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My friend, atheist advocate & activist, and SASHA blog guest author, Damon Fowler, posted this to Jessica Ahlquist in response to the treatment she is receiving by so-called “Christians” following the recent ruling regarding the prayer banner:
I’m really sorry you have to deal with that kind of treatment. People would always tell me “You don’t want to talk to those kinds of people anyway”, which is probably true, but it didn’t make it much better. I guess the best advice I can give is keep what friends you have close, don’t act like you’re bothered by it in front of them, and keep your online support on standby. I’m sure anyone would be willing to listen if you needed someone to talk to. I’m here and I know a bit about what you’re going through. Anyway, things will get better. You did a great thing.
I’m not trying to give unsolicited advice, but I disagree that someone should act like discrimination/bullying etc doesn’t bother them, if indeed it does (as it should!). Their behavior is not only completely unacceptable morally, but it’s also illegal, and ironically, anti-Christian. I think in some cases, in the face of egregious bullying, it can be more productive to call the bullies out on it, very publicly, especially if you have the option of “low-hanging fruit”; for example, you might say…
“Jesus said, ’You have heard it said, love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you’ (Matthew 5:44). Jesus said, ‘If someone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat as well’ (Matthew 5:40, Luke 6:29). Do you think that I am evil? Then remember what Jesus said about evildoers: ‘Do not rise up against an evil person; if someone slaps you on your right cheek, turn your other cheek to him as well’ (Matthew 5:39).
What you should really be doing, instead of getting mad at me, is asking yourself if you are really a Christian, or if you are what Jesus called the Pharisees, a hypocrite – the Greek word for an actor, someone who pretends to be righteous, but in reality, is selfish, prideful, and wicked. If you are really a Christian, you will do as Jesus commands, even when it’s difficult, ESPECIALLY when it’s difficult. If you are really a Christian, you will recognize your pride, your indignation, and stand up for what Jesus taught – tolerance, and peace with those who disagree with you, but most of all, forgiveness to those who persecute you. If you are really a Christian, you should be asking yourself, “Would would Jesus do?”
You believe that Jesus could work miracles, that he could do anything he could imagine with just a mere thought. When Jesus was being tortured by the Roman soldiers after his arrest, did he summon lightning to strike them dead? No, he prayed for them. When Jesus was hanging by nails through his feet and wrists on the cross, did he spit on his executioners, call them names, and threaten them? No, he asked God to forgive them.
In Romans 13, the Apostle Paul wrote, “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.” By persecuting me, you are disrespecting the judge’s decision that the banner is unconstitutional, and by disrespecting the judge, you are disrespecting God. Christians are commanded to obey the governments that God has placed over them. When the Apostle Paul wrote that, he was writing under the Roman emperor Nero, perhaps the most tyrannical and anti-Christian government in Christian history. Under Emperor Nero, Paul – who, unlike Jesus and his other apostles, was a Roman citizen – was executed, a nearly unprecedented punishment for a citizen. The Apostle Paul had every imaginable reason to fight his government, but he steadfastly refused – in fact, he encouraged obedience, because this is what Christians are commanded to do. If Saint Paul could obey the decisions of his government, even in the face of his own execution, what makes you think you don’t have to?
You call yourself a Christian; why is it that I, an atheist, am more kind than you? Jesus wanted you, as his follower, to set an example of how to treat people, regardless of whether they are Christian or not, and ESPECIALLY if they persecute you. You call yourself a Christian; why is it that I, an atheist, am more civil, more peaceful, more gentle than you?
If you choose to persecute me, if you choose to disrespect the judge’s decision, understand that, as Paul himself said, you will bring judgment on yourself. Your words and actions are bigoted and hateful, not forgiving and peaceful, as Jesus taught. You are treating me this way out of your own selfishness, bigoted intolerance, and lack of respect, love, and generosity toward your fellow man. Further, your thoughts, words, and actions are explicitly against the instructions of both Saint Paul and Jesus himself. And if you are a Christian, you YOURSELF believe that you will face judgment for this. You think that I am going to hell because I am an atheist? I stood up for the United States Constitution, even though it was difficult, even though I knew I would face hatred from hypocrites like you. And I did it with respect, kindness, and a desire for tolerance. And what do you do in return? Directly, blatantly, and pridefully disobey Jesus himself. And as the Bible says, whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it (James 2:10). So I have news for you: If you want to call yourself a Christian, you have two choices: Regardless of whether you agree with it or not, and regardless of what you think of me personally, you must respect the judge’s decision, and you must treat me with love, tolerance, peacefulness, and forgiveness, as Jesus commanded, or you will burn in hell yourself, according to your very own rules. The choice is yours.
If there’s one thing I hate, it’s having to teach someone their own damn religion. Ugh.
A note to Jess:
I want you to know that the 550+ members of SASHA are behind you 100%. You are an an inspiration, an amazing person. These “Christian” bullies, they get defensive and angry because that is how our brains respond to cognitive dissonance – when they are demonstrated to be wrong, but they cannot cope with it. They know they are wrong, but nobody likes to be wrong, and it’s easier for them to lash out at you instead. That is not only childish, selfish, and wicked, but it’s also anti-Christian. Their own religion tells them, in no uncertain terms, to love their enemies, to forgive those who persecute them, and to obey their government. Take heart in knowing that you are right, and no amount of bullying can take that away. And frankly, in terms of love, kindness, forgiveness, and tolerance, you are showing THEM how it’s done.
Keep up the great work. We’re here for you if there’s anything at all we can do to help. I’m looking forward to hanging out with you again and hearing you speak at the Reason Rally!
P.S. You’re not old enough for this yet, but here’s what we enjoyed when we got the news that you’d won
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Dave Muscato is Vice President of MU SASHA. He is a vegetarian, LGBTQ ally, and human- & animal-welfare activist. A junior at Mizzou majoring in economics & anthropology and minoring in philosophy & Latin, Dave posts updates to the SASHA blog every Monday, Thursday, and Saturday. His website is http://www.DaveMuscato.com.
and don’t forget… other SASHA members! We are here for you, too!