Our Story is not the cautionary tale; the System’s Story is

This morning I was talking to my dearest friend Teri King. This is a friend I met through Twitter in 2016/7 who says I saved her life through my LGBTQIA+ advocacy work. We met for the first time in person in Washington DC at an Alliance of Baptists conference in 2019, and our friendship has only grown stronger and more vibrant through the years—even though we have only been together in person once.

I can also say she has saved my life. She was a professional pastor for forty years through the SBC (Southern Baptist Convention). She also had to resign when she finally could no longer go on living a false life. So now she is in an unofficial role as a pastor dedicating her retired life to helping young/mid-age women grow in their gifts as a minister. She says this is her best ministry yet. I am one of the people she is guiding through the process. She mentored me through seminary and has written me incredible poems, both for me personally and when I have asked for poems to help with Bible classes I taught at church. Her gifts are incredible, and I cannot believe for such a time as this I get a Teri in my life. This is why I will not ever give up on believing there is a place for me in ministry as I am. I also will not give up on fighting for LGBTQIA+ rights and their full inclusion as friends in both the church and in our society.

This morning we talked about many things, but one subject in particular came from the gospel of Mark in chapter 9–“The Healing of a Boy with a Spirit.” This passage has come back to me in light of the ridiculous “thoughts and prayers” (Ts and Ps as the Bible Bing calls it) response from both conservative faith and political leaders who are using it to avoid any meaningful change in our gun legislation—even though our kids are dying in schools! And they dare call themselves pro-life. Bullshit.

This morning, Teri was intrigued by my interpretation of the Mark 9 passage and how it speaks into a current and pressing situation in our culture—guns. I am happy to come to your church/group/institution/etc to present my interpretation, if you are interested. I have gone to school to learn how to interpret scripture and I would love to use it. I am here and available. I also promise it will be open for dialogue too; it is not a lecture. I use scripture to figure out how to create much-needed and often difficult conversations, because it is a common source we have to dialogue together when our lived realities are different. We can tell our own stories both culturally and personally through scripture. This is how the word still breathes life today. If used the way I use it, it can teach us how to struggle and figure out where we think God and our ancestors’ stories can help us in our day and age in order to bring life in a culture of death. You might call it a pro-life approach.

The truth belongs to each generation. Scripture is a resource. It is not an answer book because it was all figured out in the past. It was not. And we are still killing Jesus systematically.

In our discussion, Teri asked if any other gospel tells the Mark 9 story too. So I pulled out my Gospel Parallels book from seminary for an easier reference. I know you can do this online, but I love books still. And I like how I can see the different wording side by side in this book. Matthew 17 and Luke 9 also tell this story. There are similarities and there are differences. Mark gives more details than the other two, but what they all have in common is Jesus’ words here: You faithless generation, how much longer must I be among you? How much longer must I put up with you?

Teri noticed what is actually being said by Jesus—How much longer do I have to put up with this shit?

Ha! It is true. Solidarity, Jesus. And by the way, cussing is in scripture. Paul cusses. Not sure where people think cussing is a worse offense than causing harm to people in the multitude of ways we do it, and also seem to never have to apologize for it either. Just pay money and no reparation work is needed (Fox News is a prime example of a real cultural and systemic problem—systemic narcissism is a public health crisis). And they try to use scripture for their justification. Well, friends, for such a time as this I was placed upon this earth.

Systemic narcissism is what happened to my family. See my last two blog posts. https://lindsaybruehl.com/2023/04/17/looking-at-our-neighbors-woundedness/. This one in particular. We did not get a money settlement either, only public shame—and it was allowed. That is what frustrates me and is causing me to speak up.

I am over the incident that should have never happened to my family. It was a shadow, and it taught me/us a lot about suffering—which has turned into grace. Our ego, which is only a dream, is dying and we are connecting to our soul—the only thing that is real. I would not go back and fix the past, even if it were possible. I would not do it now that I have done the healing work necessary giving me a different perspective. But, it does make me adamant the system needs to change. What is infuriating is watching the system move on like we are some acceptable loss who should have lived a less connected life and hated ourselves for not understanding the system. We are not the cautionary tale; the system is.

So with that said, I want to end this post with the reason I wrote it. What I wrote before is to show you how real scripture is to me in doing the repair work that is necessary to create a better future and a new order that will be more inclusive. It will also include repentance. High-trust systems have on thing in common: repentance is a spiritual practice.

I told Teri how the tentacles of the past tried to invade our lives again just recently. Of course this was going to happen. I am having to ground again and remember that is not where I belong anymore. But, that same system is in Oklahoma too. What I learned back there is guiding me now. The principality needs to be spoken to and here is what I want to say to my friends and family in light of what happened to us:

When a system abuses you, or someone you know was unjustly abused by it, do not sit idly by and believe this is how it is. And do not use the victim’s story as the cautionary tale. They are not the problem. The abusive system is the problem. And the system is more fragile than you may realize. A reactionary system is not a confident or grounded system. This is why it gets rid of the good people it believes to be naive first. Or if it sees a good trouble maker in its midst who is easier to discard because they will not fight back because they are typically self sacrificial. How we tell the Jesus story matters.

Here is a scripture story to maybe help you better understand what it is I am trying to say to my people in both Oklahoma and Texas.

Think of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane in the Luke 22:39-46. This story comes as the plot to kill Jesus thickens in the Lukan narrative. Jesus is going to the Mount of Olives to pray. His disciples followed him, and he tells them he hopes they are not met with a time of trial before he withdraws from them to pray. His prayer is for God to remove this cup from him. It becomes so intense his sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground. (That is serious anxiety and despair, friends. Jesus knows these intense emotions we feel, and he wanted out also!). When he finally surrenders to the will of God and goes back to the disciples, he finds them sleeping due to their own grief. (See, this is not new. This is hard. Our ancestors know this and are sharing their story with you about it. The amount of grief we are feeling is exhausting. The desire to check out is not unheard of—they experienced it too). Jesus wakes them up and once again says to pray they do not come into a time of trial.

As I read this passage again today, a lot of new things stand out to me. As I mentioned earlier, you can see it has always been hard for Jesus dealing with the extremely dangerous absurdity of their death-dealing culture. He understands this despair and the temptation to go to sleep because the grief is too much. But you do need to wake up. (Gives a whole new meaning to woke theology). If you do not, you may be met with the same trial too. The cautionary tale is not that being kind and helpful to people can get you killed; it is that a system is ready to crucify those who do. That is what we need to be aware of and realize we are part of that system. The system is people. Ask yourself how you are serving it and the ways you may also be allowing these things to happen because you are going to sleep in your grief.

You are not alone in this difficult struggle. Scripture, our cloud of witnesses, and people like my family are here to help you not feel alone. We all know it is hard and exhausting. There is joy, even with the scars, in the rising up and asking for a new order. We are saying it is better to go by the way of God. The way of what is good and holy. The way of love. Do not go by the way that leads to weeping and gnashing of teeth because the system makes you believe that is what will keep you safe. It will not.

Side note: I know this story comes right after the sword verse that gun-rights lobbyists use for their own agenda. I can refute that too, but not in this post. I just find it funny since I talked about guns in this post that it would line up that way. Spirit knows, and it is no accident. I mention this so you know I am aware. I am listening to the oppositions’ rhetoric and I can clap back.

Pulled out an oldie but a goodie from seminary today.

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