Last Monday, after a lot of thinking, I wrote a post to Franklin Graham. Graham had made a public statement that I felt was deeply hurtful and out of line. I wrote it in defense of many of my friends. It ended up being shared far more than I anticipated, largely because some kind friends with more influence than me passed it on.
The more it was shared, the more comments I received, and the more I had to screen the comments.
I was up for it – after all, I had written it, published it publicly, and I needed to take ownership of what I had written. That’s what grown-ups do.
But grown-ups also need to know their boundaries. They need to know that a personal web site is not a democracy. Everyone doesn’t get to have their comments published. So when comments were rude, when they were ad hominem attacks toward me or my Muslim friends, when they simply criticized and did not add to the discussion, I deleted them from my email. They never saw the blog site. They were extinguished.
I thought I was doing well. We had a blueberry pancake breakfast as a family. I began cleaning a kitchen cupboard, with hopes of ridding our kitchen of some pesky moths.
And then a can fell onto two of my favorite wine glasses that were resting on the counter, and suddenly I was a mess. Shards of glass were everywhere, and tears blurred my vision. I loved the wine glasses – they were purchased during our last trip to Egypt, a time when Egypt was deep in the stress of a post uprising chaos. But my tears felt way more powerful than grieving a mere material thing. As I swept up the shards, I suddenly knew why.
I realized that those comments felt like shards of glass to my soul, to my heart.
My son came to help. “You okay, mom?” He asked the question with compassion. This child is child of my heart. He knows these things. I nodded my head but kept my face down.
Shards of glass at the ready. Shards that cut and hurt. Shards with potential to destroy. That’s what we are like – ready to attack with shards of glass when we disagree, instead of grace and careful words. We humans are a passionate people about our own views. All of us, whether we choose to comment or not. And our passion can be good, but when it contains shards of glass, we intend for it to hurt. We want to destroy with our words.
So we swept up shards of glass together, and I said the Jesus Prayer. Because in truth, that’s the only thing preventing me from piercing others with shards of my own.
15 thoughts on “Shards of Glass”
I truly appreciated your words, and I am so sorry you were hurt. Your perspective is appreciated because it makes me feel like I am not alone. I had many Muslim friends growing up as a Third Culture Kid, and the level of ignorance in the US upsets me. I expect it from Ann Coulter, perhaps, but not from people purporting to lead Christian ministries. Just saying that out loud may create a backlash against me, because all people hear is “ignorance”.
But ideas are not the sum total of who people are. It would be wonderful if instead of erring on either side of the debate, people simply tried to see others as people like themselves, rather than enemies or targets for conversion. I think if we left a lot more up to God, we would see a lot more dialogue and a lot less hurt. Ad hominems are never ok, and I feel caught in the middle so many times.
I took a break from social media this week because of a personal attack from an extended family member for simply saying to another family member (who understood where I was coming from) that I request that people avoid arguing on my wall about politics. Apparently, preemptively asking my friends to respect each other and find constructive ways to debate was seen by one person as equal to censorship, rather than the personal boundary and respect issue that it is. I have a diverse set of friends, and I want peace between us all! Yet people will start fights with us for wanting peace. Makes no sense.
I have been reading around this week as usual, and it’s just so negative all the time towards people who suggest a new or alternative perspective on what the collective will has decided. I don’t think that is an either healthy or safe situation for those of us who are venturing out into the unknown with unique thoughts of our own. It’s truly sad, but it shouldn’t stop us from gently pushing back against the status quo, nor from advocating for kindness.
Thank you so much for sharing your heart in this; I know how it feels to be attacked by people I trusted simply for presenting the fact the rest of the world does not see things their way and they may actually be wrong on something. I agree we must refuse to allow nasty or hurtful comments to rule the narrative, and I am glad you fielded the worst. Thank you for speaking up. You owe no one any apology; many people need to learn to realize how much power there is in their words, and how precious a variety of perspectives, as well as people, are in life.
Receiving criticism is part of the package when blogging. Conversations about important matters generate the most heated discussion. But, take heart! Your perspective is uncommon and extremely needed. As time goes on you will become stronger through the challenges. Being challenged is not a bad thing and we the readers benefit by the sharpening our own thoughts. I personally look forward to reading your blog. Your cross cultural background understands John 3:16 and and God’s feelings on favoritism. I thank you, Marilyn, for speaking up.
I always imagine Jesus walking the streets of our century, in our communities. Where would he be? What would he be doing? Judging by where he spent his time when he walked on the earth, he’d be in the homes of the rich, the shacks of the impoverished, breaking bread with the ostracised, visiting the hospitals and prisons. He sees hearts, not the houses; he loves people, not positions. We make God in our own image. He continually, in love and grace, breaks down those walls. We cling too much to this world and our comfort. He, self-sacrificing parent that he is, offers himself. I would guess that he would be found in the homes of everyman — Jew, Christian, Moslem, Hindu . . . any heart which honestly seeks the Lord. We are the ones who make divisions; we are the ones who proclaim who God accepts and who he doesn’t; we are the ones guilty of judging our brothers.
Bless you for prayerfully writing what you do, trying to express the heart of God. Bless you for seeking to serve him, to be his hands and feet in this troubled world.
Bless your sensitive and compassionate heart. Please, God, give you strength and courage to continue. May he be your peace and comfort.
This is Averil (the cook the baker and the clay boy maker). I love reading your posts and had read your post with regard to Graham’s outragrous comments as well. Coming from India we constantly tread uneasy on issues of religion, faith, caste, creed and language, so what you’ve written regarding Franklin Graham resonated deeply. It’s so easy to hate, to spew rhetoric against people who may be different from us in any way and yet not take responsibility by hiding behind the veil of religion. Franklin Graham and others of his ilk have in all convenience sought to twist Jesus and Christianity into symbols of hate and intolerance. Jesus wouldn’t approve. For heaven’s sake , the man died on a cross with love in his heart and forgiveness on his lips. That’s what being a Christian means to me. To not judge. Mr. Graham cannot appropriate Jesus and turn him into a white southerner. Jesus lived and died a Jewish man. A man of Middle Eastern origin, much like the people Graham seeks to censure. A man who preached forgiveness, love and inclusiveness… Get real Mr. Graham
Jesus spoke very “sharply” to those who were defiling the house of God. How are we not allowed to speak sharply to those who defile PEOPLE who are created in the image of God but are rebelling and misguided? People do chose to do terrible things in this world, and I don’t think that any of us would defend some behaviours of a small minority of Muslims in the world. But, the point is that while they are rebellious and misguided God STILL loves them and will not stop trying to draw them to Himself–ever. So, for us the question becomes: Are we going to cooperate with God in His mission of loving and reaching out to Muslim terrorists, or will we just be angry back at them? They do not have the gospel of Jesus Christ to guide them. Franklin Graham does have the gospel of God to guide him, and it is very sad that he felt he could take his anger out on Muslims in general, so publically, when he of all people should understand the dynamic of mission and of cooperating with God. I think that is why some of us responded so viscerally to what he said. Marilyn, the shards will hurt when people break wine glasses over you, but you have not taken on some innocent person who does not know what they are doing. You have very rightfully taken on someone who really should know better. Stick to your guns and do not back down!!!
Taking the time to respond shows you respect him and care about him as a brother in Christ. If it was just some random other person, you wouldn’t have bothered. It is a high compliment to take that sort of risk. As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend. We must not fall into the dichotomous thinking that disagreeing makes us fall on different sides.
You spoke the Truth in defense of those who are oppressed and disenfranchised. That is Christlike and praiseworthy. The shards flying are from bigoted perspectives imploding in the light of the Truth. It is amazing how brittle and fragile hate-filled rhetoric can be–and how easily destroyed. You destroyed it with simple introductions to loving people. And it was kind and beautiful.
So give yourself a break and surround yourself with life-giving people in life-giving places.
Then keep speaking the Truth. Even if your voice shakes.
Beautifully said. Touched my heart.
I hope you will also take comfort in knowing that there were a number of other public letters to Franklin, urging him to return to his calling as exemplified by his role with Samaritan’s Purse. His father one made a public foray into politics which he came to regret. I hope Franklin will learn from his example. And like his father, Franklin can speak for God only when he brings God’s message of love and grace.
Thanks for posting your comments to Franklin Graham. They were what I felt, and you said them so well! Concerning the negative comments that followed, you know a little better how Jesus must have felt. God bless you!
Attacks on the person are unacceptable in debate. Sticking to principle make interesting, lively, and challenging debate. Shards of glass from that cherished broken goblet have given us all a powerful lesson. Thanks Marilyn.
I am thinking of the hymn, “Alas and Did My Saviour Bleed”, especially verse 5:
“But drops of tears can ne’er repay
the debt of love I owe.
Here, Lord, I give myself away;
’tis all that I can do. ”
May your tears continue to draw you closer to Jesus.
I’ve realized that on the internet it is easy to present a much braver or meaner face than we would ever present in person. A few months ago, I made a somewhat disagreeable comment on a popular blog, and my comment received some negative feedback. I found it stressful. After that day, I decided not to type comments on the internet that weren’t things that I would say if I met the speaker in person. For example, if I wouldn’t walk up to that pastor and say that I disagreed with his theology in person, at his church, why did I feel free to do so online? I also unfollowed that pastor’s blog, so that I wouldn’t be tempted to stir up more hornet’s nests. This has been a really good decision for me. Thanks for being real about how comments, even though they’re made by anonymous people not brave enough to show any face, can wound deeply.
Julie this is what I tell my students each year when we discuss Internet etiquette.