I’ve almost always been the kinda girl who inevitably finds myself mixed up with the wrong crowd. And I’ll admit that for most of my life that ‘crowd’ has created a level of stress and worry in my parents and family; not to mention strained relationships between us all.
In junior high (where it all got started) I seemed to gravitate toward the kids who came from rough backgrounds – divorced or absent parents, low-income, hard living, wrong side of the tracks kinda kids. My friends were the ones who started fights in the hall before school – and not just ridiculous cat fights either – I’m talkin’ about knock-down, drag out fights. It was cool. Although I never actually got in a fight or skipped a class, my parents we generally surprised (and thankful) that I didn’t get suspended right along with the rest of them. I guess they had the mentality that I was automatically ‘guilty by association.’
In high school I seemed to find my niche in the loner crowd. This group consisted of an assortment of personalities, backgrounds, and ethnic origins. Some were artists, others were musicians, some were into cars and small engines, while others joined the Latin and chess club, and still others were just dope smokers and class skippers. Some of these kids were smart – really smart – and others were…….well, lets just say they weren’t the brightest crayons in the box. I fit somewhere in the middle and was able to remain a non-participating member of the group.
Once I found myself eight hours away from home at college, I once again used my keen sense of friend finding and became friends with a group of people who truly didn’t belong at school. This was a Christian college (the only one my parents would pay for that wasn’t located in my tiny home town) and they had standards. “We” weren’t Christians and were only there because of scholarships or our parent’s insistence. This particular crowd was comprised of the students that skipped classes, partied all night long, smoked, drank, and had sex. **cue the collective shutter** And unlike my former days of being just friends but not participating in any of their bad habits, while in college, I was an active, if not the charter member of the “wrong crowd” club. In fact, I might be the only person in the history of this college who was asked to leave by the Dean! No, it wasn’t a proud moment for me or for my parents….ah, the days of young stupidity. Anyway….
After my short stint in college I decided to really find Jesus. And we all know that His crowd has often been the ‘wrong ‘one – at least according to society. For thousands of years, these authentic Christians have wreaked havoc on social standards, morals, and ethics. We’re kind and generous and accepting to a fault. We offer hope and an eternal promise of love and life. The mainstream just hates that. So they go picking and digging into backgrounds and histories; looking under rocks and piles of rubble that have long since been abandoned. Searching like a cadaver dog for some scrap – a shred of evidence that we were all once human. Sadly, there’s plenty of rubble to dig through and plenty of skeletons in our closets, because yes, we were all once human; and last I checked, we still are. Sure we’ve got our problems – who doesn’t? We can all be accused of being hypocritical, selfish, unloving, stingy, hateful, spiteful, ignorant, closed-minded, aggressive, rude, and every other unsavory out there. It happens. We’re not perfect – and thankfully we don’t have to be.
Here’s the rub though – the longer Jesus tarries the more ‘wrong’ being a Christian is going to become – despite our message of hope. In America we’ve been so fortunate to have the freedom to openly acknowledge, accept, and serve whatever God we want to. Currently, there is very little, if any real fear of being openly persecuted on a mass scale. Our church buildings stand proudly in our communities. Church-goers can freely come and go from worship services with our heads held high and our Bibles in hand. We can mail out literature, we can even hand it out to our neighbors and friends. We can stand on the street corners and shout out Bible verses to passers-by. We can even knock on someone’s door and share our personal testimony with them. All without fear of losing our home, our job, our family, our freedom, or even our life. At least not for now.
However, in the past 34 years I’ve seen a shift in the direction of society. In just my short lifetime I’ve seen church groups go from being openly welcomed in the public forum to being pushed into the corner and told to keep quiet. Friends, our next stops are the closet and then underground.
I’ve heard Billy Graham address millions over public radio and on national television programs – urging the listener to give their heart to Jesus.
I’ve prayed in school. I’ve been to student-led/teacher-supported Bible studies in school. I’ve worn Christian themed t-shirts to school and public events without being asked to take it off because it was defamatory. And I’ve openly held Bible studies in restaurants, cafes, parks, shopping centers, and community centers. But all that’s changing too.
No longer is it alright to carry a Bible with you, or share your personal beliefs with others who feel differently than you do. No longer can kids wear Christian themed attire to school – mind you they can show off nearly every inch of their own skin, but don’t bring anything wholesome into the mix. In many parts of the country kids are often denied rooms to hold Bible studies during school hours – teacher’s can’t be viewed as being supportive of that kind of thing – it might just jeopardize their tenure.
And, you will rarely, if ever, hear a preacher be invited onto national television or the public airwaves to give an address – let alone for them to say that Jesus is the only way to heaven.
I’m not one for fear-mongering, but I am realistic about how the world works. And friends, it won’t be long before our churches lose their tax exempt status. It won’t be long before zoning restrictions will be come so rigid that congregations will be forced to build only on the fringes of a community. In-home Bible study groups will be closed down by the fire marshal because they will ‘exceed the capacity limit’ for the premises, or will create a parking hazard on the streets. Christian bookstores will not be able to get business licenses. And churches who have ever accepted any Government monies (for anything) will likely be forced to compromise their core beliefs in order to keep their doors open. Within my lifetime neighbors will become enemies because of Christ. American families will be estranged because of the name of Jesus. Kids will not be allowed into schools or athletic leagues because they go to Sunday School or church. Churches will be torn down in favor of a shopping mall or another community center – eminent domain will become a catch-all for Government overstepping religious freedoms. Families will be denied home loans in certain neighborhoods because of religious beliefs. And so on it goes. Remember, we will not always be exempt from open persecution.
So as you can see, one day soon I will once again be an active part of the ‘wrong crowd’. This time it might cost me more than just a slap on the wrist though. How about you? Are you willing to give it all up in order to keep your Bible and your beliefs?