We've known the heartache that comes when people we had once trusted, even some whom we'd considered dear friends, betrayed or disappointed us. In other words, we've experienced life, complete with its highs and lows, its joys (watching my son get married) its sorrows (losing our great dog Kodi) and its daily, sometimes heartening, sometimes demoralizing routine.

And, little by little, over the course of the same four years, my Christian friend was giving me books to read. He never preached to me; he was smart enough to know that wouldn't fly, but he appealed instead to my thirst for knowledge and my love of research, and provided me with historical, philosophical, even scientific books with but one common thread; they were all written by extremely intelligent people who also happened to believe in God. Ultimately, when my intellectual demands had been met, I began to acknowledge my spiritual demands; yes, I had them, and no, they were not being met. In what, or in whom, did I believe?

So, let's go back a few paragraphs to those Christians, the ones I had stereotyped so neatly. Remember how we were once tempted to believe that all Muslims were terrorists until we realized the unfairness of that stereotype? And before that, all Catholic priests were child molesters, all Jews were Zionists, all Palestinians were suicide bombers, all Columbians were drug dealers, all blacks believed that OJ was innocent, and on and on and on and on, neatly stereotyping all people everywhere. But only the most narrow-minded, bigoted people really believe those stereotypes, right?

The first time I actually agreed to attend church with my friend, I honestly think he was as shocked as I was. Nonetheless, I was both curious and strangely open. Strangely open because, although I was not yet fully aware of it, I had finally reached one of my life's defining moments. Curious, because my stereotypes were still pretty much in place. So, my first big surprise was how NORMAL everyone looked. I was expecting big hair, and I got regular, every day, normal looking, normal acting people. Well, maybe not entirely normal; they seemed friendlier than most, but they were definitely not a cult! The second surprise was how incredibly touched I was by the service. It was more personal, more meaningful, more loving, yet more simple than any religious service I'd ever attended.

This did not start out to be a column about how I became a Christian, although I did. It wasn't really intended to tell you about the church my husband and I thankfully discovered five minutes from our house, or the incredible warmth, love and support we've encountered there from absolutely everyone we've met. I never meant to share with you how much I've learned about life and how to live it from the Bible, or how much fuller, richer, deeper, more meaningful, our lives have become, as though some hole that always existed is continuously being filled, drawn upon, and replenished until it's filled once more. That's all very personal, and this column was never meant to convert, preach, or even persuade.

All I wanted to do was to point out the stereotype, and dispel some of the myths. I wanted to make my readers a little more aware of how much of a target Christians have become, how easy it is to fall into the habit of ridiculing them, or assume they are stupid, and how unbelievably narrow- minded that is. I should know, because I did it myself. But more importantly, I think we need to stop a minute and ask ourselves why. What is it that makes people smile if you say "F-k you", nod agreeably if you say, "Allah be praised," and freak out if you mention "Jesus"?

Send me your opinions at Lynn@netlistings.com

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