I had no idea how that post would resonate with so many people. When I wrote it for my blog, I was writing for an audience of family and friends. It was public, and I had no problem with it spreading far and wide, but I didn't expect it.
Then, I read a letter a friend had written. It was to herself on the day her son was diagnosed with Angelman syndrome. It was touching and beautiful and personal. It inspired me to write my own letter to myself, on the day that my daughter was diagnosed with Apert syndrome. That letter came very easily. It is hard to write to everyone, but I can write to me. I don't have to worry about offending me. I don't have to give the whole back story. I know what I was thinking and what mistakes I was going to make. It was a good letter.
Prior to that, I had heard of The Mighty, and read a few of their stories, but not many. I am in a few groups for families of kids with special needs, and Apert syndrome groups and craniosynostosis groups. I follow Children's hospital, where my daughter gets amazing care from amazing people. I am, I guess, in the right circles to see these stories and I had, but only in passing. When I wrote the letter, I was trying to decide if I should publish it on my blog or send it to them. They had inspired me to write it. I started reading on The Mighty. I loved their mission. I loved their stories. It is a great page, and I decided to send my letter to them. Then I scoured my own blog for other blog posts which might have a broader appeal and I found one I had written about people who stare.
The Mighty accepted and published both my submissions. The letter to myself was quietly well-received. The letter to all parents was very popular, though. As soon as my post was up, I started getting friend requests and messages from strangers on Facebook. I found my post popping up in unlikely places. My friends would tag me when they saw it. It was exciting. I got a lot (A LOT) of feedback, and almost all of it was very positive. The Mighty is intent on building a broad and accepting community, so even criticism wasn't very harsh.
Today, the post went live on Yahoo. That is scary. That is not an insular special needs world. Both the point and the problem: that is a huge platform for my quiet voice.
That is intimidating.
I had been meaning to write about the most common disagreement. Not all parents feel the same. Not all kids feel the same. The message is not universal. I should write that. All these rattling thoughts should find their way on to a page. Universality is a tall order.
But this time, there is a complaint which hit me a little harder. I wrote, "I already have to teach my girls that loving people who are mean is part of what it means to be Christian." I wrote it. And just like my letter to myself, it makes sense to me. But some people heard all kinds of things I didn't mean.
The people being mean must not be Christian.
Non-Christians can't love or act lovingly.
Christians are better people, more moral and more loving.
That criticism stings. I didn't say those things! I wouldn't say those things! If they knew me they would know... but that is the point. They don't. If I am writing for a forum that large, my words have to stand on their own. Are my words implicitly anti-non-Christian?
Honestly, I don't think they are, but I hear it. I hear the sensitivity. I hear the accusation. I hear the frustration.
Steven Greydanus wrote a very harsh review of the Movie, "God's Not Dead." I haven't watched the movie so I won't speak to that, but the review offers this gem, "God’s Not Dead paints a starkly binary picture in which true believers are essentially without moral faults, have no need to grow or change, and generally sacrifice nothing of value for their faith, while unbelievers are essentially devoid of redeeming traits, lead empty lives, and are left in the end with a bald choice between conversion or despair."
Because, in fact, there is a narrative that insists that Christians are always the hero. Everyone else is always the villain. We are the persecuted, and never-ever-ever the persecutors. We are going to Heaven triumphantly and to Hell with the rest of you. (Seriously, if anyone quotes that out of context, I am going to look like the worst person. Don't do it, guys.)
It is not a true narrative, but it is popular and dearly held.
I am a Christian. Honestly living my faith means, explicitly, loving enemies, which is a step beyond most interpretations of what being a decent person means. But Christians fall short and non-Christians step up. Certainty we are not the only faith claiming similar teachings. Watching how people act toward mean people is not an indicator of faith or lack thereof, even if I would like it to be.
I am teaching my kids my faith. A lot of what I teach my kids is universal. I am using my perspective and my language. Being mean is bad. Being mean is sinful. Not quite the same, but certainly not mutually exclusive. Both statements are true. This faith that I am trying to share with my kids requires certain behavior. The same behavior can certainly have other motivation.
I certainly did not mean to imply that people who are not Christian cannot or should not love. Nor did I mean to assert that Christians don't act badly. There is enormous evidence to the contrary. I won't apologize for my faith. I won't take it back. I meant what I said, but I did not mean what you heard.
So, another letter:
Dear Sera and Chuck and everyone else who thought I was heaping manure on non-Christians,
I am very sorry.