I am proud of my humility (yeah, that about sums it up), and I am proud of my ability to look past the tarnishing of others` baser matter and see the human being, created in the image of GOD, `neath the crude material of flesh and blood.
This is not so much a vain boast, as it is but a clumsy means of expressing an “intent” I know of my own character. When I regard others, I seldom consider the height of their station in my appraisal of their person.
Perhaps it is some remnant of the blue-collar middle-class ethos of my humble breeding, but I cannot remember a time I thought ill of a person because of such trifles as poverty or a certain lack of cultural or intellectual sophistication.
Bearing this in mind, I confess some difficulty I have had with certain individuals – persons whom confess the Christ as their Savior, yet whom I have endured some trifling misuse at their hands.
Now, let me say outright – it is not my own sensibilities that have been bruised thus. I have no interest in cataloguing some perceived offenses against my small self, neither is it out a broad sense of spurned obeisance to those of my “allegiance” that I am inclined.
Instead, I wish to express my own personal feelings on a specific issue… that there is a curious quiet undercurrent of hostility amongst those whom should be allies of thickest communal fealty. I speak of those within the more conservative wings of the Presbyterian denomination (specifically the PCA and the OPC) and those of the Baptist denomination (specifically the Southern and Reformed branches).
Moreover, I know of two Presbyterian gentlemen (named “Doug” and “Josh”) one of them a Minister and the other an aspiring seminary Professor. When I first met them, I greatly desired to extend arms of fellowship towards those of shared theological essentials – though I knew we had certain quibbles over modes of liturgical order and “minor” fine points of theology, I looked upon them as dear brothers of the Faith.
This was in the early days of our presence here in Norman and, as I knew only a few people (and was eager to find a religious community for my family), I was grateful for how we were immediately embraced by Doug, Josh, and other of our Presbyterian brethren.
Now, I expected a few occasional denomination-related zingers here and there. Protestants can sometimes be a “clannish” lot, and we love to tweak each other`s noses a bit – all in good fun, of course. I never took much offense at any of it… how could I?
Of all of the good people I met, none of them were actually “raised” Presbyterian.
What is more, out of all of the people I met during this time, all of them (but a scant few) came out of the Baptist denomination.
On one or two occasions I joked with some of them (in meeter for their spirit) how odd it was that I, who was raised (for the most part) Presbyterian should grow up to be a Baptist and so much of them took an opposite course.
“What went wrong?” I would chortle to them in rib-elbowing jest.
However… as time wore on, I noticed the remarks never relented – in fact, they shifted from the innocence of mere jest into oblique insults… spoken in the off-hand referential manner of a challenge without seeming to desire a confrontation – the sort of way one might taunt another during a heated sports competition.
“A royal heart is often hidden under a tattered cloak.”
Another thing that became apparent to me was a certain vague sense of elitism (academic, cultural, literary, theological and so forth) among the people with whom I had become familiar.
To be fair, it was never so pronounced as to be outright snobbishness. All the same, I could not ignore my intuition that someone of my relative disdain for (what I considered) materialistic and frivolous endeavors was regarded with no small misgiving.
In addition to this, my outright refusal to concede to the Scriptural legitimacy of peripheral doctrines of which I disagreed with them (especially the baptism of infants). Though I was willing to “agree to disagree” on such issues, the same courtesy was not extended towards me.
Soon, they stopped being inviting us to their various social functions… eventually, I never heard from any of them at all.
During the last couple of years, I have noticed a pattern of behavior amongst some of them (and others of like-mind) that I had initially thought to be almost entirely related to my own brand of passive-aggressive obnoxiousness.
Not to play armchair psychologist, but it appears to have more to do with their own disenfranchisement with Southern Baptist and/or “mainstream evangelical” culture than it ever did with me.
Some, it seems, so ardently yearn for the spiritual “antithesis” of their religious background that they hurl themselves headlong into Eastern Orthodox mysticism or Romanist-tinged heterodoxy. Curious. Curious and tragic.
The strangest aspect of it, to me, is how this “falling out” has affected the way these people continue to treat me (and others like me) even to this very day. For, while I am willing to keep a posture of dialogue and communicance, I am treated with little more courtesy than that of a complete stranger.
For example… my wife, who works an occasional part-time shift at our nearby Starbucks, sees both “Doug” and “Josh” on a regular basis. If Doug notices that my wife is there, he will either move to a hidden corner of the coffeehouse or leave it altogether; Josh, on the other hand, rarely notices Candace until he has already approached the counter but, when he does, his discomfort is readily apparent.
“Is it something I said?
Is it something I say?
Is it something we said?
Is it something we say?”
I don`t know… maybe I am making something out of nothing. Maybe… maybe I offended them somehow. Again, I don`t know.
Perhaps the fault somehow resides in me, and I simply lack the discernment to root it out of my conduct.
May the LORD be gracious to reveal to me how I might reconcile, or grant me the Grace to leave it unto Him.