Friday, August 11, 2006

If You Can't Say Something Nice

Personally, I think that if you can't say something nice, you should be trying harder. It may have to be a non sequitur, but at least you will have saved yourself from being a jerk. Try this. Next time you feel the need to call somebody a horrible name, say "I like pie!" instead. Not only is it nice, it's also almost always true, and it will certainly diffuse the situation! If you happen to be one of the very, very few people who don't like pie, try "I like cake!" or "I like rutabegas!" or whatever it is that you do like. I find, however, that love of pie is so universal that anyone can relate to it.

Once upon a time I was helping a dear friend move out of his dorm room. He had been living in a suite, several bedrooms opening onto a living room with a small kitchen. And instead of hanging a poster of a bikini-clad woman washing a sportscar over the couch, he and his suite-mates had covered the whole wall with butcher paper. And so the wall was covered with poems, and quotes, and personal messages, and so on. I instantly decided that this was one of the coolest ideas ever. So now that I have my very own office, I've covered the office door with butcher paper... well, most of it anyway, I had to cut some holes for the window (Safe Church, you know), the deadbolt, and the doorknob. And I have a bunch of markers hanging up on the window, and anyone who wants can come draw, or leave quotes, or poetry and so on.

And for the first time today, I found stuff on my door that was just vicious. It mainly targeted one person who had gleefully and openly left his name up on the door. The rude comments, of course, were not signed. So I did what any responsible adult would. I took down the paper and put up a fresh piece. Now, I've noticed that when faced with a gi-normous piece of blank paper, most people won't touch it. So I always leave a little seed on the door--just to get it started. This time was the first time I was angry when I was trying to find a seed for my door, so I knew I needed to be very careful.

And that's when I flashed back to the General Synod of 2001 which was held in Kansas City. I was a young adult delegate that year, not really a youth delegate, but not a full-fledged adult either. Yet another one of those liminal times in my life. Anyway, that Synod was held in conjunction with the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) (with whom the UCC has a very close relationship)--it was huge. And I imagine that's one of the reasons why it was such a juicy target for Fred Phelps' crew. They stood on the sidewalk across from the convention center, screaming their hatred and fiercely displaying signs that said things like, "UCC fag church," "no tears for queers," and even "AIDS is a gift from God." I will always remember clenching my jaw and turning my back on one woman screaming at me (in my long hair, of course), "You, Sir! You don't make up the rules, Sir!" I wanted to get into it with her. But that's never a good path. That path leads to the dark side.
God bless the youth delegates of the General Synod and the General Assembly. They responded, and they did it well. I remember them giving water to the Phelps crew, after all, it was the middle of the summer in Kansas City. How about that for Christian witness, right? But the best was yet to come. The protestors weren't there 24/7, I guess hatefulness sleeps too, and in one of the breaks the youth went out with chalk and covered the sidewalk where the protestors stood with their own slogans. "Jesus loves you." "God loves everyone." And so on. Somehow, it wasn't so bad the next day, knowing that the people who were yelling so hatefully at us were literally standing on "Jesus loves you."

So for the seed on my door I wrote, "Somebody needs a hug!"
It isn't "God loves everyone," but it's a start.

I like pie!
Rev. Josh

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