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September 25, 2013
The Bible as Weapon: My Response to Christian Bullying
By Meryl Ann Butler
I found myself on the receiving end of yet another email from a loved one, with a cherry-picked Bible verse designed to bully readers. This time I responded.
by Illustration by Meryl Ann Butler for opednews
I found myself on the receiving end of yet another email from a loved one, with a cherry-picked Bible verse designed to bully the reader.
This time I responded.
Here is the email I received, with the personal message, "I thought you might like this":
A Little Bible study
Left & Right...
Origin of Left & Right...
I have often wondered why it is that Conservatives are called the "right" and Liberals are called the "left".
By chance I stumbled upon this verse in the Bible:
"The heart of the wise inclines to the right, but the heart of the fool to the left." Ecclesiastes 10:2 (NIV)
Thus sayeth the Lord. Amen.
Can't get any simpler than that.
Now A Spelling Lesson
The last four letters in American..........I Can
The last four letters in Republican........I Can
The last four letters in Democrats.........Rats
End of lesson. Test to follow in November, 2014
Remember, November is to be set aside as rodent removal month.
I always try to respond with composure, although the little spelling lesson tempted me to make a comment about having a battle of wits with an unarmed person. However, I managed to refrain.
Here is my response:
You thought I'd like this? Not at all, I don't like petty, mean-spirited forwards which are designed to make other people feel bad. I don't believe that bullying others is part of God's way. It can be very good to have one's own, strong beliefs, but it's not appropriate to expect or try to force others to have the same beliefs, not in a free country.
Personally, I don't think this country can move forward until Republicans and Democrats figure out how to get along. Our Constitutional architects did not design our government to be a game that only one side wins. It was cleverly designed to try to force the different sides to work together for the common good of the people. And pieces of that worked fairly well until we gave undue rights to corporations.
Anyone who plays the game with quotations like this one, might want to remember from biology class that the heart is situated slightly to the left. And one can only assume that is what God intended.
And it is also important to remember that the brain is what controls the actions of the body. And as I am sure you remember from school, it is the left hemisphere of the brain that controls the right side of the body (and vice versa.) So one could just as easily say that the left brain is always right!
It's important to remember that many statements in the Bible were based on cultural idiosyncrasies at the time, which no longer make sense in the context of modern life. Back in biblical days, right-handedness was considered to be "correct," whereas left-handedness was considered to be "wrong," most likely because few people were left-handed.
Thankfully, schools no longer force left-handed children to become right-handed! But ancient associations with right and left often go back to these erroneous concepts that left-handed people are somehow bad and wrong, and this is related to our phrase, "left-handed compliment."
Also, due to primitive hygiene at the time, in many places it was customary to eat with the right hand and perform personal hygiene with the left. This is true for Hindus, Muslims and probably a number of other cultures - and it makes perfect sense in a world with no running water, toilet paper or antibacterial hand gel! So this probably saved many lives, but of course it is a custom that would not make much sense to follow today. Therefore these things must always be considered within their original context.
Also, in the ancient world, the right hand implies or symbolizes strength, and this makes sense, because most people are right-handed, and therefore their right hands are stronger.
Upon thoughtful inspection, what the author (usually thought to be Solomon) seems to be saying in your Bible verse, is that the wise person's heart inclines them to do the right (handed) or strong, thing. And the fool's heart inclines them to do the foolish, left (handed) or weak, thing.
What seems so sad to me is that many of the people who forward emails like this don't bother to think these things through. Many seem to just jump for the most mean-spirited definition designed to mock and deride anyone who thinks differently, and then smugly forward the email. I doubt that they even realize that thoughtful people on the receiving end of these emails can easily figure out what is going on.
For many people who aren't really sure of their faith, an easy shortcut to feeling better is to find ways to make everyone else appear bad and wrong, which gives the illusion of lifting oneself up. But it is only an illusion, because there are no shortcuts.
However, a person who is sure of their faith has no reason to want to make another person wrong.
In fact, making others feel bad and wrong is probably the worst way to encourage them to have any interest in searching for God. Why would any so-called "non-believer" on the receiving end of this email be inspired to go to the church of a person who thinks this is appropriate? Aren't Christians supposed to entice others to look for God, instead of drive them away?
I think the role of a true Christian is not to put others down, but to quietly live a life of such love, charity, humility and joyfulness that others notice, and want what they have.
So people who send out emails like this are actually putting stumbling blocks in the path of others who might be searching. I can't imagine that God would be happy with that.
Still, many of the people who think this sort of mocking email is clever can't really be blamed, because they have never learned critical thinking in school. Because of the way some educational systems are run, many people have only learned to parrot back what others have told them, without ever thinking things through. This is why I'd like to see more money put into our educational system. Society never got ahead by the people who can only regurgitate what they've heard someone else say. Society moves forward because of the people who use critical thinking to analyze things and come up with new solutions to old problems.
My favorite Republican, Abraham Lincoln, said: "The best way to destroy an enemy is to make him a friend."
But it's a tricky thing to do. Bullying is easy, and it is often the choice of the weak in spirit. Figuring out how to "love your enemy" takes a lot more strength as well as faith, love and intelligence. I think that's what Solomon meant.
Submitters Website: http://www.merylannbutler.com
Meryl Ann Butler is an artist, author, educator and OpedNews Managing Editor who has been actively engaged in utilizing the arts as stepping-stones toward joy-filled wellbeing for over 25 years. She studied art with Harold Ransom Stevenson in Sea Cliff NY for seven years before opening her own art school. Stevenson had been a student of Norman Rockwell. Her art in a wide variety of media can be seen on her YouTube video, "Visionary Artist Meryl Ann Butler on Creativity and Joy" at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UcGs2r_66QE A NYC native, her response to 9-11 was to pen an invitation to healing through creativity, entitled, "90-Minute Quilts: 15+ Projects You Can Stitch in an Afternoon" (Krause 2006), which is a bestseller in the craft field. The sequel, MORE 90-Minute Quilts: 20+ Quick and Easy Projects With Triangles and Squares was released in April, 2011. Her popular video, How to Stitch a Quilt in 90 Minutes with Meryl Ann Butler can be seen at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PrShGOQaJQ8 She has been active in a number of international, arts-related projects as a citizen diplomat, and was arts advisor to Baltimore's CIUSSR (Center for Improving US-Soviet Relations), 1987-89. She made two trips to the former USSR in 1987 and 1988 to speak to artists, craftpeople and fashion designers on the topic of utilizing the arts as a tool for global wellbeing. She created the historical "First US-Soviet Children's Peace Quilt Exchange Project" in 1987-88, which was the first time a reciprocal quilt was given to the US from the former USSR. Her artwork is in collections across the globe. Meryl Ann is a founding member of The Labyrinth Society and has been building labyrinths since 1992. "Creativity and Healing: The Work of Meryl Ann Butler" by Burl Hall is at http://www.opednews.com/articles/Creativity-and-Healing--T-by-Burl-Hall-130414-18.html Burl and Merry Hall interviewed Meryl Ann on their BlogTalk radio show, "Envision This," at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/envision-this/2013/04/11/meryl-ann-butler-art-as-a-medicine-for-the-soul She has written for Opednews since 2004. Archived articles www.opednews.com/author/author1820.html Older archived articles, from before May 2005 are here.,