When I attended an event this last weekend, something happened that brought back memories. This event was the World Naked Bike Ride and it is held in Portland annually. When I arrived, there was a small group of three men who were protesting the event and it’s taking place. These so called “Christians” were from a local church and while I don’t know which one they belong to, one thing was for certain: they didn’t act at all like a Christian should nor did they ever show Christ like attributes or love.
These men carried a bullhorn and a very large banner that had various groups and beliefs listed as what they thought the crowd consisted of. Here is a photo of the sign. Pardon the quality as I was using my smartphone camera.
As you can see, they listed a lot there and lumped in all of these groups as what they perceived the cyclists to be. They used negative, derogatory and cruel words to scream at these people and behaved like unintelligent dolts. Didn’t these people do their homework? Did they really think that these cyclists were baby killers, Jesus haters, drunks, Mormons, Muslims, homosexuals, women and all going to hell, simply for riding a bike naked?
Apparently they did, and they made it known that we all were going to receive the wrath of God and that judgement day was going to be very soon. Of course, they didn’t see themselves as being part of that judgement as for sure they were doing the right thing by telling all of us how we should behave and that we were all sinners. Um, yeah….right.
What does this have to do with me? Well yes, I confess…I’m a sinner. Of course I’m not the only one . Hey wait…we all are, right? What really hit me in the face and heart was that not that many years ago I was also one who stood in front of people on the street, at the doors and in other places to “preach” this word of condemnation from God and that if they didn’t believe it and convert, they too would not last during that judgement day. Granted, when I and many others in that same faith did this we didn’t use a bullhorn nor a large sign. Nor did I scream at people, call them names and try to beat them with this “word”. But ours was a more subtle and quiet way of saying the same thing. And yes, I went home believing like they did: that I had done God’s will and played my part. He would be happy that I had spent time doing this and would take care of me in the future life I “might” be granted.
When we attended JW conventions we often saw protesters carrying banners, using bullhorns in an effort to tell those inside and out that the organization was deeply flawed and that we needed to do our research, to dig and find what they were feeding us, to be careful. Of course myself and the others thought them crazy and just a group of haters or disgruntled ex believers who wanted to get back at others. I was a follower and had NOT done my research. So when I saw these fellas last Saturday, I gulped and felt as if someone had hit me with a punch in the gut. As if to say “Hey, you moron, you did something very much like this back then. You called people names, albeit in a different way, and that they would not be loved by God if they didn’t listen to you, take your magazines and read their Bibles, attend their meetings, go door to door”. As I watched and listened to these men do these similar things , and how the crowd tried to reason with them and finally mock them back, I saw myself being in their bodies. Myself in that place. I felt ashamed at what I had done and that it took me so long to realize this. I’d spent 38 years of my life doing that proselytizing “work” and never looked at it from the other side.
As I type this, I’m still deeply ashamed at my past and that I never had the presence of mind to see how unloving, uncaring, judgmental and un-Christian it was when I did those things. Since leaving that all behind , I have changed a lot and try my best every day to be the opposite of that person. To live each moment with love,compassion and kindness. To not be judgmental and to always give the benefit of the doubt to others. I’m still a sinner and always will be. No getting around that part. but I can improve every day and make strides in hopes of NOT being like that ever again. What I also need to do is not beat myself up about the past and to let it go. I’m trying. It can be hard some days and it stings when I think back. Saturday’s lesson was a good one and it opened my eyes to another aspect and dynamic of my past that I’d forgotten and not realized. So while it sounds strange, a shout out to those men the other day as they helped me to understand, learn, open my heart and mind and to move on in some ways from my past. Thank you. You might have been unkind to those others and to myself while you looked into my eyes and screamed, but you actually did something positive to this changed man. ❤