It’s about midnight, I am sitting in Town Square, Southlake, TX in a court yard behind a restaurant Brio’s. I am talking with my friend Ryan Griffin. As usual, we are talking about life and learning from each other how to be better Christian’s. Out of no where, a women approaches us and hands us 1,000,000 fake bills with a cartoon picture on it. Ryan recognizes it immediately as a solicitation to talk about Christ. Trish, the women, states they are a community founded by the actor Kirk Cameron. Ryan was not familiar with the actor, so I updated him on who he was. The lead actor of a family program named “Growing Pains” and in the height of his career, he became a born again Christian and caused the show to go sideways because he tried to instill his belief onto the others.
The conversation started out ok, but things started turning wrong when Trish started telling us how she approached people using the TenCommandments as a reflection to get people to realize they are sinners. It came across innocent enough, yet very judgmental in her demeanor. She was using this fact and sudden awareness to scare people into becoming a Christian. I don’t know if I can explain fully, but it came across as though she was being very judgmental.
So, then she introduces to us to a couple of other folks in their group. She tells them we are thinking of doing open air preaching and I am reading, “The Reason for God” by Timothy Keller and Armilo supports my reading. As we are talking, another group of people come into the square, they all stopped talking and the focus went to this other group they identified as Muslims and acted as though an enemy had just showed up and they would need to get ready for battle, they showed no tolerance or acceptance towards these people
The out of the blue, Trish asks me how I deal with the liberalism of the Church I attend, women in the ministry and their acceptance of homosexuality. I said, I am not that involved in the Church to be aware of these issues and I did not care about women in the ministry because…but I was interrupted by Armilio and challenged me and my faith and whether I was a Christian. I told him just a minute I wanted to answer Trish’s question. He then interrupted me again and I said wait your accusations are going to get you an ass whipping. Now, I know what it sounded like, but I did not have a chance to let him know I meant verbally, but he continued to be insistent. His intolerance was more than I could stand. I was not going to defend my beliefs to this attack based on his intolerance. I looked at my friend Ryan and excused myself.
Ryan, however; stayed. Now, I am not sure why Ryan stayed, but this type of a situation is where I think Ryan does his best. To challenge him on his faith and worse to challenge him on his knowledge is an area not very many people can equal Ryan. So, I am guessing that this group who thought they were the preachers are now being the students. I am also guessing, they won’t change their sense of intolerance, they will be impressed with Ryan’s knowledge and possibly be humbled, they also will be more educated on what the Bible means and says. Yet, I feel there hearts are hardened and minds closed.
Ryan came back about an hour later, it was now 1:30 AM Sunday morning. In the end, Ryan realized the group in fact had formed opinions of who/what a Christian was by taking only pieces of scripture rather than applying it to the whole and seeing how scripture/the Bible was communicating overall. What went from a one or two person conversation turned into 4 to 6 of the group challenging Ryan. And instead of sharing knowledge, they attacked Ryan on his interpretation of scripture, his own personal beliefs, habits and values, which most of the personal items had nothing to do with the conversation.
I end this description of the encounter with this. Firstly, I believe this group is almost a cult, they have formed opinions which are not supported in the Bible, but they use parts of scripture to justify their beliefs. Secondly, they try and break people down to agree with them, they are not open to other interpretations. Finally, they seemed very judgemental, meaning they automatically judged you not to be a brother or sister if you did not believe what they did and finally, the way they reacted to the muslim group, showed an incredible intolerance for others as well.
Now, I just beat up on them, but intolerance went both ways. When I felt like I was being attacked by Trish, the Armilio, I showed an intolerance for their behavior. Instead of acting graciously and finding out more, I acted aggressively and then excused myself because I could not tolerate their behavior and opinions.
And Ryan, why did he stay there and talk, discuss, argue, defend. Because he was being intolerant of their intolerance. What burns him more than a non-Christian is another Christian not only disrespecting other Christian, but misusing the Bible to support their personal beliefs and values. So, he had the tools to ‘defeat’ them and I believe, whether they want to admit it or not, he did defeat them.
I did not walk away from this encounter feeling good and neither did Ryan, what we all did is exhibit our own weakness and intolerance. As I talked with Ryan about it and we were discussing our understanding that we too demonstrated equal intolerance and we felt we sinned, that the best thing we could of done once we felt the intolerance, would have been not to engage, but to disengate immediately and walk back to our bench and continue our conversation, demonstrating good Christian behavior.
What would you have done or what would you have recommended we do?
By the way, Armilio handed Ryan a card, on the card it identified Armilio as the Pastor of the Church – Ryan just defeated him in battle.