I am having a light lunch at Bali International airport in Denpasar before the long flight back to Atlanta then a 45 minute drive to Flowery Branch, Georgia. Arriving in Budapest on July 4, traveling on the Danube and the Rhine rivers through Europe on a river boat cruise that ended in Amsterdam, traveling to Cruis, France for two weeks in August, staying in a rented apartment in Amsterdam September through October 10, leaving for Maidstone, England to do ministry with a seminary friend in the British Methodist Church, and being in Bali–Seminyak, Ubud, Kula Selatan–from October 22 through today, November 16, has provided time for clarity and restoration. I am a wealthy, U.S. Southern white woman who carries a load of life experiences, the good, the bad, and the ugly, with me, and I am incredibly blessed to live the life I live.
Being away from the United States political “shit show” gave me time to experience that most people where I have traveled are civil and can agree to disagree without the rancor, “I’m right/You’re wrong” dualistic mentality. I experienced the Balinese people, who practice Hinduism, to be much more kind, loving, and gracious than far too many people in the U.S. who consider themselves to be Christians. Entering into conversations with many Balinese people about Hinduism and sharing with them that I am a Christian ordained minister, was always a gracious, learning experience. I know that the Divine One reveals grace, holiness, love, and salvation to these souls practicing Hinduism because they share these same gifts so willingly with others. It is not my ministry or work to “convert” or “make disciples of Christ” of the Balinese just as they would never consider it their work to convert me to Hinduism. Balinese people practicing Hinduism also demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There are too many “so-called” Christians that are not capable of demonstrating the fruit of the Spirit. I experienced Dutch, French, and British people, who are labeled “secular/non-religious” people demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit, too. Perhaps being secular/non-religious—not practicing a religion—is correct. Instead we are to practice our faith as a way of living our lives.
Also, the clarity that the church of Christ has become an institutional, political “shit show” has hit me like a brick. I do not say this easily as “Do good, do no harm, and practice the ordinances of God” (acts of mercy/social justice/loving your neighbor as you love yourself and acts of piety/practicing what Jesus did in his life, ministry, death, and resurrection), the three main tenants of Methodism, has always caused me to hesitate from saying the words I am saying. Yet, I am confident I speak for many who know “if it quacks like a duck, it’s a duck”.
Going along to get along so that people in a congregation feel good about themselves and their ways of living and continue to give money to the “church”–especially the financially well off people who give large amounts of money becomes the goal for pastors of congregations. Stepping out of this “reality” is never rewarded by the institution of the church. The institution of the church protects its clergy who behave unethically and immorally just as the elected members of the current political party of the U.S. president are protecting him, just as lawyers, physicians, teachers, etc. will protect their own who behave unethically and immorally. Let me be clear–clergy who have “gone along to get along”, started “successful/money giving congregations”, and increased the money and numbers of existing congregations–most often simply get their wrists slapped, are required to receive “counseling” and retain their clergy orders to serve as ministers/leaders of congregations when they have behaved unethically and immorally. We are fearful people–we fear that we will be abandoned, without money, left alone, unloved, unrewarded, and excluded when we do “blow the whistle”, call people to be accountable, and refuse to support behavior that is harmful to others. This is not being followers of Jesus.
Life is short. Refusing to hold people accountable while being kind and loving is hard work. I know, I have done the hard work, and there is always a price to be paid. I believe with my heart and soul that is the way Jesus lived–holding people accountable, loving them, being kind, moving on to the next soul who needed to be held accountable and healed. That’s healing–holding people accountable with love and kindness so that they can learn to be the kind and loving people they, too, are called to become.
At 63 years old I am done with living in small ways that are life draining instead of life giving. I am also clear that Jesus instructed his many disciples, not only the twelve, when he sent them out in pairs, that when the kindness and love they were sharing was not welcomed hospitably, they were to “shake the dust off their sandals” from that town and move on. He did not instruct them to force the people in the town to act or behave with kindness and love. Move on. Try again in the next town or community. Be kind and love others. There is no test to see who deserves my kindness and love.
Life is short. Be kind. Love others. Breathe in the good stuff and breathe out the bad shit. Life is short. It is really that simple. This is the way Holy Rebels live.