They're Trying to Make it Hot in Here
Blasphemy!Yep, that's what I'm guilty of, if you believe "Santa", one of several people who wrote about a story in the 23 April 2000 issue. Here's the story:
I See the Light!
The British Tomato Growers' Association encouraged its members to try using feng shui, an ancient Chinese practice to create harmonious environments by channeling energy flows, to increase the yields of their gardens. That didn't sit well with two employees at Arreton Valley Nurseries on the Isle of Wight. "It put me in conflict with my faith," complains Martin Kelly, who quit the nursery and took his son Paul with him. "I'm not working for a farm that openly claims it relies on a power other than God." (Reuters) ...You mean like the sun?
Weekly Weird News
Yep, I'm going straight to hell for that.
Sandra in Washington (again a raver in Washington? What is it about that state?!) was the first to complain, writing
"I am sorry that I will no longer have this article e-delivered to me anymore. I have just received my first one, and upon reading it; it pokes fun at people with faith in God. I am going to have to inform my friends."
Oh dear. I made fun of people with faith in God? Of the hundreds of pastors who get True, you know how many complained? Right: none. I mentioned to her that True's Official Pastor didn't object to the story; she immediately retorted that "well it doesn't hold much ground with me, for all I know it could be Joe down in the basement." So yes, her immediate Christian assumption is: I'm a liar. For the record, I do have an Official Consulting Pastor, the Rev. Rus Jeffrey, senior pastor of Fresh-Wind Ministries in Rochester, New York. (For the other side of the record, I don't pass stories by him first -- he gets his copy of True when you do -- but he has agreed to let me know immediately if I ever "step over the line." And he never has.) Once this silliness hit my web site, I heard from several ministers who liked the story. My conclusion, then, is of course I didn't "poke fun at people with faith in God."
But even she didn't say I was going to hell. That was "Santa", who wrote,
"And just who do you think made the sun? I'm not the only one on your THIS IS TRUE list that believes in God. In any event, you should not write blasphemous things when sending out your e-mails. The [story] is grossly irreverent toward what is held to be sacred and there was absolutely no good reason for you to write it in the first place."(Sure there is: it's a lovely smile toward people doing silly things, just like thousands of readers are smiling, and shaking their heads, over you, Santa.) But Santa's not done:
"God... forgives you, I'm sure. You just know any better [sic*]. Get back to me some time after you've had a near-death experience and let me know then whether or not you believe in God."
Ah, the old, arrogant, "there are no atheists in foxholes" rant -- which also presumes what my beliefs are (or aren't). But I digress; back to Santa:
"God is watching you -- I don't have to."Gee, thought it was Santa Claus who is watching me, making sure I'm good! Anyway, like an idiot, I thought Santa might be moved that True's Official Pastor not only didn't object to the story, but told me he "laughed out loud" when he read it. Not a chance:
"Please have your 'Senior Methodist Pastor' e-mail me personally on what he said to you."(See? There's that "immediate Christian assumption" again: I must be lying!)
And you know what? Rus did just that: he confirmed that he loved the story. So Santa sneered,
"Dear Rev. Rus, (yea, sure -- and I'm Santa Claus), you have to admit is that a grave sin was committed against the First Commandment by inferring that the sun is a god. [HUH? -rc] If you do not know it, you need to go back to the seminary and study some more theology. Why would anyone believe what Randy says when he can so freely can commit a grave sin against God. Just because Randy is a friend of yours, is no reason to side with him and damn your own soul into the pits of hell, which is where you are heading. Jesus is God. And finally to answer Randy's question 'did it ever occur to you -- you who insist that God made EVERYTHING -- that God made feng shui, too?' Yes, Randy, I did think of that, but feng shui is not God and neither is the sun."Uh huh. That clears that up. (If you wonder why I keep calling this raver "Santa", it's because that's her screen name. When I asked her why she hides behind a screen name and won't sign her name to her opinions, as I do, she refused to answer, but did tell Rus she's a woman. Of course, I'm sure it's just some sort of cosmic coincidence that "Santa" is an anagram of "Satan".)
The funny part of this is the timing: Rus happened to be at my house when this unfolded, because he is indeed in seminary (he already has a Masters in Divinity degree from Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky) -- his congregation thinks so much of him, they are paying for him to attend the Wagner Leadership Institute in Colorado Springs to get his Doctorate in Ministry. Each semester, when he flies in for classes, I put him up for a couple of days to decompress, get used to the time change, and be rested up so he can focus in class Monday morning. (Gee, "Santa": have you ever put your pastor up for the weekend?) When he's here, Rus and I often talk about how some people hide behind selected Biblical passages to condemn, yell, scream, curse, and damn others to hell -- thereby driving millions of people away from churches -- rather than treat others with the respect that the Bible demands. So it's ironic to consider Santa's final question of Rus, after Rus confirmed that he indeed is a minister, and indeed enjoyed the feng shui story: Santa said a "human being should not being saying such things to others, especially a 'Senior Methodist Pastor' from THIS is TRUE. That definitely was not very Christian of you!! Was it???" Look in the mirror, Santa, and ask that question again.
I can smile at the foibles of politicians, criminals, school officials, landlords, cops, military officers, students, bus drivers, athletes, farmers, animals, royalty, conservatives, liberals, and everyone else but Christians, because if I dare suggest that they are human too, a few crybabies will stamp their feet and shake their Bibles at me, sputtering with quivering, anonymous voices that I'm going to hell.
What a sad example of Christianity indeed. To be sure, in the grand scheme of things complaints from just a few people now and then are not a big deal; what gets me is that they're not a thoughtful "I disagree with you, and here's why," but rather "our merciful God is going to condemn you to suffer in hell for eternity because you do not believe the exact same way that I do." Santa is of course right about one thing: a lot of my readers do believe in God. Luckily, most use their beliefs to enhance their own lives, rather than use them as a weapon to try to condemn or control others. Feng shui is not "God", nor is it a religion (and no one -- except maybe "Santa" -- ever argued it was); it's an ancient practice of assuring that the "energy" in spaces flows harmoniously through the environment. It is sad indeed to see that some Christians cannot stand the concept of harmony. Luckily, most people who believe in God also believe that He has a sense of humor, and know their personal beliefs are not the only way to think.
*(I normally don't "sic" reader letters anymore, but add it if I think it's necessary to make clear that I didn't change certain direct quotes.)
A few other letters on the story....
Tom, somewhere in the South:
There was no "shot" at people of faith, Tom, and you are so afraid of anything that might be contrary to your narrow view of the world that you just assume that feng shui is "the actual form of another faith" and run away afraid for your eternal soul, rather than even begin to understand that it has nothing to do with religion. That is precisely why the story subjects' over-the-top reaction is "worthy of scorn". But even so, I didn't heap "scorn" on them, I rolled my eyes over them. Why could you not smile with me, and simply move on to the next story?
More letters below....
Letters in Reaction to Santa, Sandra, et al., have, of course, been streaming in -- to be sure, the "anti" letters above were a very small minority (more on that at the end). Here are just a few of the most entertaining:
Alex in Wisconsin:
Denise in Hawaii:
Aaron in Washington: (there are sane voices in Washington!)
And, to be sure, I agree with you: most Christians are pretty cool people, and it distresses me when people think I'm "anti-Christian" when I point out just how stupid some Christians can be. They don't call me "anti-white" when I point out how stupid white people can be, or "anti-cop" when a police officer in a story does something stupid. I'm not sure why some Christians are so very touchy, but I'm glad that "Santa" represents such a small minority of my readers.
John in North Carolina:
Of course! Without laughter, where is the joy in life? We have a choice, too: laugh at ourselves, or laugh at others. Both are fun, but the former is more fun!
And last, Christine in Colorado:
No: to entertain my readers! It happens every time there's a "controversy" -- thousands of people go to the page on my site when I announce it to read the letters and my answers to them, and hundreds write to say how amused they are by it all. That's what True is in the first place: entertainment, and I enjoy showing the entertainment I get from the thought processes -- or lack thereof -- of some of my readers. The "idiots" are far from "getting my goat". They are, indeed, proving that there is no shortage of ignorance and stupidity in the world, and that my job is safe for many, many years to come. (Not to mention that I'll have an audience, since the reaction shows the intelligence and erudition of my readers!)