I just plowed through the 2013 season of Orange is the New Black. As I watched the last few episodes, I was disturbed when the character Tiffany said that she was ready to murder someone and just needed to back it up with scripture to make it the right thing to do. She found it in Luke 19- once she turned around the scripture to her liking. ** Spoiler alert ** The backstory to Tiffany is that she murdered someone who made fun of her for having multiple abortions.
A little taste of the Orange is the New Black Tiffany
I was talking to an agnostic person several years ago and they said to me, “You call yourself a Christian? I mean I believe in a higher power, but I just cannot support Christianity. I would never be a “good enough” Christian. There is always someone hanging around saying you are not as good a Christian as someone else and you are set up for constant failure the way the Bible is written. It has been translated so much… who knows what it was really saying. Christians as a whole are so cruel to each other. So don’t doubt me that I believe there is a God and I pray and meditate… I just don’t follow the Bible so closely that I exhaust myself. I do believe in good and evil. I do believe that there is a certain way to treat others with love and compassion… I consider myself a genuinely good person, but this self-righteous crap keeps me from ever walking into the doors of a so-called Christian church. I can’t believe how incredibly cruel they are to one another and I refuse to be part of that type of institution and constant criticism.” This was the first logical explanation for being agnostic I have ever encountered and I never once questioned someone again who said they were spiritual but not exactly religious. Yes I do consider myself a Christian, but I refuse to surround myself with Tiffany like folks. I wonder how many people have lost their way in their relationship with God because of the self-righteous behavior. I wonder if Christians had truly treated each other with more hospitality and grace much like Jesus loved us, the impact that that would make on our community as a whole.
In the recent weeks, I have had to distance myself from a real life Tiffany. One who spouted hateful things about my contact with my church and allowing my children to attend a wedding, which according to Tiffany was not an acceptable occasion, I was responsible for the doom of my children’s souls. I was so incredibly offended by Tiffany and I understood more in that moment people that are driven from Christianity. If I were not so settled with my faith and my church I would be tempted to blame Christianity for this, but it’s not the case. It’s just Tiffany.
The impact I hope to have on my children in my choices are this… 1. No matter the persons past, color, education, sexuality or wealth they deserve grace and respect. 2. God is there for everyone in prayer and we were all created to serve him. Never ever tell someone anyone they cannot be a Christian… in fact God knew of their coming. 3. Yes read the Bible and do your best to be a good person, but not every bit of scripture should be taken literally in today’s terms – I would have to expect my daughter to not speak in church and obey her husband. My son would be expected to see his future wife as his obedient subservient companion… whilst we have taught him to respect women. We’d have to change a lot of this blended cloth too. I’m not sure how my son would feel about not having pepperoni or bacon anymore. 4. Forgiveness is important and without forgiveness no one learns and grows… they only grow apart. 5. They have already learned love, family and marriage from the life we have created in our home, but they have witnessed love dissipate and marriages fail already. I can’t save them from that, but I can teach them to show love and respect for those that are from broken families — not pity- compassion 6. Everyone sins and no one is free from it… in fact expect it and respond appropriately. No one is perfect. If you expect everyone to be perfect sinners and do not show compassion for them… don’t expect compassion when you sin because you do and you will.
A friend of mine has a relative that is incarcerated for abusing a child sexually. The friend visits the inmate in prison much like the visitors in Orange is the New Black. It is out of love, grace and compassion that they visit and show forgiveness. The friend said to me that they are blood and it is extremely important that they treat the incarcerated as forgiven. The inmate has repented, even turned themselves in and doing their time here on earth. This is God’s grace…. this is ultimately what it is all about. This friend of mine is a good Christian and I respect them so much for this and may God continue to bless them all. This is opposite of Tiffany in that they are faithful people and act with love and grace instead of self-righteousness. I pray that I may be like this friend in my faith.
One real life Tiffany that I know would instead never speak to this family member again and back it with scripture. Particularly with 1 Corinthians – in the letters from Paul saying to not associate with these people- remove the wicked from among yourselves. Are we guilty by association? Some people would say that is the case- trust me- don’t think those words have not been said to me. As the alabaster jar was given to Jesus with weeping tears, the sinning woman was shown grace and compassion from Jesus. Might we all show more hospitality to all sinners not just the ones we approve of and allow them to anoint our lives with oil. As with Tiffany from Orange is the New Black- just because you twist things around scripture to fit what you’re doing… doesn’t make it right. Is this Christian behavior? Is this what being a Christian means to ostracize and treat people as less and not worthy of God’s love? What makes Tiffany so mighty to say that they are a better Christian. In fact, I actually have chosen to distance my children from such Tiffany’s because this is exactly what I don’t want them to learn. They could possibly otherwise push my children farther from God as it did so many of my Christian friends who do not attend a church or for my agnostic friends who simply cannot be part of this behavior. This is what I’m teaching my children … to love.. to forgive.. to see others as sinners as well as themselves… to judge lest they be judged. I hardly feel as though their souls are ruined for this lesson.
My son, Alden, lied to me yesterday. We had overbooked ourselves and the kids and I missed out on church while my husband went. Alden threatened his sister while playing in his room and she came and tattled on him. That wasn’t the problem… the problem was that he denied it and lied to me. I knew he was not telling me the truth. I told him that I did not believe him and that he was to go to his room and pray. I told him he should think about it and pray for forgiveness because he knew he had broken “big God rules”. He had lied to his mother. After a few minutes, I went to check on him. He was quiet when I entered his room. He said to me with tears in his eyes, “Mom, I don’t know how to pray that.” He’s seven and I thought although a struggle it was worthy of a lesson in knowing that it is hard to pray on your own. So I told him that we would pray together so I said the prayer for him and when I opened my eyes and raised my head I realized he was looking at me in awe. He wasn’t streaming tears, but his eyes were still filled and for this brief moment I know I’m doing the right things with my children. I know that I am … no matter what Tiffany says.
Many of my readers have read my previous blog on what type of church I attend and I must say it was a Tiffany that created that desire within me to find an open and accepting church. We were sitting around a Thanksgiving feast when Tiffany went on to say that they just love their new pastor. They were previously uncertain about his coming and now felt totally confident about his presence and his guidance. His first sermon was the Sunday before this feast and it was very fresh and new to Tiffany. Tiffany went on to say that his first sermon was the best they had heard in a long time and how spot on it was. Now Tiffany was certain this was the right pastor for them. I was thinking it was something amazingly powerful and inspiring the weekend before Thanksgiving. Being intrigued I asked what this amazing sermon was on… Tiffany’s response was unnerving and ruined my meal or maybe my faith in humanity or maybe perception of Christianity. Tiffany said the pastor read scripture and described how all homosexuals regardless of repentance would all surely burn in hell. It went on and on for several minutes. Oh how lovely…. Happy Thanksgiving? From then on I refused to attend church with Tiffany and instead I sought out a church that spoke of no one in such light… I refuse to subject myself to hate. Did this pastor quote Rahab during this story of sexual immorality… if it is not so clear that with repentance and faith she was forgiven for her prostitution? I sought a church instead that would teach me to grow in grace. I wasn’t expecting to end up where I did, but when I found my church I felt love and am loved by many. No one spouts off about abominations or sits around judging others with their hate. Instead I am moved by their compassion… their love… their forgiveness… I could not and would not allow my children to be taught to hate. My children don’t really care to understand the concept of our family being any different from anyone else that attends or the make up of couples because they simply care as much as me- they don’t spend any time trying to discuss it… there is simply nothing to discuss. They don’t talk about sexuality in children’s church… it’s the same as children’s church as when I was a child. What I do know is that they are surrounded by many people of all walks of life and have been taught so many things by feeling the love that simply pours from the doors of the building. My children love Sundays… absolutely love them. They beg to go to church and have been caught in their disappointment realizing it is Saturday and not Sunday. I walk out of church on Sundays enlightened by the peace of the scripture and the blessing of the presence of those who surround us.
It is scary to me in my faith journey to think that this conversation about Tiffany’s new pastor drove me away from God and Christianity for a few years. I understood more clearly what my agnostic friend was talking about. I allowed someone that is Christian to back their hate with scripture keeping me from being connected. I realize that real life Tiffany’s will continue to exist, but I can only hope that churches like mine continue to show that Christianity is not about being self-righteous. There are churches that teach to embrace the incarcerated- the homosexuals- the poor- thieves- or well… anyone really. Certainly, it is easier to sit back idle and go unnoticed as a Christian, but it doesn’t make me any closer to my faith detaching myself from Christianity for the fault of my supposed imperfections. It takes strength to be an ally and a Christian, but let them cast their stones at me for loving my neighbors and treating them with grace…. Trying to change me by involving my children by writing their souls on the stones was a low attempt and hurt to the core of my being, but it doesn’t mean my children are damaged goods. It just means that Tiffany is not part of the lessons I want to teach my children about Christianity at this age for fear that they will be led away from God being squeezed so tight they lose sight of the spirit.