Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Lawsuits Among Believers

You might say I've taken some serious flak from some corners, as my title suggests. And there is some validity to the sentiment expressed. The problem is, as you will read below, that I did take it before the saints, and could not get my point across to them. I wish I could tell you what is going on behind the scenes, but I am forbidden to share anything but the most cursory details. And it's probably not a good idea under any circumstance to have anything up beyond the vague.

When any of you has a grievance against another, do you dare to take it to court before the unrighteous, instead of taking it before the saints? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases?  Do you not know that we are to judge angels—to say nothing of ordinary matters?  If you have ordinary cases, then, do you appoint as judges those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame. 
Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to decide between one believer and another, but a believer goes to court against a believer—and before unbelievers at that?
In fact, to have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded?  But you yourselves are wrong and defraud—and believers at that.- 1 Corinthians 6:1-8

What I will say is this. Our legal system is probably the least Quaker institution I can possibly imagine. One might as well toss the Testimony of Integrity out the window. Bluffs, dares, charges, counter-charges, bargaining, intimidation, fear. I've participated reluctantly, wishing there had been some other way, some means of getting my point across by any other method.

When compromise breaks down and boundaries aren't respected, one has few other options. Some people have privately expressed their concerns that the emotional strain might get to me, that it might exacerbate existing illnesses. But like Lester Burnham in the movie American Beauty, I'm really just an ordinary guy with nothing to lose. And if that ever changes, I can leave the table with the satisfaction of knowing I proved to myself I could do it, that it was a personal challenge and an intent to right the wrongs that had held so many down.

It's amazing how quickly people turn tail and flee, e-mails go unanswered, and people quickly change the subject when the mere mention of lawsuits and litigation are raised. My plan initially was not to go this alone. This house of worship has claimed many victims over the years. Much schism and turbulence have been observed. I was hoping to find one or two people who might join me. I found lukewarm support, fear of the unknown, and the only person I did initially attract had her own cause to advance and didn't much care to sign on for mine.

This is why I stand alone today. I've heard a thousand pleas for intervention in years of involvement, pleas that something major might teach a few bullies a lesson. I guess you could say I'm tired of talking and am more interested in doing. Even if I have to use a system for the duration which I find, frankly, immoral, I will get down in the dirt temporarily and start digging. I would not have done this for any other cause or for any other house of worship.

I received a word of advice the other day, and it's quite sound. Continue forward, but always look within yourself. If it ever becomes a matter of revenge or a matter of money, step away. I can say with every ounce of honesty I can muster that this isn't about me or money. It is the people much less motivated than me and perhaps too scared to stand beside me. It is about the reformers who stood in my position today over decades who either choked down what they were force-fed or who left in sorrow.

The legal system tries to make it about money or revenge. I suppose this was true even in the first century A.D., when my opening passage was written. Sad to say, I'm afraid to say that though houses of worship and religions encourage people to be nice to each other, they are rabidly political and often extremely unwelcoming. We live in an age when people my own generation and younger are drifting away from church, but few of those experiences come from direct experience, more as a kind of cultural dislike of organized religion.

Why did I choose to file suit? Partially it's because religion gets enough of a bad name already. Another reason is that I think that people need a periodic dose of life lessons and moral teachings to remind us that we constantly fall short. This isn't meant to humiliate us, merely to express that we often fall short of the mark, and while that's no one's fault, it is our obligation to start again at our beginnings. And those lessons, if genuinely applied, would not have injured me and others.

My calling is to bring people back to God. In that regard, I am no different from any other prophet, though I would never assign that term to myself. In a different era, it is true that people went to church with greater frequency, but I think the amount of true sincerity among believers probably hasn't changed much. Instead of saying we act one way and doing another or playing pious, today we don't disguise our real feelings. This is to say that I know I am speaking to some and not to everyone.

People of faith, let's really talk about the truth and the bodies we keep buried. An increasingly skeptical age needs convincing and needs to know that there is some reason why they ought to be in attendance. To conclude, I filed suit because I see how tenuous that balance is and how corrupting the wrong sorts of personalities can be.

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