Taking Back the Gavel

“A Judge personality strongly believes in right and wrong, which is great, but they also believe they are the ones who decide right and wrong and lord it over others to maintain authority and power. Right and wrong are less a moral code than they are a collar and leash they attach to others so they can lead them around. When a Judge personality is religious, they’ll use the Bible to gain control of others. The Bible becomes a book of rules they use to prove they are right rather than a book that introduces people to God.” -Scary Close, by Donald Miller

Some thoughts:

1. I think, in some cases, Judges become this sort of misguided moral gatekeeper because they spend so much time with scriptures but so little time with God. What do I mean by that? Well, the Bible is not God’s autobiography; it’s His social media page. Heck, even if it was His autobiography, that’s not the same thing as a personal relationship with Him. Yes, we do find God in scriptures, but that is not all there is to God. Notice Miller writes “introduces people to God” when describing the Bible. We can study scriptures all our lives, but if that’s the only way we ever seek God, then we’re missing out on a huge piece of the puzzle, and a huge opportunity for a fulfilling, revealing, and expansive relationship with God. Unfortunately, many Christians have elevated scripture to the fourth person of the Trinity, and, in the process, neglected pursuing the other (actual) three persons of the Trinity in all the various ways they are available to us. The Bible very well may be God’s inspired word, but if we don’t hold that word in tandem with dynamic experiences and relationship with God, then that inspired word of God becomes nothing more than a misunderstood history book and a misused moral code. Combine that with the arrogance, manipulation, and confirmation bias to which we mere humans are so prone, and we’ve got ourselves the perfect recipe for a religious Judge.

2. When I read this, I immediately think of a specific person who is, thank God, no longer a part of my life. This individual fits this description so well it’s both maddening and satisfying. What’s so maddening about this, at least in part, is this: I failed to adequately hold this person accountable like I should have. To those of you who know someone like this, it is of utmost importance to hold them accountable. They need to be challenged. They need to be revealed. However, the necessity of this accountability has very little to do with the Judge themselves. If someone truly has this personality, odds are they will be unwilling to humbly consider any sort of accountability from others. But there are people over whom these judges have power and control. These people, specifically family members and/or those who can’t escape the relationship, need to see and hear someone recognize this kind of manipulation is not normal or healthy. They need to see their plight does not go unnoticed by those who care about them. They need to see that, perhaps, if they’ve been subject to this kind of person for too long or without recognizing it, they may need to get some help of their own. Books, therapy, and support groups can be invaluable lifelines to those in relationships with religious Judges. Holding a Judge accountable may have very little impact on the Judge, but it may have immeasurable impact on the people held captive by the Judge.

That being said, not everyone is prepared or in a safe position to hold Judges accountable. So be safe and mindful. If you know doing so will likely increase anyone’s suffering, whether emotionally, physically, relationally, or in any other way, don’t do it until safety is ensured. Holding anyone accountable is important and necessary, but in some cases, it may be entirely fruitless. Be discerning. And definitely ask for help or advice from others you trust first.

3. I’m concerned, though, with my immediate response to reading this. I immediately thought of another person, rather than immediately considering whether and how this description could apply to me. For the sake of honesty and humility, I have to consider how this might apply to me before I start making accusations of others. I might be manipulating others in this way and not even realize it. I can definitively say I am not a Judge, but I certainly have the ability to act like this sometimes, usually unknowingly. This lack of awareness is what’s especially dangerous regarding the religious Judge and using the Bible. It’s incredibly easy to fall into the pious trap of holding scriptures against people instead of holding people up with scriptures. I’ve done it and probably will again in the future. So, if we are truly committed to holding Judges accountable for the sake of their victims, it’s extremely important we hold ourselves even more accountable first. I have found in my own life, and learned from a wise woman, that we often become/take on the spirit of the very thing we judge. You know, judge not lest ye be judged…It’s a fine line people. We need humility and accountability to help us walk it.

 

Maybe I Should Move the Body

10:40 pm, Thursday evening. Campus is engaged in Small Group. Though everything is still, there’s vivacity in this stillness. Pedestrians pass, cars drive by, an ambulance sounds in the distance. The crickets are talkative, as are the AC units, as if to remind me of the way cold temperatures preserve what once was. An airplane crosses the sky, taunting me, reminding me how life’s commitment was death’s cause. The bell tolls. 10:45. Five minutes have passed.

Five minutes I’ve been sitting on this bench, over-looking the abandoned soccer field. 35 days he’s been lying on what was once my bed.

Five minutes I’ve been studying the night sky. 35 days he’s been staring at the ceiling.

Five minutes of still life. 35 days of relentless repose.

Friends chatter on as they walk past my bench, unaware of the silent activity unfurling in the calm night around them. A couple awkwardly meets at a bench adjacent to my place of pensive idleness. Although I know the clouds must have moved in this period of five -now thirteen- minutes, every glance betrays their unchanging appearance. The more I study this beautiful night sky, the more stagnate it appears. The more I glimpse the actions of nature, the more I am resistant to them. In my desperation to witness life, I cannot escape the absence of it. In my plea for the world to acknowledge the stillness, I am also utterly unsatisfied with it. This state is one of hopeless contradiction.

I see life, but I don’t see the life. Why won’t they do the same?

Everyone and everything continues to move forward, to strive for life. Yet he continues to evade it. Why won’t he just do what they do? Why can’t he be like everyone else?

Time is passing. The moon, a gibbous, still emits the same three-ringed glow around its tilted body that baited me to this location. The stars remain no more or less numerous. The deep blues of the outward sky, while beautiful and mysterious and beyond my comprehension, are still so placid it seems impossible I’d witness any cosmic movement on this night, at this bench, in these seventeen minutes. And yet, I undeniably do.

The night gets older, but he will never age.

No one seems to notice the still within their activity. Much the same, as I go to classes and work, live my own life away from my home, my dad’s lifeless body continues to lie there, frozen on the small wooden bed he was so proud to give me when I was just 8 years old.

Motionless, breathless, forever staying still on the pillow.

As I squeeze his hand, it refuses to squeeze back. As my mom strips the linens off my father’s death bed, still his body lies. As she washes down the mattress on which he took his last breath, still his body lies. As we erase the evidence of his agonized moaning, incoherent mumbling, restless sleeping, still his body lies. And years down the line, when I sell the bed to buy one larger, still he will lie.

Every new experience I am leaving him out of. Every day I live I leave him more and more behind. My life moves forward, but his is eternally established on my childhood bed, memorialized on unmatched linens that no longer hold his scent. Strangers walk by my bench with not an ounce of care for my father’s location. The crickets’ chirps alert the world of new life to come, and the AC units hum and taunt me, but, still, my father lies.

Then it happens, just as it always does. I look back up to the same sky that, with haunting juxtaposition, captured my attention, and notice it indeed has finally changed. The motions of the elements have surpassed the appearance of calm such to the extent that I no longer recognize the image before me. The stars more numerous, the blues more vast, and the moon just one all-encompassing glow warming up the night sky.

The bell tolls. 11:15.

Maybe I should move the body.


Originally written September 4, 2014.

July 31, 2014, Michael Alton Bloom passed away from multiple myeloma, a form of leukemia. Some believe the cancer was caused by chemical exposure during Mike’s time in the Air Force and later as an aviation mechanic. Too weak to stay in his own home, he spent his last days in his ex-wife’s home, occupying his daughter’s empty bedroom while she was away at college. May he forever rest in peace.

Not the Same Thing

Rejecting commonly held, even centuries old, interpretations of scripture is not the same thing as rejecting scripture.

Opposing the current state of the/a church is not the same thing as opposing the Body of Christ.

Rejecting politicized theology is not the same thing as rejecting Truth.

Distrusting certain church leaders is not the same thing as distrusting spiritual appointment.

Encouraging honest questions is not the same thing as encouraging unfaithfulness.

Welcoming righteous challenges to the status quo is not the same thing as welcoming dissension.

People will always make these types of inaccurate characterizations and accusations. If you aren’t surrounded by a body of honest, supportive, rational, and humble believers, then all of these pursuits can feel extremely isolating. However, if pursued in the context of healthy relationships and with pure intentions to seek God and Truth, they can be very edifying and releasing.

For a long time I felt trapped by a community of people who attacked my character any time I dared to do any of the above. Now that I’m free, I hope to be encouragement to anyone who finds themselves where I once was.

Don’t give up. Not on God, not on yourself, not even on the people who accuse and hurt you. But especially don’t give up on your questions. God loves the honest seeker. You are not alone. I’ve been there, and so have many others much wiser than me. Hopefully, in time, you will find the healthy family that encourages your questions through love, guidance, and accountability. You will find your freedom in Truth, just as Christ intended for you.

Godspeed, peeps.