blasphemy and Blasphemy; Of Ignorance and Malice

31 10 2009

You were betrayed by a close friend, once, maybe even recently.  I feel your pain.  We’ve all been there.  Even the friend who betrayed you was probably betrayed.  The rude comments from some stranger in an internet forum were annoying, at worst, but the day that your friend turned on you still eats at the back of your mind like a weeping sore.

 The world is full of critics who blast the President of the United States with insults of the vilest sort.  He probably needs the skin of an alligator to hold his job.  But the rants of a thousand critics are nothing, compared to the passing remark of a close friend or a spouse.  The difference is in the closeness of the relationship.  Insults from someone who actually knows me hold more water than the snide remarks of someone I’ve never met.  The difference is in the knowing.

 Contrary to what you may have been told, no one actually knows Jesus.  No one, despite the abundance of statements to the contrary, actually has a relationship with Christ, directly.  He walked the Earth two thousand years ago, and I prefer to think that no one who knew him is still alive to make any reliable account of the man.  Judas knew the man.  Now, there was a man capable of true betrayal.  He was one from the inner, inner, circle.  Somehow, though, he found that a few gold coins were worth more to him than his friendship with the messiah.  That betrayal was a cut of the deepest kind.  He was driven by the Devil from the moment he decided to turn, to the moment that he jumped from the cliff and spilled his guts all over the ground.

 Don’t worry, friend.  You can never be a Judas.  We’re long past getting Jesus killed.  There’s so much that we never knew about Christ.  What jokes did he laugh at?  What little thing annoyed him?  Yeah, Christians say all the time that they know Jesus, but, in truth, one could know him about as well as one could know Abraham Lincoln.  Read all you want.  Research every thesis written for the last two thousand years, but you never knew the man.  You only know about him.

 However…the Holy Spirit is among us (Ah, yes, that other person of the Trinity who walks the Earth, even now).  If we know the Spirit, then we know Jesus, for he is to Jesus what Jesus was to the Father, in Heaven.  You can mock and ridicule Jesus all you want, but you never knew the man.  You speak from ignorance.  Your comments have no merit.  The Holy Spirit, though, is another matter.

 The Spirit stands available to everyone.  He’s like the person that’s always in the room; you may not have made his acquaintance, but he’s always there.  You may not have noticed him for the crowd of people you’ve spent your time with in conversation, but you have probably made eye contact on more than one occasion.  He looks like someone who has something to tell you.  We all have an open invitation to engage in dialogue with the maker of the universe.  Well, most of us do, anyway.  The fact is that some people have actually been Christians, knowing the Holy Spirit personally, but, everyone who has ever lost a friend to betrayal knows, once that relationship is rejected, there’s no great risk of going back.  I’m not talking about the kid who grew up in a Christian home but never really got it.  I’m not talking about one who got distracted by temptations and trivialities along the way.  This is not the prodigal son, here.  What I’m talking about is that breed of atheist who says, “I used to be a Christian, but…(I’m wiser now).”

 In theory, even the apostate former Christian could turn back to Christ, but the draw isn’t there.  The tug of the call of the Father in Heaven just isn’t what it used to be.  In reality, any true conversion is a miracle.  It goes against our very nature.  It simply won’t happen without an act of God.  The apostate man, though, does not walk away from the faith for want of understanding.  No amount of witnessing gets to him, because he already knows as much about God as the average believer.  He didn’t leave God because he didn’t know any better.  He left God because he was evil, and he chose evil over his friendship with God.  A genuinely apostate former Christian spends his life writing posts slamming Christianity.  When he’s not overtly trying to tear down the faith, he’s looking, like a wooly wolf, for believers, with some hope of sparking discouragement or doubt.  In short, he is as fallen as the Devil, with the same intentions and the same destiny.  Beware of such people.  In a position of real power such a person might try to kill us all.

 Apparently, you, too, can be a Judas, after all.  I take back what I said, earlier.  You can betray the Holy Spirit.  You can malign the God that you do know.  The danger is real, because, unlike Jesus, the Holy Spirit is accessible to all people.  Jesus was confined to a small area on the East coast of the Mediterranean, but his Spirit is global.

 Blaspheme Jesus, and you can be forgiven.  Blaspheme the Holy Spirit, and God will turn his back on you.

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 Justin was his name.  I knew you were wondering.  One does not write about betrayal without someone in particular in mind.  I first met the kid in kindergarten.  We fought back-to-back on the playground through the first half of elementary school, back when we were too young to do any serious damage.  We played with G. I. Joes and plastic toy guns.  We dreamed of being spies or soldiers when we grew up.  We were always at each other’s birthday parties.

 Justin’s father was a chain-smoking mostly-unemployed alcoholic, who loved his pornography and hung it on the wall next to the bed, opposite his wife.  He had the temper of a pit bull with rabies, and he seemed to think that romance involved raising his voice and griping at his wife like she was an unruly cur.  With time, his son came to be a reflection of his father, an insufferable wretch.  Father and son both took turns grinding Mother into the ash-fouled carpet, verbally.  Yet, both swore they would pound anyone who dared speak ill of her.

 By junior high school, my childhood friend was my worst enemy.  He was still, technically, my friend, but his methods had changed.  He took to bossing me around and insulting and threatening  me, .  If he didn’t like what I was wearing, then he kicked mud on it.  With his severe under-bite and his thick black hair, coupled with his less-than-charming disposition, he earned for himself the nickname of “Fred Flintstone” among those who were lucky enough not to be his friend.  I never called him that, but that didn’t stop him from pointing his finger in my face and accusing me of thinking it.  When we were sitting at lunch outside at school, and he spit in my face, I chased him out of the lunch area.

 The next day, I wondered if he would dare come back to join us at the lunch table, having dared to do the unthinkable to a friend.  He did.  He told me, in no uncertain terms, that I was a nerd (I was…am), and that I was blemishing his reputation among the other students.  The last thing he ever said to me was that if it weren’t for him, I would have no friends.

 “Really?”  I said, “You think so?”  Then I got up and joined a student who was sitting by himself.  Our mutual friend, Jeremy, went with me.  The new friend’s name was Gus, which reminds me; I should be writing to him instead of writing this post, but I digress.  The endeavor was so successful, that I made it my mission to seek out students that had no friends.  There were more than I had, at first, realized.  The last one to join our group was Doug, who thought I was mocking him for the first few weeks that I said hello to him.  The last day of school, we sat on the lawn and congratulated each other for overcoming the enormous crushing pressure of trying to belong.  It goes down as one of the brightest, happiest days of my life.

 Justin sat alone at lunch, all the way into high school.  He never looked at me for the remaining years that we went to the same school.  He never said a word.  I was there when he made his next friend.  I was standing right behind him when that friend cast him off as a crazy control freak.  His own father even found God, and turned his life around.  His father, now a meek and inspired fellow, looks nothing like he used to be.  He finally quit his vices, and he treats his wife like a doting newlywed.  Perhaps, eventually, this will wear-off on Justin; perhaps not.

 I won’t know if it does, because I won’t be there to see it.  I turned my back on him years ago.  He went his own way, and I’ve never tried to get his friendship back.

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