Today, I went to Mass. I had fallen off a bit in my attendance during a low couple of months but my priest (I refer to him as “my” priest, although I’m pretty sure he’s seeing other people*) gave me the push I needed to get back in the groove.
*Father PLSJ, please forgive me for that joke.
As usual, the homily seemed to be written specifically for me, because that’s how they work. As usual, I left feeling better. Happier, lighter, more at peace. I was ready to enjoy my afternoon with a little laundry, a little dancing, and probably a nap. As not usual, there was a note waiting for me when I returned to my car.
After the nanosecond of fear that I received a ticket (much like when a police car is behind you on the highway and you start going through your driver’s test handbook in your head, trying to find a law that you are breaking), I got out and grabbed what turned out to be a note.
I can’t tell you exactly what it said. I went back into the church and gave it to my priest (he presided over the Mass). I wasn’t sure what emotion I was filled with – maybe anger, maybe panic, maybe sorrow – but whatever it was, I knew keeping that note would intensify and prolong it.
The gist, however, was that this person was very disappointed that I voted for President Obama (yeah, the sticker is still on my car. Whatevs). S/he wrote how saddened they were by my support for the most pro-choice, something, something, Muslim president ever to be elected. There were a few other sentences about how misguided I was and how they hoped I’d make a better decision in the next election. It was addressed to “Sister in Christ” and signed with a similar vaguely religious but anonymous title.
Putting aside the creepiness of someone who watched me arrive to Mass and then left an anonymous note on my car (the “Sister in Christ” confirmed they knew I was female), I was shaken. I had often joked that someday, the Democratic stickers would result in my car being vandalized when I visited the considerably more conservative town where my parents reside or parked in the parking lot of a church whose parishioners had very strong political leanings. It hadn’t really occurred to me that while parked at a downtown meter outside my (fairly progressive) parish, I would receive a personalized condemnation by someone who considered themselves an authority on WJWD (What Jesus Would Do). It was the first time someone of the same faith had expressed judgment of me. Really – I know that may surprise some who think my wildly liberal views would send lightning surging through my body once the holy water hit my forehead, but this was my first encounter with overt disapproval.
The initial surge of adrenaline that was fueling my anger, panic, or fear has subsided, if not disappeared entirely. I will pray for this person. S/he feels a hollowness in their own faith that must be filled with the damnation of others. S/he is too cowardly to bring their petitions to me face-to-face and have to support their electoral argument. His or her concept of grace is restricted to a box-checking idea of religious merit – that if one votes a certain way or pastes these particular bumper stickers to one’s bumper must be stressful and joyless – rather than the knowledge that grace is extended to all. S/he didn’t hear today’s homily, where Father P’s interpretation of the scripture was that it wasn’t the blind and likely unsavory Bartimaeus who served as the lesson, but the crowd – the followers of Jesus who rebuked Bart and his pleas for help.
Rebuke means to express sharp and stern disapproval because of someone’s behavior or actions. The note of rebuke left on my windshield was probably written in the spirit of good faith. This person thinks they did the right thing. S/he thinks they helped me today. And they did, because I learned that the anger or panic or sorrow that my brain initially signaled to my body’s endocrine system was an extension of the lesson from scripture. While the crowd rebuked Bartimaeus, Jesus called him over and gave him sight, and without the condition of following his teaching. But Bart did follow Jesus. And hopefully, the crowd, and the Note Writer, learns that love, not judgment, is the key to grace.
To the person who left me this note: Next time, speak to me. Put your beliefs in the light and assign yourself to them. If you truly are a follower of Christ, there would be no need to hide behind the anonymity of an unsigned note. You should have the strength of heart to be a true messenger. My prayer for you is that your faith begins to sprout from love instead of the kind of anger only 4-year-old bumper sticker can arouse.
P.S. It really is creepy to watch me and leave a note on my car, so let’s just also keep that in mind when evangelizing, ‘kay?