Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Outcast

I've been mulling this over for most of the week. As much as I don't want this blog to be overly political, I also don't want it to come off too preachy. With that in mind, I still have to reflect on a troubling experience from the past week.

Nothing happened to me or anyone I know. In fact the injured party has long since sought closure. I was listening to the radio (something I've been doing a lot with the new job) and one of my coworkers had left the radio tuned to [insert conservative Christian talk radio program here]. I don't even know the name of the program, but you can imagine, I suppose.

The guest on the show was reflecting back on a situation in which he and his wife had neglected to show their son the necessary amount of love and acceptance. I believe the topic began with tattoos. He was saying how their son had been raised to understand that tattoos were unacceptable. He never used the word sinful or immoral, but the implication was there.

This particular story was about the son's first real job, in which he worked with a group of "other people." The father, in his reflection, acknowledged that the family had been more demanding than accepting and seemed to be truly repentant of such, however the attitude with which he told the rest of the story broke me up inside and I've remained "off" since.

He said that his son began to get piercings and talked about tattoos. The father attributed this entirely to an insecure and spiritually weak boy trying to fit in with his new friends who were showing him love and acceptance (the tone of voice indicated that this unconditional acceptance was one of those evil things that "the world" does). One day his son came home and the father spotted a tattoo under the sleeve of his t-shirt.

As the son revealed the crown of thorns imprinted on his biceps, the father recalled, in a tone of ridicule, how his son broke down in tears telling him, "I just needed to make a commitment to God; I got this done to remember what he went through for me." The father followed this part of the story up with a laugh as if to say, "silly boy, why bother with such foolishness." He clearly thought that his son was stupid for believing God could be honored by this vile artwork.

The son continued and asked for his father to help him pick out a scripture verse to have tattooed underneath. At this point the host chimed in with equal incredulity, "He did not? What did he expect you to do?" The father replied, "I gave him the Leviticus verse that says, 'do not tattoo your bodies; thus sayeth the Lord."

I turned the radio off and let out a loud string of unintelligible expressions of frustration and anger. This whole story was meant to illustrate how foolish this kid had been at 22 years old. How silly he was to think he could mix his faith and his culture without angering almighty God. All I could think was how easy it is to hate Christians. This man, some sort of authority (although I never caught his qualifications to be a guest) doesn't understand the most basic concept of the gospel.

Love.

It's all about love. It doesn't take and expert, heck, it doesn't even take a Christian to figure out what this situation was really all about. Here was a kid, adjusting to life as an adult but lacking in real, loving relationship to his parents seeking to reach out, not only to them, but to the faith they spent his whole life professing, only to be shot down and sent off to those sinners who don't care about how well he conforms to their norms.

Now, this story was prefaced by the fact that this son is now "back in the fold" and an upstanding Christian. I am overjoyed that the love of God overcame the callousness of God's self-proclaimed representatives, but I struggle with this story. I am a Christian who got a tattoo symbolic of my faith before I had any real faith of my own. I look back now and understand that I wouldn't do things the same way now, but that doesn't lessen the absolute correctness of the action in its time. I've been saying simple prayers for this unnamed son, that his forgiveness, his understanding of faith could transcend the experiences of his past. I think we all need those prayers now and then.

2 comments:

Christy Gunter Leppert said...

Wow. I think I'm going to like reading your blog.

Thanks for finding me on facebook so I could read up on these kinds of things from you.

Check out my book review of "Jesus for President" on my blog. Have you read this book yet? It's life-changing.

I hear we have a mutual friend in Michael Brown. He's a pastor on my district.

Ryan said...

Thanks for the words, but I'm going to have to actually have time to write here in order for the experience to have a chance at being enjoyable. Oh well.