This started being written as a comment on Richard Miller’s excellent post regarding forgiving our Menno past. It got too long and so I finessed it here and referenced it on that post.
You can hardly blame these Mennonite bishops. Richard was a tough case.
On a more serious note, I usually feel an amused/sad compassion for these misguided Mennonite bishops and their sidekicks.
See, it’s all a matter of perspective; if their view of God was close to right, then the way they treated Richard and hundreds of the rest of us, just might be very close to right.
They hail from a type of biblicism where serious faith heroes were folks like David who slaughtered thousands of innocent kids in the name of God. Who traded their fellow men’s foreskins for the women of their dreams, and wrote poetry about dashing babies against the rocks and still were favorites with God. (I agree, they were favorites with God.)
Most of these Menno Bishops were raised on Rod & Staff culture where such atrocities of our pagan past are enshrined in their favorite children’s curriculum in a particularly clever way, where they can carry on in the same spirit, but only in the spiritual realm. (Delightful little pun, heh!) That’s why they are particularly non-resistant regarding physical harm, but don’t mind tearing the heart right out of our brains. (This, by the way, is certainly not unique to the Mennonites. Only the part about physical harm! Kinda.)
That’s why my Bishop was able to stand in front of the whole church and with clear eyes and a sad smile “turn me over to the devil” because I believed the Universe was older than 6K yrs…he would agree today that it’s older, heck, it’s been about 14 years ago -all the while sincerely believing he was on God’s side against evil.
The problem with Richard and folks like me, was that we wanted their blessing and favor while choosing to follow (our understanding) of the Gospel instead of (our understanding) of their bibliolatry. We saw Jesus shepherding us away from these wolves who were vying to control the God-space in our hearts, and we sincerely felt Christ leading us beside the still waters into a voluntary relationship with God. Where humility, peace and love were the trademarks of faith rather than showing up every Sunday morning at the human trough of their pre-masticated God rations.
But, in their defense, they themselves were unthinking victims of a forcefield driving them to fear God in such fascinating ways as to preach sermons on why God would have our cars painted black while our baby’s diapers flutter in white on the washline. In fact, one of my preachers carefully expounded over the pulpit how his love for Christ was not enough to compel him to be a Christian, rather it was the fear of being roasted in hell fire by God.
These folks were demonized by fear, and saw such an angry and fearful story in God, that they couldn’t help but pass some of hell’s thermal energy on to us as they tried to shepherd us into this folly.
Richard and the rest of us have one thing we discovered, we were/are victims as long as we take them serious as representatives of God. But we encountered the force-field that is Jesus. Now we have no more reason to be fearfully hostage to them than millions of Muslims do to their holy men who also hold their subjects hostage to Allah’s terror.
Thanks, Richard for your example of how to find freedom from human terror and discover true freedom in Christ.