The ties that should bind Christian and non-Christian bloggers

There’s a hailstorm of discussion circulating around the Philippine blogosphere, centering on a few individuals’ disappointment at the Philippine Blog Awards’ invocation. Specifically, Benj, an atheist, was extremely offended at the mention of Jesus Christ as a motivating factor for Philippine bloggers in maintaining their blogs. He was further offended by the response of “a lot of people” (in particular, this fellow) to his post, and has gotten a good round of discussion from Jorge, Tess, and Gail, who defended the organizers and initially encouraged Benj to join the group next year to ensure non-Christians’ rights would be represented better, but later took back the invitation.

(To Benj’s credit, he did say that the organizers were not to blame; to moot the point, he placed the blame somewhere else, when at this point, finger-pointing would not do the issue any additional good.)

Joni, coincidentally, asked me this morning what I thought of the ongoing flurry of activity. Initially, I thought to myself, this is not an issue I necessarily want to weigh in on, preferring instead to just let the issue die. As a self-professed Fil-Christian blogger for the past seven years, I think I should at least say something about how the situation may have been handled better by the Christians in the group, so as not to further stoke the flames of this ‘controversy,’ which may have marred, in one way or the other, the success of the Philippine Blog Awards.

First off, I want to say that Benj and I have not had the smoothest of relationships, thanks in large part to two things: a less-than-stellar-but-more-than-civil exchange of thoughts on PinoyExchange, where we first ran into each other, and a tendency to read too much into each other’s blog posts, hahaha. I have often said things that may have been offensive to him, and he has done likewise. What I think makes our online relationship work – and translated at least into a decent conversation at the BlogParteeh ’07 when we didn’t kill each other – is a common respect for the other person’s beliefs. After all, it is expected and common that, in our individual web spaces, we call the shots. He has the freedom to delete/edit anything I say on his blog, and I on mine; of course, we don’t, out of what I hope is a respect for the person’s freedom of speech, and to my (not-so-perfect) recollection, I’ve never had to delete any of his posts on any of my Christian blogs. Occasionally, he’ll make a post that will push my buttons, intentionally or unintentionally, and I pray for the strength to just let it go. I’ve often apologized to him in public and private, and he has, too.

There is something to be said for an online relationship between a hardcore atheist and a Bible-thumping Christian, that we can have reciprocal links to each other’s websites, and what I hope is a healthy respect for each other’s rights as people.

The Philippine Blog Awards, however, was no longer just a webspace. It was a gathering of people, not all of whom share the same beliefs – religious, political, whatever. What should have united every person in that theater that night was a healthy respect for each other as individual bloggers, all coming together to recognize that we are all equal – as bloggers, and as people.

Despite my being a Christian, I feel very strongly about recognizing and acknowledging Benj’s point that a more universal prayer or moment of silence would have been more appropriate. There was a point in my life when I was on the other side of that fence, when I was just like Benj. There was a time when I denied the presence of God, and did my part in trying to convince others of my beliefs. I can understand why he feels the way he feels. I may not have expressed myself the way he did, but I can see where he’s coming from.

I definitely disagree with how Benj may have phrased his disgust disappointment with that prayer – especially since some have since interpreted his rather angry post in a negative way. That post was written for response and controversy; there’s no way organizers would have not reacted to it because Benj did throw a lot at them.

When a negative response to something is made, it’s human nature for the owners of that something to react in defense. Shari and and a few other attendees who found that prayer a bit disconcerting may have been left out, but Benj spoke out. Whatever results or changes he may have wanted for next year’s PBA, however, were probably diluted because it was so angrily said.

There are diplomatic ways to express displeasure, but in the heat of the moment… well, Christians and non-Christians can all lose tempers and say things they may end up later wishing they had not said.

Of course, the non-Christians aren’t as driven as we are to forgive. Nor are they as smug as we are because we are in the majority.

Frankly, we Christians in the Philippines do not realize how good we’ve got it, that we can pray in public and not be shot. That we can open our Bibles and read it on the subway. We don’t live in the minority, unlike the earlier Christians, or like Christians in other countries like China or Cuba, and as a result, we’ve become complacent, and almost snooty, just because most Filipinos know of Christ, and a few have active relationships with Him.

The problem with many Christians – and I can include myself in that list on several occasions, unfortunately – is that we tend to become almost elitist and high-and-mighty, knowing we have something in our lives that others do not. We forget it is still their freedom to accept the gift we have ourselves been given and accepted. We become so ritualistic that we forget about the non-believer whose impressions of God and Jesus is based on their interactions with us.

How is a non-believer supposed to know our own Jesus Christ – the person we acknowledge is the Son of God – hobnobbed with the huddled masses, the whores, and sinners? He accepted them for who they are, and (I believe) they changed in time because they kept company with Him. He influenced them in a positive way, and one day, that message of love made a difference in the lives of the people.

How can we reach out to these people when we offend them fresh out of the gate? How can we build relationships with them when we leave them out? And how can we expect them to understand Jesus’ message of compassion when we throw stones instead of bread?

My ending point is this: I personally don’t think a message of tolerance is necessarily a message against Christianity. If we automatically shut out people who do not share our views and faith, we would have lost sight of that which Christ specifically told us to do in Matthew 28.

We can’t always be white sheep

sheep.gif

Last night, Nathan said something to his Mom that took both of us by surprise. We have no idea where he learned it, but you can bet both of us were taken aback. A lot of prayer was offered that night for our three-year-old.

How often have we said something that we knew wouldn’t be received well, or done something that we just needed to do, even if we knew it wouldn’t necessarily be good for us? Me, quite often. My life is littered with dumb decisions.

If we’re lucky, the persons we told about our stupid actions, the persons who knew better will rarely tell us “I told you so.” Still, Someone very important has never told us, “I told you so.” Instead, He forgives us for walking away from Him, and welcomes us back into His arms. We just need to pray and tell Him about it.
Now some people believe prayer is just you talking to yourself. Believe that if you will. I believe Someone listens to me when I pray. That Someone – my God, the God of Abraham, and my Dad and Jesus’ Dad – understands that more often than not, I will screw up, and acknowledges when I am contrite and truly sorry for having done something I know won’t please Him. Like I should be to Nathan, God is an understanding Father, and will never take your decision to do something – even if it is obviously against His will – against you if you return to Him and genuinely say sorry for having done it.

After all, we can’t be all expected to be white sheep. We weren’t created like sheep. We’ve got minds of our own and a free will that, more often than not, comes back to bite us in the butt. What else can we do but run to Him before we get into bigger trouble?

Seven things I’m taking away with me from Victory Weekend

Hi friends! How was your weekend?

I’ve had an incredible two days. This morning was Day Two of Victory Weekend, and I’m all pumped up. It was a good two days, and I can tell you this: my life will never be the same.

Until today, I never claimed victory, as in, spoke out and claimed it. Well, today, I did. I claimed victory in all areas of my life in the name of Jesus. I declare that I’m a man who loves God, and it’s time to stand up and stop the pretending. Real men love God, serve Him, and aren’t afraid to share with others how God has changed them. All my life – even for the past seven years as a Christian – I’ve been running away from my potential, from my destiny as a child of God. Well, no more. Today, I claimed my victory in Christ because I will no longer subject myself to self-condemnation.

I’m coming away from Victory Weekend with seven mindsets in place, that I’m actually posting on my website so all visitors and regular readers can hold me accountable:
1. I am addicted to food, but I renounce this addiction in the name of Jesus!, because God is more than enough for me! God can satisfy me the way food never can. 1 Cor 3:16 says Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? The Temple of God deserves to be treated well, and I renounce unnecessary eating, binge eating, junk food and soda, in the name of Jesus. The Holy Spirit and my holy wife hold me accountable.

2. I am a victim of the delusions of self-pity, and I will no longer allow the enemy to convince me I am worthless. John 1:12 says Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God… I believe in Christ Jesus, I have received Him in my life, He sits on the throne of my heart, and I have no reason to feel sorry for myself. Fact: Christ died for me. My life is valuable to God, so I should see myself as valuable.

Likewise, God loves you too. Why feel bad about yourself when you have the Creator of the Universe on your side?

3. I will no longer joke about myself, because I renounce identity cursing in the name of Jesus! This one struck me deep. All my life, I was told I was fat, and I would never really become thin. Even when I lost 50 pounds, that was only temporary, and I gained it back. I realize now that I was cursing myself to fail! When I made self-deprecating jokes about my weight, I was cursing myself. When I told myself I would never amount to anything greater than what my friends were achieving, I was cursing myself. Romans 8:31 says What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? No more. I am a victorious man in the name of Jesus, doing great things to bring glory to His name.

4. Hurt people hurt people, so I renounce the easily-offended spirit and the untamed tongue in the name of Jesus! I don’t hold grudges, but I do get hurt easily, and I hurt people easily in the name of a cheap laugh. I will seek forgiveness from these people (if ever I’ve done it to you, email me and I will arrange a meetup with you if you want, and I will apologize to you personally over a cup of coffee, my treat), and I forgive those who have offended me. I renounce the troubled tongue in the name of Jesus! For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks (Luke 6:45), and no more, by God’s grace, will I blurt out without thinking, because my heart is joyfully ruled by Christ.
5. I renounce fear in the holy name of Jesus Christ! I am reminded that God is my protector. He is my Jehovah Rohi, my shepherd, who watches over me and protects me. He is my refuge in times of trouble (Nahum 1:7, ang walang kamatayang encouraging verse ng buhay ko, LOL.) Millions of people have chronic and/or occasional money problems, health problems, difficulty at work, and personal struggles, among many things, but I have a great and mighty God. What do I have to be afraid of?

If anything, I declare victory over all the abovementioned struggles in Jesus’ name, and what a powerful testimony that will be when God carries my family and me to success. Praise be His and His alone!

6. God is not my last-minute option. He is my only option. I was stunned when I realized how little people depend on God, myself included, running to Him only when the medicine doesn’t kick in, when the paycheck runs out, when the girlfriend/boyfriend leaves, when the loved one dies, when the contract doesn’t get signed. All these things are earthly, and they will pass away. Matt 24:35 Heaven and Earth will pass away, but [God’s] words will never pass away. Why rely on something temporary, with no power to bless? God will be first option always in my life, and to create a lifestyle of prayer is to create a lifestyle of victory.

7. I am doing this all for hundreds of people. Wanna know something? If you have problems in your life, take a look and see if similar problems are present in your family. Is there a family history of disease? Suicide? Broken relationships and marriages? If someone starts something extremely negative, it is highly possible that pattern may be repeated in future generations (sukob!).

Well, I am not letting any of those curses pass on to Nathan and Nathan’s kids, no way! By God’s grace, we’ll nip the problems in the bud. When I realize that I am responsible for the future of hundreds of people down the line, I am awed and even more determined to rely on God to make my line victorious and God-serving.

That was my weekend. How was yours?