Today, I had an experience that was so surreal, I couldn't tell if I was on drugs, or if the other people were. Then I realized that I don't do drugs, so it must have been them. However, I'm also pretty sure these people didn't drugs either, which led me to this conclusion: they are brainwashed. There is really no other explanation for their behavior. After talking with them, I wanted to BEG them to PLEASE drink the Kool-aid.
I know I sound hateful, judgmental, and rude, and if I'm being honest(what are blogs for?), I feel hateful, judgmental, rude, and a whole other slew of rage-induced emotions.
Why? Oh, because I talked with the very people that make everyone else hate Christians.
And what did I do? First, I took their picture. Then, I went up and talked to them. Well, let's back up.
There is this very nice man who is ALWAYS standing at the Market/Powell cable car turnaround (aka the busiest corner in San Francisco), and he is always politely holding a sign that says, "Jesus Christ loves you." The only time I've seen him anywhere else is at the Folsom Street Fair. He is quiet, looks approachable, and doesn't speak unless spoken to. He just holds his sign, smiles at people, and walks in circles. That guy, I can deal with.
Then there are these people I saw today who I CAN'T deal with. Not because they were proselytizing, not because they were holding signs, but mainly because they were shouting, and most of their sentences began with, "Jesus hates."
What I personally believe does not enter into this at all, when discussing this with other people. It wouldn't matter what I said to them, it wouldn't get through. They were only talking, not listening. Children were frightened by them, people were cowering away from them, and most chose to walk on the other side of the street.
I have always resented the Bullhorn Guy, but y'all, this is something you won't even see or hear in the Bible Belt.
Now, don't ask what got into me, but I think something about this city makes me brave. I've only lived here a short time, and I feel really protective of it, and I don't like when someone is messing it up, or scaring its people.
So, after I stood there in disbelief, I gathered myself and quietly approached one of the less intimidating- looking guys, which, as it turns out, was a bad choice. He didn't even have kindness in his eyes when I walked up to him with a curious look in my eyes, and my nicest, "Excuse me, can I ask you a question?"
And NEVER, NEVER, NEVER have I compared anyone to this type of person, because I think it's the worst thing you can ever call someone, even in joking. It's just that I'm really sensitive to the word. And NEVER have I felt this way about someone before, and I hope don't in the future. But approaching this man was the closest I have ever been to looking into the eyes of a Nazi. Everything about this man said he had no mercy, that he found pleasure in making others feel worthless, and that he was superior by all means. The Nazis wore these belts that said in German, "God with us." Maybe God was, because God is with everyone, but they were not with God. This guy was the embodiment of that. It sounds dramatic, but as soon as I looked into his eyes, my knees started shaking, my hands started sweating, and I was dizzy with fear. Because that's what the back of hunter's orange sweatshirt said: "Fear God."
And God, was I afraid. But I pressed through it; after all, I really wanted to know where these people came from.
He told me: "We're Christians. What are you? Do you know Jesus? Do you read the Bible?"
I said, "I try to follow Jesus, yes."
He said, "TRY? Why are you only trying? What don't you follow Jesus?"
I said, "Because I'm not perfect. But I have a question."
"Why would I want to trust someone who hates other people?"
He scoffed. "God only hates those who hate Him."
"You're telling me God hates people?"
"Yes, it's in the Bible."
"I haven't read that part. Where does it say that?"
He spat, "I don't know which Bible you read, but it's the wrong one."
"What? I didn't even say anything about that. I thought there was only one Bible."
He rolled his eyes, "There is, so you're obviously not reading the right one."
Wide eyed, I asked, "How do you sleep at night, thinking that God hates people?"
He got in my face. "I sleep just fine, because I know I'm going to Heaven, and people like you are going straight to Hell."
I must have wavered, because from the look in his eyes, he thought he had me. "What?" I said.
Patronizingly, he reached out to put a hand on my shoulder, I backed away. "I know, it's a lot to take in. Most people have this reaction when they realize they need to repent or they'll go to Hell."
I shook my head in disbelief. "You're totally missing the point. I'm upset for you, not for me. I'll be just fine. I'm just really worried that God might be mad at you for telling people He hates most of them."
He laughed. "You can keep thinking that. But you see this sign? 'Go and sin no more?' Haven't you read that?"
"Then why are you still sinning?"
"Because I'm a human. Are you telling me you're perfect?"
He puffed himself up, "I have repented."
"But you're just as sinful as everyone else, even me, because we screw up all the time."
He started to turn away from me. "I can't even look at you anymore."
I started to ask, "How many people have you helped today? How many have had a good reaction to this?"
But he literally boxed me out. I'm not even kidding. I looked like a fool, chasing him around the tiny little pole of his sign, and he was boxing me out, covering his ears, acting like a 5 year old.
There was a woman in his group standing next to him, and he said to her, "Talk to her (me), I can't even look at her."
So then the woman started in on me, "Obviously, you need to go home and read your Bible."
"What? Who are you?"
"I'm a Christian."
"Why do you think I don't read the Bible?"
"Well, you obviously don't."
"But how do you know?"
"But how is it obvious?"
"It just is."
"What? Why are you doing this? You people are the reason that everyone hates Christians!" My voice struggled over the bullhorn, and the Nazi more aggressively boxed me out, protecting his friend from me, the Wicked.
I picked up what was left of my poor, unfortunate soul off the ground, held it at arm's length, and tried to re-inflate it after being trodden upon and crushed. It drooped for awhile, until it somewhat recovered enough to let my mind process what had happened.
And then my head had told me it was done for the day, the stress of earlier events had depleted its resources, and gave me a hideous migraine.
But not before I had made it to Alamo Square to finally visit the Tanners. What ever happened to predictability, the milkman, the paperboy, evening TV?
Anyway, there were many other topics that I covered with the Nazi: using the Bible as a weapon, what Hell looks like, who the devil is (that would be me, apparently), and why, if he was so confident that he was the only one getting into Heaven, was he so defensive and unhappy-looking?
I WAS rude, and judgmental, and hateful. I have been asking myself why God would someone in my path to call themselves a Christian and provoke such horrible feelings, that even my spirit was left out to dry?
Well, that is completely the wrong question. The question should probably never be, "Why, God?" but maybe, "How, God?" How can I seek and serve Christ in this person and respect the dignity of his human being? How can I do that and PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE don't make me pray for them!
It would be easy for me to think, "I've got it right, they're the ones that are really screwed up." But that would make me intolerant of the intolerant. I completely despise that they are being loud with their untruths and "loving" people on the street by saying they're all going to Hell in an ice boat. It is so completely whack, that I can't wrap my brain around the questions they'll answer when they meet their Creator face to face. I also don't even want to think about how they treat their wives and kids.
Point is, we're all screwed up, in one way or another, but it's all about being honest with ourselves, and constantly putting ourselves in the way of grace. Because it's there for all of us, even those of us who want to keep it all to ourselves.
But I'm still going to blame them for giving me a migraine.