Sunday, July 22, 2007

Chad's response

So I wanted to repost Chad's recent response to my tale of excommunication. Just as some background, Chad is the elder son of the pastor of the church I grew up in. He is almost the same age as I am, and we were close friends during my 10 years in that church, attending the same tiny christian school, and then participating in the same tiny homeschooling co-op.

Chad--thanks for engaging in this conversation. Megs and I would love to have you and Julie and little 'un(s?) over for dinner sometime. She's in Boston this week--but when she comes back! Hope you don't mind me reposting your comments, but I thought perhaps they might inspire some interesting discussion.

Cheers--Benjamin.

Chad said


Oh Benjamin. I can't tell you how my heart aches to read your pain and bitterness.

The pain I understand. You were mistreated and mal used. But to react with bitterness and intolerance to those who truly love you and invested in your life? Very unfair.

To call your home church masochistic, among other nasty things, is ironic given your apparent crusade of tolerance for every other belief system in existence. And how does that work, my dear friend? You can be tolerant of any belief system except orthodox Christianity? And since when did orthodoxy become odd or weird?

What pains me is to see that after years you have not healed from your experiences. Despite what you may perceive, and despite your disagreement with one or two people here at church, the body here loves you and always has. Even when we were mistreated by you, castigated and spat upon by you...we still love you and wish you the best in life. If you only knew the tears that have been shed on your behalf you would weep yourself. Know that, and may it bring some balm to your bitterness.

Truly, my friend, I am happy that you have such a wonderful family. Kids are a joy. Megs is such a talented and wonderful compliment to you.

The one fly in the ointment can be wounds that never heal because the heart can't forgive. Many of us have been hurt by those we trust and respect. Your story is not unique. It's how we respond that makes the difference.

I love you man. I really do.

My prayer for you is thus; that you will realize that the noise and trappings of religion do not hold the Answer. Purify your heart, free yourself from bitterness, forgive those who have hurt you, and listen for His voice. It's not in the shouting and controling voices of earthly authority. It's not in the earthquakes of life or even the fire of suffering. His voice is a calming whisper to our heart. But only if we are quiet enough to listen will we hear.

Still your good friend and never a masochist (well, except for that one time in Manila...but that's another story)...

Chad

1 Kings 19:12

14 comments:

Benjamin Ady said...

Here's OED on "bitterness"

The quality or state of being bitter: a. to taste; b. to the mind or feelings; c. deep sorrow or anguish of heart; d. animosity, acrimony of temper, action, or words; e. intensity of frost or cold wind.

Chad Minnick said...

Good definition of bitterness, especially C & D.

Just as way of clarification, we have had some real doozies come through the church in the past. No church is without it's "odd" members. But they never were the majority, and they never represented the orthodox teachings of Christ and His love.

I guess I know my own heart. And I definitely never fit your description. Hence my response. :)

Chad Minnick said...

Oh, and I'd love to see you guys again. I'm headed to Honduras in a week, though. We're adopting a 13 yr old and I'm going down to finalize things.

So we'll be in a state of flux for the next several weeks/months.

Benjamin Ady said...

Chad—couple things. You seem to be saying that you recognize that I experienced bitterness—as in a rather foul taste, and then saying that you feel that it was “unfair” for me to experience that bitterness. What do you mean when you say “unfair” here?

Masochism *is* rather nasty, in my opinion. And surely you would agree that Heritage is a kind of “orthodox plus plus plus” type of place, to borrow language from bank of america’s ad campaign?

I wonder why you assume that I “have not healed” from my experiences? That’s sort of a big leap.

What does it mean that heritage was “castigated and spat upon” by me? Sounds fairly painful, but for the life of me I have no idea to what you are referring.

Benjamin Ady said...

Oh,

one other thing. Why do you think I'm tolerant of any belief system except orthodox christianity?

and what's so great abour orthodox christianity? I mean doesn't it hold, among other things, that enormous numbers of people are going to suffer the "eternal conscious suffering of the damned" in hell? That's certainly what I was taught at Heritage.

Chad said...

It’s not unfair to experience bitterness. It’s actually quite human. I said your comments were unfair...because they are untrue.

I'm not even sure how to respond to your comments on orthodoxy, or the accusation that we are somehow extremists. I don't know if I even want to respond. Seems rather pointless because I recall a common source of entertainment for you was always to engage in argument for argument's sake. I have too much to do in life to waste words going round and round in cyclical arguments. It’s tiring and accomplishes nothing. I am much more interested in cutting through the crap that comes out of mouths and getting to what's in the heart.

In that vein, I would beg you to stop avoiding the issue. Get it out and deal with it, rather than covering it up with anger, intellectual aerobics and anything else you can think of to avoid the painful disruption that I promise will result in healing.

If you had healed, you would not be so bitter.

I just think it's selfish to go through life calling other people names for hurting you and accept no culpability for the pain you yourself cause. But then that's the insidious nature of bitterness. It is by definition selfish.

You have been hurt, so you respond in anger. I have not read a word of forgiveness in your words...only bitterness. While it is a natural response, it is not necessary. You can learn to forgive, and that, my friend, is the secret to happiness.

Please don't gloss over the spirit of my words by trying to argue. Take my words to heart and ponder them. Embrace your pain and anger and ask God for the grace and forgiveness to move beyond it. You have too much to offer those who have been hurt in far deeper ways than you have to be mired forever in this bog.

It's a wonderful world out there! And every night ends with a dawning. Can you see your way through to daylight yet?

Joe said...

I don't want to intrude here, nor to sound like I'm attempting to be some kind of umpire, so please ignore me if necessary.

Benjamin - can you explain what you hoped to achieve by mentioning the church here? It seemed to me to be a bit of a sideissue on the Logos II post. There is a great danger in becoming a reflection of the worst things you hate in others. Megs is absolutely right (of course she is, she's your wife after all), stop picking your scabs and go play with the kids.

Chad - I don't know any of your history more than is written here, but could not Benjamin have a legitimate reason for his bitterness? You seem to be trying to place yourself in the 'light' and Benjamin in 'darkness'.

I know something of bitterness. I know someone I respect very much who cannot forgive someone else because they have never admitted their wrong. I don't think it is really possible for you to 'tell' Benjamin to forgive, particularly as you are part of the group he feels bitterness towards. I seriously doubt it is going to help to stand on a soapbox and order someone else to do something like you do in your final comment.

Benjamin Ady said...

Chad,

Again, I’m curious about the bitterness thing. I mean are we talking about an emotional experience? It seems to me that you seem to be talking about bitterness as a poor choice one makes. Maybe you are rather talking about resentment? I mean if you drink wine that’s gone off, and you kind of wince at the horror of the taste, that’s bitterness. And if you remember that taste, and choose not to drink from that bottle anymore, that’s a reaction to the bitterness. And if you find that some rather largish percentage of wines produced by that winery have gone off, then maybe you decide to not buy that type anymore. And then if you tell your friends about the experience, maybe that’s related to the bitterness as well. But none of these things strike me as unhealthy, or poor choices.

“In that vein, I would beg you to stop avoiding the issue. Get it out and deal with it, rather than covering it up with anger, intellectual aerobics and anything else you can think of to avoid the painful disruption that I promise will result in healing.”

Again—I think you jump to a lot of conclusions about me based on a tiny comment in a shortish story. How do you know I’ve haven’t fully experienced whatever you may be talking about when you say “painful disruption”? How do you know to what extent I have or haven’t “healed”?

“I just think it's selfish to go through life calling other people names for hurting you and accept no culpability for the pain you yourself cause.”

This is the sort of blame the victim mentality that I grew up with. How do you know I accept no culpability for the pain I’ve caused? Does accepting that culpability mean that I choose to assign zero culpability to the people and systems which caused pain?

I’ve decided I don’t really like the conservative evangelical take on forgiveness, which, in my experience, never includes an accurate inventory of that which is to be forgiven.

“Embrace your pain and anger and ask God for the grace and forgiveness to move beyond it.”

Who is god?

“It's a wonderful world out there! And every night ends with a dawning.”

Not at all. Lots of people die in the darkness, having never experienced a dawning. Some largish percentage of the 180,000 who will die today could be described this way.

I would find the conversation more enjoyable if you would talk about your experiences, thoughts, feelings, stories, and let me talk about mine. As it is, it feels like you are trying to talk a lot about what you think are my experiences, feelings, thoughts, stories. Why not respect me enough to believe that I may have a better grip on my own story than you do, and if you want to talk about my story, do it by asking me questions, not by telling me about myself.

Chad said...

Okay then, here you go. You want my feelings?

I have always been a friend, never done or said anything to hurt you. So it hurt and offended me deeply to hear such words of anger and resentment being directed at me and those I care about.

You want me to talk about how I feel? Betrayal, that's what I feel. A friend who hates me, hates my family, and rather than simply say, "I disagree or I felt hurt" you make accusations to your friends and to the world who doesn't know the truth from your psuedo-intellectual high-horse. This is my experience. This is what I feel.

You want my experience? You want what I feel? The angry, rotten drivel in the letters of hate you sent my father too many times. My mother began intercepting them and giving the to me because he would weep too greatly from the rending you recompensed for the pearls you were given.

Sure, it's perfectly reasonable to feel bitterness and pain when you are hurt, Joe. But in what bizzaro universe is it "okay" to flail your emotional arms so wildly that you hurt other people. How is it okay to be stung by a bee, then punch your neighbor in the nose because you're angry? That's what I mean by "selfish."

"Blame the victim?" How about you grow up and stop BEING a victim? I didn't hurt you, Ben. I was always true to you. Why the venom?

I feel like we're 14 years old again, Ben. I could tell equally difficult stories of pain and paradigm shifts that have rocked my own world. But why blame your environment for the inconvenience only see your perspective darken with age? Absolutely; it is a choice to remain bitter.

I tell you that I am right in this: the world IS beautiful. Even through the hurt, the pain and the injustice.

I have held a young girl thrice raped by her uncle in a small village in Central America. She cried in my arms for a full fifteen minutes. Every man in her life she had ever met hurt her. She was starving and naked when she was finally rescued. She cried while I held her and whispered "Estas seguro." And you know what? She is safe now.

That's why life is bright. Because even out of pain can come hope, healing and renewal. She is a happy, joyful girl now that she has hope of a better future, and people who love her.

Your sad story can't even compare with her pain, Ben. You got kicked off a ship. She bled for a week from her torn vagina. She can see the silver lining, why can't you? The only answer is "perspective."

That's all I am trying to say to you my friend.

And while we're at it, let me say that it's hard to respect you enough to tell your own story when you say such awful things about me and those of us who TO THIS DAY still love you.

Want respect? Speak truth.

What saddens me most is when you refer to the thousand who will die in darkness without experiencing a dawn; and then I realize that you are choosing to be one of them.

Come back from the precipice, Benjamin! There is still much to live for.

Chad said...

Thanks for your comments, Joe. It may have seemed like it but I was not ording Benjamin to do anything. I am, however, begging him to forgive and move on.

Although come to think of it, Jesus did indeed order that very thing in Matthew 5. But I'm not Jesus, so far be it from me...

And, Joe, I am NOT a part of any group who hurt Benjamin. I've always been his friend...even when he gets like this.

And I'm not sure whether or not he does have a reason to still be bitter. He seems to think that just because someone has a world view that is not his own it constitutes systematic abuse and justifies his cruel statements. He can show some maturity and simply choose not to agree if that's his choice. That's what the rest of us grown-ups do.

Benjamin Ady said...

“I have always been a friend, never done or said anything to hurt you. So it hurt and offended me deeply to hear such words of anger and resentment being directed at me and those I care about.”

Chad,

I’m honestly surprised and sad to hear that I’ve hurt and offended you. Are you referring to this line from my story: "*very* strange, rural, masochistic, fundamentalist, KJV only, sectarian home church"? Or to something else? I was not writing in anger. I used to feel a lot of anger and resentment toward Heritage, but that was quite a while ago.

“You want me to talk about how I feel? Betrayal, that's what I feel. A friend who hates me, hates my family, and rather than simply say, "I disagree or I felt hurt" you make accusations to your friends and to the world who doesn't know the truth from your pseudo-intellectual high-horse. This is my experience. This is what I feel.”

That sounds really awful! But I wonder why you think I hate you and your family? Allow me to iterate here that I most certainly do not hate you. Can you be specific about what you are referring to when you say I made "accusations"? Is it the line above?

“You want my experience? You want what I feel? The angry, rotten drivel in the letters of hate you sent my father too many times. My mother began intercepting them and giving them to me because he would weep too greatly from the rending you recompensed for the pearls you were given.”

I'm intrigued that your mother intercepted letters sent to your father and gave them to you. Doesn't this strike you as an enormously unhealthy modus operandi?

“"Blame the victim?" How about you grow up and stop BEING a victim?”

I have. Thank you for asking.

"Why the venom?"

Again--could you be more specific? What venom are you referring to?

“I tell you that I am right in this: the world IS beautiful. Even through the hurt, the pain and the injustice.”

I partially agree. I would put it this way: The world is filled with horror and glory.

“I have held a young girl thrice raped by her uncle in a small village in Central America. She cried in my arms for a full fifteen minutes. Every man in her life she had ever met hurt her. She was starving and naked when she was finally rescued. She cried while I held her and whispered "Estas seguro." And you know what? She is safe now.

That's why life is bright. Because even out of pain can come hope, healing and renewal. She is a happy, joyful girl now that she has hope of a better future, and people who love her.

Your sad story can't even compare with her pain, Ben. You got kicked off a ship. She bled for a week from her torn vagina. She can see the silver lining, why can't you? The only answer is "perspective."”

That's an amazing story. I'm sorry that you had to kind of fuck it up at the end by comparing it to my story as you did. The older I get the more I'm convinced that each person's story is equally amazing, astounding, painful, and glorious. Qualitatively comparing them isn't a super helpful thing to do, it seems to me, at least not in the way you've done here. "Your pain is invalid because this other person's pain is worse". Like I suppose we could do the same sort of thing to this young girl's story too. Thinking of it like that shows what an awful thing it is to do. Do you intend to insist, years from now, that this little girl not remember and describe what happened to her in the clearest possible terms which she can? Will you rant against her for being accusing and bitter? Do you think that for her to forgive means that she must forget what happened to her, or pretend it wasn’t as awful as it was?

“And while we're at it, let me say that it's hard to respect you enough to tell your own story when you say such awful things about me and those of us who TO THIS DAY still love you.”

Again--can you be specific about what awful things I've said? I mean, is it that one line from my excommunication story, or are you referring to more than that? What do you mean when you say you love me? We’ve not spoken nor interacted in any way in several years.

Chad said...

Do you think using the term "masochistic" to describe us is a neutral comment?

Your shock and horror that I would find your comments offensive is about as real as the phony "sect" you've created in your mind to describe our church.

Joe said...

Chad: listen my friend, I have no goose to cook in this parade. There is absolutely no reason to attack me, if you have something to say to Benjamin, say it to him not me.

It is true that Benjamin appears to have rejected the worldview that he held in his youth, and which you apparently still hold. I am not sure that the bitterness stems entirely from this theology, however.

I find your manner obnoxious, to be frank. You say that you are Benjamin's friend 'even when he gets like this' - but elsewhere you allege that he sends your families abusive letters and he says he has had no contact with you in years.

Exactly what kind of friendship have you offered Benjamin recently?

Exactly what kind of a friend reads private communications to a pastor? I'm sorry, that is not normal church behaviour, and I've been around the block several times.

I agree with Benjamin, your story whilst admirable is irrelevant.

Benjamin: again I ask you to consider whether this is necessary. I'm not sure holding a theological position is itself abusive, and Chad clearly does not accept your allegations of abuse in his church, and to be fair other than a belief in hell, I'm not clear what you are referring to. If it is just a believe in hell, you need to get over yourself.

Chad said...

Sorry Joe. I did get mixed up in my comments to you and Ben. Didn't mean to do that.

You are witnessing the very first time in my entire life that I have ever been personally critical of Benjamin. And while we have both fallen out of contact (apart from the innocuous letter now and then), I have to this day never treated him the way he claims. He left in bitterness and that bitterness was never reciprocated by me.

After hearing him talk about growing up, it's like listening to a different person than I knew. So I have no idea what worldview Benjamin held in his youth, so I won't agree that I now hold it.

And you'll have to forgive my manner. I started out with only love and concern from a heart of pain at his comments and it devolved into hurt and frustration. That was wrong of me.

I apologize to you, Joe. I've never met you and I did not mean to snap at you or talk to Ben through my words to you. Thank you for your comments setting me straight.

I never read his letters, to be frank. I tossed them without reading them. But a few of his first ones were shared with me. Hardly letters to a "pastor" as you characterized them. Regardless, it was not an appropriate thing to make public. Benjamin knows what I am talking about (although he still feels no compunction about having written them) and it is much more appropriate to keep that between us. I am very sorry for this.

I'm done now. I've come full circle emotionally and there is nothing more I can or should say. Benjamin is going to say what he is going to say. My words or sentiments will not change him. I was foolish to think they might.