So did you watch? I hope so. I love to see where a lot of you live, so I wanted you to see a glimpse of where I come from. Maybe you saw the landscape and the community which is mountainous and rural. Maybe you were outraged by the way the community treated Mike Sisco back in 1987. Maybe you weren't, I don't know. But after reflecting on this, not just the past day or so, but for many years, I would like to share my feelings on that show and how it shaped me.
Like I said in the previous post, I was a few weeks shy of turning 12 years old when the Oprah show was aired back in November of 1987. It was all the buzz around school and around town. See, nothing special EVER happened in our little town, so you can imagine how a nationally syndicated program like "The Oprah Winfrey Show" actually filming in Williamson, West Virginia had everyone talkin'! I remember that our teacher even let us have discussions about it. Two of Mike Sisco's cousins were in my class and they told of how people were really cruel to the family and treated them like they were all but lepers or something! I remember being very confused as to why?
The reason it confused me was because, as you could see from the show, the people there are of a very strong Christian faith. I had been raised on it myself! I'd heard, from the time I was very young, of how God loved everyone and anyone could come to him and that we were ALL just sinners who needed Jesus. So I didn't understand it when I heard these very same same men and women, some in my own family, utter the complete opposite! "They (gays) just need to be shipped off to their own little island so they can all just die off. That would get rid of that AIDS stuff!" Or, "I don't want them anywhere near me or my family, that sin is an abomination!" But my thinking was, "Wait, isn't ALL sin an abomination?" Even at 12 years old, this just didn't sit right with me. And being the adult I am now, I'm not a bit fooled by many of those VERY SAME church folks who sat in their cushy, little church pews, who had their own deep dark sins all masked nicely by that fake little church smile they had on Sunday morning. So what I didn't get and still don't get is how they could so smugly wag their self righteous finger at a man for his sin, when they had sins of their very own? Didn't Jesus himself saying that "those without sin cast the first stone" mean anything to these hypocrites? Obviously not!
So that was a turning point for me. I was very ashamed at how the people in my own town portrayed themselves. You could just feel the hatred through the TV screen! It's funny, you'll hear a lot of people say that the Oprah show portrayed THEM unfavorably. But she didn't hold a gun to anyone's head and make them say the nasty, hateful, mean, critical things they said, but in the next breath claim to be a loving follower of Christ, did she? Their own words made them look ridiculous, Oprah didn't make them look that way. Sometimes people can't see their own sin, but they sure are quick as hades to point out someones elses!
At the age of 12, after seeing my town portrayed on the "Oprah Winfrey Show," and seeing how unkind the majority of them were, I just knew that I didn't belong there and that as soon as I could, I would get out. I was so hurt by the contradictions. The "Christian love" they spoke about wasn't available to "all." It was only available if you fit into their mold, met their standard. As if saying, "Yes, you need Jesus and His love and forgiveness, but you just go find Him over there somewhere. Not here. I can't offer that to you here." But Angie, that man was GAY! We can't have homosexuals in the church house! That's an abomination to the Lord! So where are they supposed to find the love that can transform their life then, if not from YOU, the CHURCH, the BODY OF CHRIST? When did it become ok to qualify or disqualify folks from the love of Jesus based on their worst sin? It's all sin. None of us...not even one is good enough for Him. Not even you! Well, but Angie, he didn't want it. He turned his back on God and chose that lifestyle! And my answer is, "Well, how the heck do you know? Are you God? Can you see into his heart?" Yeah, he may say that he doesn't want any part of the church, but would you want to be part of something that flat out looked you in the eye and said that you "repulsed" them? Because remember, YOU are the CHURCH. I wouldn't want to be a part of something that didn't want me! Would you? But Jesus wanted him. And I know, because I was looking too, that he had to have wanted Jesus. We are all looking for that perfect, pure, unconditional LOVE that only Jesus can give. I know Mike wanted that. Because didn't you want that? Was he so different than you or I?
Anyway...that experience wounded me. I thought, "The Jesus I know wouldn't do that...He wouldn't treat that poor man that way!" He says to the weary, "Come to me and I will give you rest." And if Mike Sisco ever needed rest and peace, my goodness, wouldn't the point where he was inflicted with a terrible disease, knocking on death's door be the time? Who is Jesus' hands? His arms? WE ARE! THE CHURCH IS!
Imagine for a second.....
What would have happened if that angry mob had enacted the actual REAL love of Jesus Christ that day and gathered around Mike Sisco and his family and just loved on them? Hugged them? Embraced them? Cried with them? What if someone looked him in the eye and told him that their Jesus LOVED him? That their sin was no better or worse than his? That they had been changed by Jesus love and that he could have that too! Don't you think he would have been clamoring to get some of that? Man, I know I would!
But oh didn't satan have a victory that day. Instead of the majority of the people there acting in kindness and love and compassion and being generous with those things, they let satan steal a moment, when a town, on national television, could have shown millions the way Jesus would have loved on a sick and dying man. What an opportunity missed! It made me sad then and it makes me sad now. Soon after, Mike left his home and his family and maybe never came to a place where he asked Jesus into his heart. We will never know. But my feeling is that he was wounded that day too...maybe to the point of turning his back on Jesus for good.
How detrimental has "the church" been to the cause of Christ I wonder?
I wasn't exaggerating when I said that that show changed my life and how I viewed the world and my walk with Christ. I knew there had to be more to Jesus than what I had grown up knowing. The same songs, the same sermons, the same blue hairs sitting in the same ol' pews, the same prayers, the same judgmental eyes, the same people arguing over the same ol' budget and the same ol' building and the same ol' property. JESUS DIED ON THE CROSS FOR MORE THAN THAT FOLKS!!!! I knew that deep in my heart and I wanted to experience MORE! Because if God was infinite, surely there had to be more than, "Gimme that ol' time religion and it's good enough for me." It wasn't good enough! Religion never is!
And I praise God that I haven't taken anyone's word for it...that I've sought it out for myself. He says, "Seek and you will find..." and I have...I'm still seeking and learning more every day! It's those people who just sort of settle into their comfy pew and never seek ANYTHING that scare me. "For many will say to me Lord, Lord and I will say depart from me, I never knew you." Do they even know Jesus? Did the people who spoke out in anger and hatred to Mike Sisco in Jesus name know Him really? It's not my place to say. I don't know their hearts. But I will say that hatred and bitterness and fear are NOT of God.
So, those are my thoughts and feelings on the subject. Let me also say that there are THOUSANDS of AMAZING people there. That Jesus love is displayed in gorgeous ways by folks that I could only dream of being more like. Not everyone there is hateful, judgmental and misinformed. And I do not in ANY WAY think I am better than anyone. If you walk away from reading this thinking that, then you have missed the whole point! All I want is for us as a body to closely examine our hearts and ask Jesus if we are really LOVING the way HE would love. That's all.
My prayer is that God uses me to be His hands and feet, even in a room where it's not popular or even if I get shouted down. That I would be brave enough to speak up for those who can't speak for themselves. To show the "world" the REAL love of Christ and that because HE wants them, I want them too....because HE wanted me.