-Pastor Melissa Fain-
Madonna had been excommunicated by the Catholic Church.
According to her, it was three times in all.
It was amazing for her image. After the fact, people loved her even more. I can still remember the very first time she was excommunicated. I had forgotten that it all started with Pepsi.
But I did remember the song in question: “Like a Prayer.” She skyrocketed once the Church openly declared she was outside of doctrine! They basically formed her into what she was going to become, and she was going to become a scandal to the Church and their systems.
It was the first time I realized getting real attention to positively change a system required being absolutely hated by some.
Not for the sake of being hated. I think there are those of us who love being hated just to be hated. Those are firestarters, and fires to just watch the flames are rarely good.
No, I’m talking about a group hating you because it upsets their status quo in a way that points out hypocrisy, and usually by those who are the most comfortable. I somehow always knew I needed that kind of hate to really get something done.
But I am nothing.
More specifically, I’ve been “nothing’ed.” It’s what you do to people and groups that leave no sort of real impact at all. You say, “neat,” and move on, then in 8-10 years you think, “Oh, remember that thing Melissa did? I wonder how it’s going.” You search me up and either see I’ve quit or kept going. Your curiosity has been filled, and you once again put it all out of your memory and move on.
I’m not saying that to be angry. To be very clear, I’m not. I’ve done it too. We can’t help but do it, and I’m one of the most forgettable people on planet Earth.
Like so forgettable that when I would sit in a classroom the teacher would yell out, “Where’s Melissa?” and they would be looking right at me while saying it. So forgettable, that my first church job wrote out their history for their anniversary and I was completely written out. (It was a very small church. Only two jobs and I worked it for three years and held two positions.) So forgettable, that I was sitting in on a planning meeting for a Scout Project, a project I had been intimately involved in for the previous two years, and someone looked me in the eyes and said, “Who are you?”
I am nothing. I have always been nothing. No one wants to hate me, because no one can remember me long enough to form any lasting opinions of me.
I want to be hated.
I know that’s hard to understand. Why would anyone want to be hated? Being hated doesn’t feel pleasant. It doesn’t bring accolades or fancy houses and cars. People don’t strive for hate.
Only in my world, every day the time has run out. Either it ran out for some congregant or minister that was on the wrong side of a congregational power trip, or it ran out for a person that was on the wrong side of Clergy Abuse. Every day someone new is added to the displaced, broken and abused. It will always be better to be hated and stop the abuse, rather than being liked and know that brokenness continues. Or ignored. I’m ignored.
I would love to be hated by Matt Walsh. He’s a theological idiot who has a following. But, instead I hate Walsh and in disliking what he says and does, he gets the focus.
I’d love to be a thorn in Joel Osteen’s or Franklin Graham’s side. Only, no one wants to be theologically critical of American Evangelism aside from saying “Osteen bad!” and ignore a trend that continues to cause terrible things in local churches.
More than anything though, I’d hate to be hated by the Christian Church, (Disciples of Christ). I love that tradition. I’m a Campbellite for life. There are people there I deeply care and love. Only…
The tradition I love has chosen ignorance as their weapon against me and others.
They have chosen to ignore me and hope my “sidetrack” magically ends. Did you know that the General Church has no idea that Fig Tree and I left the denomination? I took myself off a mailing list, and instead of getting a clue, I keep getting emails telling me I’m on their list and I really should re-subscribe to get information important to the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). If I just come back and begin helping them again, they’ll go back to pretending to help us. It’s that easy.
And it’s not like that tradition deserves to exist.
There have been some toxic churches in the system.
There have been power hungry clergy who brought down others through their power.
There have been regions that quietly helped toxic churches get new ministers, and toxic ministers to get new churches.
Their sins are easier to hide because of how much power the congregants hold within the denominational system. The thing I loved has been weaponized.
I don’t want to be Madonna, wanting hate by the Church for the sake of publicity.
I just know, if what I do actually makes a difference, it will probably be the Church who yells out in anger. I won’t be gleeful when it happens. You won’t see me enjoying any of it, but I’ll know we are not nothing anymore.
-Pastor Melissa Fain-
For years now, I’ve been vocally against cancel culture. It usually destroys a person that no longer exists (by seeking decades old Tweets and posts to find something inflammatory when that person wouldn’t do or say anything like that today). The event in question often lacks context to the culture and existing conditions surrounding the event itself. In a world where many are talking about restorative justice over retributive justice, we have no problem using the later to cut someone out, not restore or fix who they are.
I believe this is because, our culture drools at the opportunity to watch someone implode and destruct.
We can’t get literal death. We can’t force two people to fight it out in a large arena, but we can watch a figurative death through canceling.
What was the Roman Arena?
The Roman arena was the method for the government to focus the people’s bloodlust on something other than the government. “Justice” was the codeword to make the carnage make sense. Consider it, dying with a reason. It was justified to pit former soldiers against one another, because they would have been killed on the battlefield anyway, and they lost. It was justified to throw a bunch of Christians against a bunch of lions, because it was illegal to not worship a Roman god.
Oh, the people loved it! They needed a reason to enjoy the ripping of flesh; the gushing of fluids. They wanted, while not wanting to admit they wanted it without a “justifiable” reason.
Meanwhile, the Roman government was made to look like the arbiters of justice. The people being brutally killed had it coming, and it was simply Rome putting their comeuppance in one centralized location.
Cancel Culture has failed
The justification for Cancel Culture was simple: It’s a way to take down big voices who can’t be taken down any other way. In many ways, it was the corporation itself that was the target, not the people working for it. The people working for those corporations were used to hit the bigger target.
Only, systems adjust. When the same formula is used time and time again, it becomes easier to shift away.
At this point, we don’t care whether cancelling actually does anything for the broader culture. We just want to grab our popcorn and watch. It’s far more entertaining than the movies that are out right now. We want to put a little flame under them and see how they react! Are they going to pull someone down with them? Will there be blood?! What are they going to say? We don’t want the ones who accept their castration with grace and say the codewords to exit the arena. That’s no fun at all! We want the ones who keeps us on the edge of our seat as we gleefully watch a total personal meltdown!
In that way, cancelling was dead on arrival.
When looking at the purpose of cancelling, the ability to really hit big targets, it is decomposing in a ditch on the side of the road.
None of that really matters to most. We must say we’re wanting the justice, because otherwise we just must be honest that we’re after the carnage. Don’t tell us the justice is no longer there or wasn’t there to begin with- then we must admit we are animals.
And then there is the church...
I’m more than a little irate that churches feel they’ve got this internet ministry down with a snazzy livecast. Good for you! You can make 20-60 minutes look and sound pleasing to the eye. /s
Meanwhile, you are deep into the cancelling game. You are one of the big targets a growing number of former congregants are attempting to hit. You are so afraid of Christ’s death, you put a scapegoat in the target and “survive,” allowing the scapegoat to take the bullet.
Ministry was never about HOW you do things, but WHAT you are doing.
So many churches have absolutely no understanding of the culture outside their building. Meanwhile, the churches want to evangelize outside their building like the inside is the outside. The best definition I’ve ever gotten for evangelism is this:
Evangelism is finding God in the community and showing that to the people.
More than anything, if you want to live, like really live, you need to take the bullet and trust God is on the other side of it. Stop playing the same corporate game and giving the popcorn eaters fodder. If that last sentence doesn’t make sense to you- well, that’s because you don’t know the culture you are trying to reach. Like I already said, like I’ve been saying for nearly a decade.
For some reading on Roman Arenas and martyrs, click link:
-Pastor Melissa Fain-
This week, I began reading Dr Glenn Pemberton’s book, Hurting with God: Learning to Lament with the Psalms.
Just so you know, I will be doing a Tuesday’s Review on it. This is not a review, but an initial feel after getting a couple of chapters in.
A Breath of Fresh Air
Those who have been with me, know that I’ve been delving into some bad theology on purpose. It’s for a good reason (because these theologies haven’t been taken seriously by the academic circles, they haven’t been authentically torn apart). It just left me feeling icky all over. Someone has to eventually pump the septic system, but it’s not fun and you don’t finish smelling like roses.
It was just so nice to read the first chapter, and have it start by telling me where I’m going. This is in stark contrast to Ravi Zacharias who basically threw me on a tilt-o-whirl and said, “This is the truth because I said it is.” Even Zacharias’ set up is never really explored or answered.
Y’all have no idea how comforting a good setup can feel until you’ve been slung around by a bad one. It is especially important considering the subject matter.
Something else I had no idea I needed was citations to referenced Scripture. One of the bigger problems with the bad theology is this need to put production over accountability. When I’m reading or listening to someone, I want to look at sources. Heck, when I see memes on Facebook, I’m often researching the root, so I know who posted it and why! If I’m doing that with something as trivial as memes, I’d better not have to do it with commentary on Scripture! I’ve been listening to and reading these amazingly crafted commentaries on scripture, and no one wants to drop the chapter and verse!
Pemberton drops all the Scriptures like a hot album everyone needs to listen to. More than that, when I see the Scripture, I’m not thinking, “Wait, I don’t remember that verse being understood in that way,” and stopping what I’m doing to do secondary commentary on his primary commentary. Conversely, I have read what he’s written, and can see the background puzzle pieces that came together to make the point real.
Living in the Real World
Yesterday, I was reading pages 15-30 of Max the Mighty to 7th graders. They were very real pages for me, because I had a very similar event happen when I was only 8 years old. For those willing to spend the $4, it’s a scary accurate look at domestic abuse. For those who don’t, the main character saves a girl from a potentially deadly situation, and discovers the police believe the abuser.
I asked God to make my second half of my life better than my first. (True, I asked God for this at 12, so I didn’t quiet get the concept of ½ my life.) The point is, part of my healing this second time around with Church trauma, is coming to terms with the reality of it all. I might not get a happy ending. The second half of my life might be as rough as the first half. It’s not about finding God at the end of the rainbow, it’s about finding God in the storm that comes to bring the rainbow.
What Pemberton has given me in a just a few chapters is God. He didn’t physically write this, but they were in his words: “Remember when you balled yourself up and wept? You trusted God enough to go there.” Do you have any idea how comforting that thought is for those who are suffering and suffered trauma? Immense.
If God is real, then God is real in our reality. If God is love, then why would God punish us for trusting God enough with our truths? I’m ready for this book. I’m ready for real.
-Pastor Melissa Fain-
Have you ever met someone who is so perfectly named for their job? Like a carpenter named Smith, or a jeweler named Diamond?
You’d think something like that only happens in cartoons in comics. Maleficent literally means to cause harm on a supernatural scale. Lafou, from Beauty and the Beast, literally translates to “the fool.” Cinderella comes from the joining of “cinders” being the last of the dying coals, and “ella” meaning beautiful.
When these things work out in real life, you begin to wonder if their names influenced their life choices, or if those names really were perfect for who they would eventually be.
When I realized I would be Pastor Fain, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with it.I l already aware of the word, “feign.” It is pronounced the same and means to fake, pretend or invent.
Being a minister of anything with the last name of Feign would be unfortunate indeed.
But my name isn’t “Feign,” it’s “Fain.” To “fain” has a completely different meaning than to “feign.”
To fain is to do something with pleasure, or willingly under the circumstances.
When I learned what “fain” meant, it immediately felt incredibly right.
It is extremely hard for me to feign anything. I am uncomfortably real. I hate pretense, and feel like a charlatan among the pomp and circumstance.
Yet, the above is what people naturally think when they hear my name, and probably think even more when they realize the ministry is online.
“Oh, your Pastor FAIN?! You mean Pastor Fake! You’re just pretending to do church, I see. Stop playing pretend and go do some real work!”
But, Pastor FAIN isn’t Pastor Fake. That would be Pastor Feign. I’m Pastor Fain, and despite the overwhelming lack of support for a growing number of people attempting to find God in this ever growing wilderness, I take my call with joy and (mostly) willingly.
I am faining love in a world that mostly feigns it.
So you see? I married into the perfect name to be an online minister.
I'm Pastor Melissa Fain. I'm real, and I don't feign anything.
-Pastor Melissa Fain-
4 Love is patient, love is kind, it isn’t jealous, it doesn’t brag, it isn’t arrogant, 5 it isn’t rude, it doesn’t seek its own advantage, it isn’t irritable, it doesn’t keep a record of complaints, 6 it isn’t happy with injustice, but it is happy with the truth. 7 Love puts up with all things, trusts in all things, hopes for all things, endures all things. 8 Love never fails.
-1 Cor 13:4-8a CEB
Do you know the number one phrase I hear when I leave a group or organization?
“We should have supported you more.”
No one can do it alone. No. One.
Even Mr. Rogers was well aware that his show was not the work of him alone. He had a team that made it happen:
“My hunch is that anyone who has ever been able to sustain good work has had at least one person- and often many- who have believed in him or her. We just don’t get to be competent human beings without a lot of different investments from others.”
The Opposite of Love
The opposite of love is not hate. Hate shows someone is thinking about you. Hate is not love, but it’s also not the opposite of love. The opposite of love is nothing. Not that there are no objects, feelings or things that sit opposite of love, but that the non-action, non-feeling, non-doing for people is the opposite of love.
I don’t normally just sit in a group. I am rarely passive. I see something that needs to happen, and I act. If I can’t act, I find someone who can. The idea of just watching something broken continue to break, baffles me. The apathy alone required to watch something not work boggles my mind.
But when I leave an organization or group- I’ve given so much of myself, and never saw the same support in return. When that happens I don’t think about what I deserve or want. I think how all the resources are now out of my hands, so there is nothing more I can do. It’s like tossing a ball to a friend, and the friend just saying thank you and walking away. I have no more balls to throw, so my job here is done.
So, the statement, “We should have supported you more,” is a realization that they didn’t show the same amount of love I showed them. They didn’t consider how I attempted to create a relationship. They just wanted my resources to do what they wanted to do. They nothing’d me. My value was only to achieve their goals.
I used to lament with the group or organization when this would happen. It’s just this phrase has been said to me so often, I just shrug my shoulders and move on. They might as well be saying, “You loved us, and we didn’t love you.”
Love is a healthy relationship
Just know, no relationship is completely and totally healthy. Sometimes we lose our cool, or forget the needs of those closest to us. Part of love is understanding the true nature of our actions and being there when we mess up. In that way, love is patient and kind.
Also know, we don’t require the person or people all the time. We and they have lives beyond us. Sometimes they may need people with a different skill set than us. Sometimes they may get something that we secretly want for ourselves, but we’re happy for them. In that way, love isn’t jealous.
When we are in a relationship for ourselves, we want the world to see our actions. Real love acts for the person, and isn’t concerned about who sees it. Love doesn’t brag, it isn’t arrogant, it isn’t rude, it doesn’t seek its own advantage, it isn’t irritable, it doesn’t keep a record of complaints.
But love can hurt. Deeply hurt. In the act of seeking the Truth, many accidentally or intentionally try to stop it. When someone loves, they seek it anyway. It’s one of the most uncomfortable parts of love, but in love it must be explored. Love will seek what is just and right.
Love is what endures when everything else ends.
Christmas Eve there will be an event at www.Facebook.com/FigTreeChristian.
10 pm EST there will be a "bringing in of the light." It will be a telling of the Christmas story.
-Pastor Melissa Fain-
Sing aloud, O daughter Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem!
My childhood church had something called, “Children’s Moment.” It’s a moment in worship where all the kids are brought up front, and an adult teaches them a very-important-lesson.
This particular lesson happened one of the Sunday’s leading up to Christmas. The lady teaching us had a bag full of tiny presents. The lesson was simple, as all these lessons were: Jesus is the real present for Christmas.
She then gave us one of the wrapped presents, and the lesson was done.
I think it took about three hours before I had to know what was behind that wrapping paper.
It was a piece of wood. It was nothing.
When a good illustration turns bad
As an adult, I know the present couldn’t be a real present. As a kid, my brain started seeing those fake presents in department stores, and under Church trees as the wrong “Jesus.” I knew they were just beautifully wrapped empty boxes. "There’s Jesus." /s
I’m sure the little old lady who led that Children’s Moment would be mortified to know that’s how my brain worked, but not too mortified. I was an Uber-Christian back then. I knew Jesus wasn’t empty boxes, but it didn’t stop my brain from constantly making that connection.
But honestly, y’all! I’ve seen so many empty box Christians out there! They are all focused on making the wrapping work, they forget that God doesn’t trick us with empty boxes. God’s present is NEVER empty. The inside, the purpose, the meaning is what's important; not whether the sound system is on point, or the lighting is tight. God’s present usually doesn’t always come with beautiful wrapping paper and a nice bow. God's present is always meaningful and real.
Yet, we get so caught up on the wrapping, we forget the present within. It’s all beautifully wrapped emptiness. Highly produced nothingness. No Jesus here. Look at it and move on.
This is what happens when one tries to go straight to Joy; attempting to skip Hope and Peace. It’s not real and it can never be real. Real Joy happens when you break through the shadow of Peace and actually see that Christmas light for the first time. That’s when you realize the Hope you found back when you had no idea what God was giving you, is actually real! Only the people who have actually taken God's hope, and walked it through peace know what I'm talking about.
You can’t sing yourself to it.
You can’t decorate yourself to it.
You can only get there by taking the long path through Peace.
Stop planning your joy. Just stop.
It's like a rollercoaster. You can be at a park and choose to walk to the coaster. You can stand before the coaster, and choose to get in line. You can't control the experience once you are strapped in for the ride.
That's Godly Joy. It's unpredictable, and happens because you made that initial choice to follow God's call and began the hard work to reach that call. After that, you can't plan or work to reach it. Godly Joy doesn't happen because it just happens to be our Christmas season. It doesn't happen because we watched the correct Christmas movie combination, or listened to our favorite Christmas jams. You can't bake or wrap your way to it. It will happen when it happens.
The real gift is Jesus, but Jesus isn't a beautifully wrapped box of nothing.
Jesus was, is, and always will be real.
-Pastor Melissa Fain-
Be still, and know that I am God.
This scripture is one of my favorite Christian songs. It’s sung in a round, and each level loses a word.
Peace, be still, and know that I am God.
Peace, be still, and know that I AM.
Peace, be still, and know.
Peace, be still.
As the words are lost, new meaning is gained. The sacrifice of words, for the understanding of faith.
This is how Advent Peace works. We have accepted our call to adventure in accepting God’s Hope. It means we must find peace with what can no longer be. Simply put- to go on a journey, it requires letting go.
We all want to skip this step. No one really likes tearful goodbyes, especially this time of year. Let me write the most important line of this meditation: Being at peace with loss is different than being calm or silent.
People have used the word “peace” to silence hope. Know that God’s peace will never silence God’s hope. God’s peace will always follow God’s hope. Therefore, God’s peace always seems a little more melancholy than the hope that preceded it. Peace is an acceptance of what can no longer be and a movement towards what could become. To come to terms with what can no longer be is vital to God’s process.
God’s peace is the most difficult step to accept in God’s plan.
I believe this is because, as Hope is accepting the call, Peace is actually moving towards it. You can’t move towards something without moving away from something else.
Movie reference time. In the movie Labyrinth, Sarah is forced to babysit her baby brother, subverting her own plans in the process. In her anger, she wishes the Goblin King would take her little brother. When he does, she willingly accepts her call to adventure to go on a journey to save her little brother. That was her hope, to save her brother from the Goblin King. Her peace doesn’t come until ¾ of the way through the movie when she meets the Junk Lady.
She hadn’t gone anywhere up to that point. Sure, she gained a few new friends, but she was still anchored to what she wanted before her call. The Junk Lady’s only purpose was to remind her what she had to let go of in order to move on. It almost worked, and in real life, it almost always works. Wanna thwart God’s plans? Just lay out what must be left behind to move on.
Worked on the newly freed Israelites. They wanted to go to the Promised Land, but they remembered how slavery had people to care for them and feed them. That was it, and it was enough to halt their journey. Then they had to spend a very long time unlearning what it meant to be a slave.
I submit that the second week of Advent is the darkest of the four weeks. It is the shadow of the Christmas light. A few weeks ago, I wrote about the beauty of shadows. The brighter the light, the darker the shadow. In relation to Advent, the bigger the Hope, the more intense the Peace will be.
Once Sarah was willing to let go of her past, she was allowed to really move towards her call. By giving her things to the literal garbage heap, she finally was able to move on. It took three-quarters of the movie, because she had to be ready to make that level of sacrifice, and that always takes time.
For us, we are moving towards a different kind of sacrifice: power turned on its head. The King’s power will be held by those around him. A Mother and Father; shepherds, and sheep.The call to smite the enemy will be transformed into love your enemy and pray for those who wronged you. There’s so much sacrifice in those words, and Christian Hope is built on that King. It's a huge Hope, and that means it’s a very intense Peace. During Advent we explore it for a week; it might take you weeks or even years. It cannot be skipped.
-Pastor Melissa Fain-
In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.
Jeremiah 33:15 NRSV
Have you ever misused a tool to have it perform a function it was not meant to, or used the tool like a weapon? If you thought hard enough, you probably have.
Here’s an innocent one. Just two weeks ago I subbed P.E.. It was my job to stay inside with the badminton players. (Because the more rowdy kids chose kickball and touch football.) In the first five minutes of every class the words, “The racquet is for hitting birdies, not swordplay,” came out of my mouth. Then everything was fine, and it was a good class.
There are also times that we don’t even realize we are misusing a tool. I think knives are the biggest culprit. Most of us just pick them up and start cutting. We learn hard lessons as dull knives slip, or we cut towards us instead of away… hopefully just a bandaid later, we are using the tool more as it’s intended when we return to it.
That’s how it is with Christian hope.
In a Christian context, hope is not a feeling.
Let me repeat that: Hope is NOT a feeling. One can feel “hope,” but that is like feeling the sun. You know the sun is not a feeling, but you can feel its warmth. Only, unlike the sun, you can’t see hope. Not in the way that it’s a physical object we could reach or touch. We only “see” the effects of its presence.
Christians are prone to become disheartened when they ask God for “Hope.” They are usually seeking a feeling of Hope, not actual Hope.
A Call to Adventure
Good hope, in the purest sense, is a call to adventure.
A real call to adventure isn’t all fun and games. It isn’t enjoyable. It is often dirty, painful and thankless. People will intentionally and accidently say very jabbing things to get you to stop. Mostly, because a real call to adventure makes absolutely no sense to anyone but the person accepting the call. That’s because of Hope.
Godly hope starts with a prayer: “God, where should I go?” or “God, what should I do?” Then there’s an answer. The answer is Hope. It’s a destination you cannot see, feel or touch, but you believe it’s existence because God called you to it. Because you believe it exists, you work towards that destination. (It’s why, for years, I’ve called Hope a map.)
As the Advent season has finally started, we begin with the first of four themes: Hope. Can you see why we start here, why we must always start here? No journey can start without first hope to light it’s way. Without Hope, there is no peace, reason to be joyful, no love to reach.
Start this season with a simple prayer, “God, what do you want me to do?” It might just be a call to adventure.
-Pastor Melissa Fain-
You might notice I don't really write about American holidays and memorial days. It's knowing it's more than Americans that read these meditations. It's also why, as an American, I make sure to not talk in exclusive terms when talking about things people do in the United States. I will qualify my statement with, "Here in the United States..." These are probably things most readers nearby don't even consider, while overseas readers might pick up on.
I am grateful that I know people from all over. It gives me context. It allows me the ability to see beyond my tiny circle of influence, and into larger, more diverse world.
That has guarded me from speaking about U.S. exclusive events.
Yet, here we are. It's American Thanksgiving today, and I'm writing about it. What is there to be thankful for in the United States?
I read, just last week that Covid was the biggest killer of cops this year, more deadly than pedestrian to cop violence.
I'm seeing gaping chasms in the Education system that can't be fixed with money. The entire mechanism is near critical failure.
I'm hearing servant leaders tell their stories of just giving up. Years ago we began putting too much on these kind hearted individuals to be the sacrifice for the appearing cracks. Now the cracks have opened up. It was never fair, and now it's just impossible.
America's future is unfortunately everyone's future.
Listen, this is the third time I've written out something for this week. One I saved for a future post, one I completely destroyed, and this is the one that made it for today.
I know what American's want today. Shut up and pretend. This is the day where we don't talk about the minefield of topics that will completely destroy the false sense of unity within the family. Uncle Charlie, and Great Aunt Dorine don't even talk to one another anymore, and they both actually showed up. We're going to hold this tenuis union together with silence. Just for today.
Well, guess what? I'm Gramma Bertha in this illustration, way too old to walk on eggshells, and much more self-aware than anyone gives her credit for. I'm rolling a bowling ball through this minefield, because opportunities like this only come once a year.
The reason we have supply chain issues is because China has sold her people so the world could have a servant class. In the United States, as the money was pushed in, people began buying things. What should have happened was serious inflation. Those goods and services should have gone up to level off the new money. Pay for United States workers did go up, which did raise the cost of goods some, but our servant class got none of it. The cost of things from China stayed relatively the same. This led to the U.S. people buying more things. Now the stuff can't get here fast enough. Do you think China is going to blame herself when this uneven relationship finally breaks- which it will?
There is a reason oil and food has inflated with the influx of cash.
First, the Middle East knows a thing or two about supply and demand. They are not going to be used for their product. They stopped producing as much oil when we were all in lockdown. The United States uses the most oil, so as we use more, the cost goes up, and goes down as we don't.
Second, most of the food the United States consumes comes from ourselves. Because we are paying ourselves more, the supply of food is touched by that interest. We are paying the employees making and producing that food more, and that more has to transfer into the cost of the food.
China has kept it's relationship, with at least the United States, because we feed her people. Our biggest export to China is soybeans.
What am I thankful for?
All of this remains on my brain today. It can make one wonder if I'm thankful for anything. I'm thankful for so much, and it's a change in perspective.
I have relationships, like real honest to goodness relationships. I deeply love people, and they love me back. These are people I would sit with a can of baked beans, or a Thanksgiving Feast and know in either situation I was blessed.
There is power in relationship. It's stronger than economies. It's deeper than recessions. It's relationship that I have spent my days investing in.
Yep, Gramma Bertha. That's me, blowing up the field, because I need you to stop seeing the things, and start seeing the people behind the things. There are relationships worth more than the things. It's the relationships I'm grateful for. For that I give thanks.
-Pastor Melissa Fain-
I need people. I realized the best way to prove that point is to post what I haven't been able to do on my own. This would be a video. A tragic tale of abuse in the Church. It could exist, but I can't do it alone.
[Open Melissa looking down at the earth; holding a shovel. A person sees Melissa, and walks up.]
Person:You know he’s already dead, right?
[Camera changes view. It’s Ravi Zacharias’ grave. (Ravi Zacharias was an apologist in the Evangelical church. He was also exposed as a serial sexual abuser of women and a liar.]
Melissa: Yes, but the theology isn’t.
Person: Then fight the theology.
Melissa: [Looking away from the earth and to the person.] That’s what I’m doing. [Lifts shovel and gets one dig in.]
[Fig Tree’s worship area, Melissa sitting behind table]
Melissa: To say this is about Zacharias is to focus on the hill upon a mountain. Zacharias was created within a system that allowed his actions to persist: a symptom to a much bigger illness. It is the small piece of mold when the entire house is being attacked.
Zacharias was born in India to Anglican parents, and in 1966 he and his family immigrated to Canada. That’s what I believe is 100% true. Beyond that, his history is a sliding scale of accuracy. From the different articles I read, it appears his father was extremely overbearing. He wanted the best for Zacharias, and Zacharias kept skipping school.
Based on the little bit of information we have, I actually can relate to his dad! Really! I know what it is like to want the best for a child, and that child only sees the immediate gratification of the moment. How parents handle those situations vary greatly. As parents, we are continually second guessing ourselves. Do we back off and let the choices made lead to their own consequences, or do we step in before we believe it’s too late? For us, it’s somewhere in the middle. Choosing battles. Some are not worth fighting, some are.
For Zacharias’ dad, it appeared they were all worth fighting.
[Cut to graveside]
Person: Why do you keep saying, “appeared”? Did it happen or did it not?
Melissa: Well, in some way it did happen, but stories have tellers. When an event happens people come out of the woodwork to tell their versions. There is only one version of all his stories: His. That’s problematic. Even the story of Christ has four different storytellers. When you only get a single teller, something is not going to be right.
Person: He told his story. Why wouldn’t you believe it?
Melissa: [Jams shovel into the ground and leans on it] I do believe it. His story contains abuse, which means I’m going to take his word until new information is known, but I’m going to take it with a grain of salt. Like, this morning, I got up because the alarm on my watch went off. I went to make coffee, and I realized I didn’t want to clean my k-cup so I used disposable k-cups. I had four cups of coffee, and wrote some while I drank it.
Melissa: You don’t question that story?
Person: No, why should I?
Melissa: That’s the point. First, I haven’t shown myself to be a liar or duplicitous. Zacharias has. But, even with that, I purposefully changed a piece of my story this morning. I did use my refillable k-cup.
Person: [Rolls eyes.]
Melissa: My story is innocent; his are not. He claimed his dad would have killed him had his mother not stepped in. Stories like that have multiple tellers. No one cares how I take my coffee in the morning aside from the fact that I try not to add to our global trash. That’s why I use the word, “appeared.” I want to tell the story he told, but I want to make it clear that the story itself had no way to be verified or checked.
Person: Fine, but no one cares. Do you believe his dad was too overbearing?
Person: Then nothing else matters.
Melissa: [Shakes head sadly, pulls shovel out and begins to dig]
Melissa: This event where Zacharias would be beaten by his dad, and saved by his mother would lead him to try to take his own life. He would sneak into a science class and steal a vial specifically marked poison. He would take it home, lock himself in his bathroom, and drink it. The servant at the house would find him, and take him to the hospital where his life was saved. He would tell readers that he believed his parents never knew he tried to take his life because they would never talk to him about it.
[Cut back to graveside]
Person: Hard stop.
Person: A kid of… how old was he?
Person: A kid of 17 is taken to the hospital, having ingested something marked poison, by someone who worked in the family house, and we’re to believe the parents never knew?
Person: [Horrified at self] I don’t want to suggest someone telling a story about a suicide is fake.
Person: But a hospital would tell his parents something. Why is Ravi in the hospital? As a parent, I would want to know! First there’s the servant…
Melissa: Zacharias says he believes the servant never told them.
Person: He “believes”? He didn’t ask the servant. “Hey, my parents are choosing to pretend this didn’t happen. What did you tell them when they asked you why I was in the hospital?”
Melissa: Apparently not.
Person: Apparently not! Of course apparently not! Then, what hospital doesn’t inform the parents that, AT THE VERY LEAST, their son’s stomach was pumped?! Maybe the parents need to know about potential liver damage from drinking POISON!
Melissa: I hate myself that I’ve asked those very same questions.
Person: What did the servant say when he shared this story?
Melissa: Zacharias shared this information first in 2000, 23 years after the event. No one stepped up at that time to corroborate the event.
Person: So his story is the only one. I’m getting what you were saying about multiple stories. If an event happened, it happened to more than one person. It’s not just his story. The story belongs to everyone who was part of it.
Person: What’s that noise for.
[Return to worship area]
Melissa: While Zacharias’ story was the only story, he had more than one version of it. In 2000 he spoke of an individual reading John 3 to him at the hospital bed. By 2006 the reader becomes his mother, and she is reading John 4:16. Stories naturally change over time, but not in these drastic ways.
What’s the most problematic is how he would later use suicide in his adult life.
Person: [Shaking head and looking down] Now I feel bad for Zacharias, and I also feel dirty because I’m questioning his story. [Noticing where Melissa was digging.] Wait! You haven’t been digging up Ravi Zacharias at all! You’ve been putting the dirt on the grave, not taking it off!
Melissa: Of course not. He’s dead. What good would that do?
Person: Then what have you been digging up?
[Melissa points to the right of the grave. There is another tombstone: Laurie Anne Thompson.]
Person: That doesn’t make sense. She’s still alive.
Melissa: I know. Why do you think I’m digging?
Melissa: Lori Anne Thompson was an ardent Zacharias follower. You might have called her a disciple. This is where everything becomes difficult. The Brad Thompson, Lori Anne’s husband, had always been a huge fan of Zacharias’ work. It was in 2014 Lori Anne was introduced and they both finally met him when they sponsored a table at a businessmen's luncheon where Zacharias was the keynote speaker. They exchanged email addresses. Then, in June of 2015 the couple were invited to a private event. That’s when the three of them began an email chain between the three of them. Lori Anne opened her heart during this time, and shared her own childhood trauma… [looking conflicted]
Melissa: Zacharias’ story of abuse was not questioned or researched. It was simply accepted as truth. Meanwhile, what happened to Lori Anne Thompson does have multiple tellers because her story wasn’t accepted. Zacharias used her trauma to groom Thompson. He convinced her to do things that a Christian leader should never ask a follower to do.Things that were sexual in nature. There came a point where Thompson realized she was being sexually abused, and (with the help of a professional counseling organization) she attempted to cut ties, speak openly to her husband to hopefully move on.
Person: That’s not the end of the story, is it?
Melissa: [sadly shakes head.]
Melissa: When Thompson sent the message that would cut ties, Zacharias did not respond well. He first wanted to know if he would be implicated.
Reader 1: [text message on screen] Are you going to tell him it’s me?
Melissa: Then seconds later, he asked to meet just one last time.
Reader 1: [Text message on screen.] Can we not meet at lest [sic] once before you do this? Please please
Melissa: He then weaponizes suicide to try to shut her down.
Reader 1: [Text message on screen] You promised you wouldn’t Lori Anne. If. You betray me here I will have no option but to bid this world goodbye I promise. [“Later” written on the screen] Little did I know that was the most dark and accursed day of my life. You will not hear from me again
Melissa: All this time he didn’t realize she hadn’t written this message privately. She had added her counselors to the conversation as third party observers. They stepped in on her behalf.
Reader 2: [Text message on screen.] We are Lori Anne’s counsellors and she is currently receiving intensive counselling with us to find healing and restoration for her marriage. It is not her intent to share what has happened to anyone except her husband–which is necessary for any hope of marital restoration. And we are bound by confidentiality. We need some assurance from you that you will not harm yourself. Otherwise, we will find it necessary to contact 911 in your location. We await your prompt response. Thank you.
Reader 1: [Text message on screen.] I am fine Thank you. I am just concerned about her. Thank you please tell her I am praying for her. She is very much in my prayers
Melissa: Abusers groom their victims by telling them they are special, isolating them from everyone else, and giving something that will damage them too if they attempt to leave the abuse. If you were previously abused, you become an easy target for future abusers. It is extremely difficult to out sexual abuse, because the act of sexually abusing stains the person who is being abused. “You’ll get in trouble too,” is an easy way to keep sexual victims quiet. Once Thompson was willing to out herself to find healing, it took away Zacharias’ power. Zacharias then weaponized suicide in an attempt to gain back control. Lori Anne was not the only victim he used suicide to maintain control. There were others, and the others gave him back control when he threatened to take his own life.
Person: He weaponized his own brokenness?
Melissa: [while digging] Yep. Brokenness breaks. Always. If there is one thing I do not doubt, Zacharias was a broken individual who never found healing. That’s how victims transform into abusers. Oftentimes, it’s their own victimhood that is weaponized to create new victims in a tragic cycle of woundedness. But we’re not done here…
[Begin transition to worship, but hard transition back to graveside.]
Person: Stop. Just say it to me.
Melissa: [Stops shovelling] Long story short? Zacharias stated that he didn’t ask for anything from Lori Anne of a sexual nature. The Thompsons were aghast at how he completely changed his own history, and sued him for $5 million in damages. Zacharias responded by counter suing the Thompson’s for defamation. Zacharias then went on a pity tour just telling everyone who would listen that Lori Anne was a bad person, and he was the righteous one. Today, it’s really hard not to believe Lori Anne, because women came out of the woodwork after his death to tell similar stories.
Person: What happened with the lawsuit?
Melissa: [Picks up shovel, goes to dig, but there is a ‘clunk.’] No! No! No! [Goes to see what she hit. It’s a huge piece of concrete with the letters NDA written on it.] This happened. [Melissa places hand on concrete.] You can’t fight people who have the media on t heir side, and Zacharias had some big ones willing to let him come on and smear the Thompson name through the mud. The Thompson’s could have won their lawsuit, but Zacharias used his connections and power, to make the cost too high. They signed a non-disclosure agreement, to have both lawsuits dropped. Now, even in his death, she can’t speak openly about what happened. I can’t dig her out, because she can’t dig herself out. Not until Zacharias’ wife lifts the NDA. She won’t do it.
Person: That sucks. Here. [Hand’s Melissa a sad react.] This one really moved me. Keep up the good work! [Walks away, says to self.] Wow! I’m going to be thinking about that one for days.
Melissa: Thank… you. [Takes the sad react and drops it on Lori Anne Thompson’s grave. Talks to grave] Those reacts are like memorial flowers. They won’t fix what has happened, but they make those around them feel better about themselves. At least they did something. True, that something didn’t actually do anything except make themselves sleep better at night. Doesn’t really help you though. [Looks at camera.] That is how it ends. Not with answers. Not with justice. With reactions. The world dies with upvotes, because upvotes, loves, sads, and angrys are comfortable. They give us a chance to feel we did something when we did nothing at all. A family is buried under this NDA and we are doing nothing. Well, I am doing something, but I’m nobody.
[Cut to black]