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UpBeat Spiritual Living: Gifts and Choices, Part 1

September 9, 2010


© 2010 Kebba Buckley Button, M.S., O.M.  World Rights Reserved.

I love the daily comic strips, for their wise and often wry views of human nature.  A recent storyline in the “Luann” family comic strip (http://comics.com/luann/) raised some powerful issues. Centering on the clean-cut DeGroot family, this strip airs out the relationship dynamics of teen Luann and her friends and relatives.  The storyline recently featured Dirk, an abusive ex-boyfriend, returning to town after a stretch in prison, convicted for violence to beautiful Toni.  Toni is now dating Brad, Luann’s brother.  Toni and Brad seem to be headed toward commitment and marriage.  While Toni and Brad are both firefighters, Dirk is now a garbage man.  Mrs. DeGroot sees Dirk collecting garbage and calls him by name, but he denies he is Dirk.  She asks if he is stalking her family. He says no, that he is a changed man.  He then holds out a cross pendant.  Mrs. DeGroot says, “OK, you’re wearing jewelry. So what?”

In brandishing a cross, Dirk is trying to evoke Mrs. DeGroot’s ideas about what/who a Christian is.  He wants her to assume that he is now kind and trustworthy, subscribing to basic Christian values.  Mrs. DeGroot wisely declines to jump to those conclusions, reserving her opinion of the New Dirk until she hears and sees more.  As an ordained minister, I was delighted at her reaction.

Many of us have experienced unchristian behavior from people who wanted us to think of them as Christians.  At one time, I worked for a manager who wore a 2-inch cross to work every day.  It was always carefully in view.  I gradually learned that she liked to make employees as unhappy as she could, preferably to make them suffer until, if possible, they resigned.  Others’ suffering was her joy.  She explained to me that she did this “because she could”.  She was savoring her power over others, not to uplift, build up, or prosper anyone or any cause.  She enjoyed causing pain.  She wrote false review comments about employees in order to justify demoting them or requesting to fire them.  A few months into her persecution of a key employee, she began wearing a cross pendant that was more than 4 inches long.  She attempted to portray that she was a Christian, suffering under the association with… a hard-working, popular, productive employee, with a positive attitude, who did not lie or try to manipulate others with cultural ideas about Christianity.

Volunteering for a famous ministry conference, I was surprised to be warned not to leave anything valuable unattended.  I wore my tiny travel purse on my hip.  Somehow, my husband came home without his wallet.  It was never “found”, nor was the wallet or any part of the contents returned.  We could not assume that only honorable people were attending the conference, just because it was a Christian conference held in a conservative Christian church.  I was shocked about this for weeks.

How would you react to these situations?

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Reach the writer at Kebba@kebba.com

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