It sounds weird, but I often think about visiting Harvey Weinstein in prison.
I know, I know…he’s a monster. And don’t get me wrong, I neither condone nor excuse any crime the man committed. And I don’t want to “hang out” with the guy or even be his friend. But there’s something about humanity in its most broken, humiliated and despised state that breaks my heart. Those among us who deserve love the least are probably the ones who need it the most.
I was raised by a preacher who was raised by a preacher who was married to a preacher who was raised by a preacher. There were twenty-one licensed ministers in my family at one time. My mother was raised by a preacher as well as my wife, who was raised by a preacher who was raised by a preacher. There might not be anything about modern Christianity in the 20th or 21st century, that I don’t know about already. Every person I’ve ever heard of who had some kind of “new light” was old news to me. I’ve heard it all and seen it all and sung it all read it all.
The Christian religion was my family business. I’ve watched my father hold ten thousand people in the palm of his hand, spellbound under the sound of his voice. I know how it feels “when the spirit moves.” I’ve fasted and prayed. And then I’ve lost faith. I’ve asked all the questions and I’ve gotten all the answers. And guess what? The answers didn’t cut it for me most of the time.
I snicker at most pastors. I yawn at mega churches. And don’t even get me started on “worship music.” Church, for me, became a construct; a nice place for people to hang out and sing songs and learn about Bible stories and check the box of tending to their spiritual self. But none of it was ever all that spiritual to me. It was work. It was a gig. It was a room full of people hoping they were in the right place, hiding all their deep dark secrets and literally praying to God that there was some forgiveness up there somewhere.
I love my family more than life itself, and a lot of people in the world need a church in their lives. But I personally stopped buying into church a long time ago. The only thing that has kept me intrigued by, halted by, changed by Jesus Christ is this one thing I can’t seem to get past …unconditional love.
See, love makes you do things that run counter to human nature. And that is significant in human events. No animal will rise against its own instinct for an abstract idea. But something happened around two thousand years ago, in the human race, that instructed all of us to do just that: bless those who hurt you, love your enemies, pray for those who despitefully use you. And that bothers me to no end. THAT’S the thing that separates Jesus, and what he stood for, from every other religion on earth. And it gives me hope that I too could be and can be loved despite who I actually am.
Because trust me …underneath this gorgeous exterior, I am unloveable.
Jesus walked in and among people who wanted to stone sinners. And yet he didn’t pick up any stones. Instead, he reasoned and called out the religious and forgave the unforgivable, even when stoning would’ve been completely legal and acceptable. Why did he do that? I’ve always wondered. Surely Jesus understood that laws had to be obeyed. Surely he knew that we couldn’t just run around letting people commit adultery, willy nilly. Surely he was a student of the scriptures and not some new age, bleeding heart fanatic trying to water down the gospel. Yet, he circumvented the ENTIRE law …for ONE whore. That’s got to mean something.
And that is what I constantly wrestle with these days. THAT is the only thing left that keeps me hanging on to anything having to do with the name of Jesus.
I was in a bar in New York once, with a famous atheist. We ordered drinks and he said, “Okay …give me your best shot. I know you’re a God guy. Let me hear your sales pitch.”
I just stared at him blankly. Finally I said, “dude, I’m here to drink, not turn you into a believer. I can’t do that. I don’t even want to do that. I’m only going to tell you this: I love you. And all of it is about love. God is a spirit and God is love. So if love exists, God must exist. And even if you don’t believe it …I love you. So cheers and shut up.”
At the end of the night he told me that was closest anyone had ever come to convincing him God was real. And he wanted to hear more. I just hugged him as his cab showed up. “I don’t care. I love you no matter what.” He climbed into the cab in tears. I’m pretty sure he’s still an atheist and I don’t care. I still love him.
And that gets me back to Harvey Weinstein. I just want to look through the prison glass at him and tell him that someone loves him. Because I somehow think that’s what Jesus would do. And I think people like Harvey probably need to hear it more than anyone.
And that leads me to Jussie Smollett …
That kid has done something he will never be able to rise above. Or maybe he will. Maybe he’s just waiting on the smoke to clear so he can sell his story to Netflix for seven figures, once he gets out of prison…which is where he’s going. Maybe he has no conscience. Maybe he is a despicable human being. Maybe he is everything we want and need to despise. Well, once you get there …Jesus shows up. And it still makes us uncomfortable. And that’s why Jesus is still relevant.
I don’t like what Jussie Smollett did. It was dangerous and evil and despicable. And I think he should be punished severely for it. And yet something inside me wants to reach out to that kid and tell him that I love him. I want to tell him that I also love president Trump. I want to tell him I’m sorry he lives in a world where what he lied about was even plausible. Then, I want to tell him that there’s a hope you can find that will allow you to disagree with people and still love them. It will drive you to tenderness and mercy, when those things aren’t deserved. It’s the love that forgives the unforgivable and redeems the unredeemable.
And if it’s not big enough for him …then it’s not big enough.
But it is big enough. And that’s good news for all of us.
Especially me …
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