Early this week my husband received a series of messages from a man he vaguely knows through his work. I’ll call him Rob. Rob is married to one of Duke’s colleagues, but neither Duke nor I recall ever having a conversation with him in person or online. The first message Rob sent suggested that after attending rock concerts last week we needed to attend a Southern Gospel concert and be spiritually uplifted. Duke and I looked at one another and decided Rob didn’t realize that while we are music lovers, the style he was suggesting wasn’t high on our list. Duke and I attend all kinds of performances and events, especially rock concerts. Last week we enjoyed the Blue Man Group and U2 in Chicago, and then saw the Rolling Stones in Kansas City. Next week we’re headed to Lifest, a Christian rock festival where we’ll hear hard rock bands like Skillet, Red and Thousand Foot Krutch. There might be some Southern Gospel there, but I doubt it.
Duke responded to Rob, politely declining his invitation, and then the messages got a bit more emphatic. Here’s a sampling of Rob’s points:
• If Duke calls himself a Christian he shouldn’t attend rock concerts.
• Rock concerts are evil and a waste of money.
• Jesus wouldn’t attend a rock concert.
• Duke’s wife doesn’t approve (I’m guessing he means me???) of his musical choices.
• The head of Duke’s company wouldn’t approve.
• God doesn’t approve.
• Were we planning on attending church after being involved in something as vile as a rock concert?
• Duke is a hypocrite.
• Duke is going to hell.
In the middle somewhere of all the messages, Duke suggested he’d welcome a conversation but that this was not a topic best done via e-mail or Facebook chat. The messages kept coming. After being told he was going to hell, Duke said he was ending the conversation. A couple more messages came through before Duke “unfriended” Rob on Facebook. Our final message to this “brother in Christ” was that we would be praying for him. We have and will again whenever he comes to mind. I’m also praying for his wife, because I’m pretty sure she could use it, too.
In case you aren’t aware, Duke and I are unapologetically Christians. On my Facebook profile I’ve stated I’m more conservative than some and less than others. Duke is actually more conservative than I am – and probably a better Christian when you look at how he lives and loves and serves. I married him because he is a genuinely good man who practices and rarely preaches. And he lives life large! He is free from the life-sucking legalism I was raised with, and while he has strong opinions about what is right and wrong for himself, he doesn’t judge where people are at spiritually.
The same day we received Rob’s messages, Duke and I attended a church service honoring military personnel to celebrate Independence Day. It was a moving experience as we watched nearly every person in the room stand to honor a family member who has served our country. We pledged our flag, sang our anthems and listened to a former Marine share his story. Our freedom as a nation has been won through the sacrifice of men and women willing to give their lives. Recent events in the news has attempted to polarize and divide people into camps of conservative or liberal, white or black, straight or gay. I am not naïve enough to believe that we, as a nation will ever all agree on certain issues, but the ugliness that has erupted saddens me. The ugliness of Rob’s messages to Duke shocked, then angered, and then saddened me deeply. So why am I sharing all this with you? My point has very little to do with the rightness or wrongness of rock concerts. Whatever spiritual path you are on the tone of Rob’s messages is appalling. The daily news is heartbreaking. So this is a meditation on freedom. It’s about freedom to live and love and serve – freedom to put meaning and action behind our beliefs and values. Freedom to disagree without diatribe.
It’s obvious to me that while we have certain freedoms in this country, we have a very long way to go to find emotional and spiritual freedom. We don’t have to agree with one another – and when we don’t I believe we have an opportunity to put our faith and values into practice. I believe we must treat one another with dignity and respect, that we must allow God to work change in people’s lives, and that we are here to be light in the darkness.
In one of his final messages Rob told Duke not to approach him ever again, that he was turning his back on Duke because of his sinful behavior. I don’t know about Duke, but I plan to seek Rob out at our next opportunity to give him a hug and kiss on the cheek. I will tell him that I hope and pray he finds freedom to live, to love and to serve.