My career in doing the above: I graduated college with a degree in psychology, whoopee! I quickly found out how unhelpful my “education” was in helping ease people’s minds of whatever was ailing them. My first gig was a real trial by fire, in Quan Loi, Vietnam, where I was expected to counsel men who had just been medevaced out of combat due to mental emotional breakdown. Actually, the army simply wanted me to determine their fitness for combat, “getting back up on the horse”. That phrase was more than proverbial, in that we were First Air Cavalry division and the horse was both the symbol on our unit patch and a UH-1H “Huey” helicopter, which we rode into battle. This turned out to be the best possible training for a counseling career.
Best training in worst conditions! Isn’t that called “trial by fire?” Unlike when I was in private practice after Vietnam, my mission in the Cav was to determine emotional fitness for the most unpleasant duty in the world–combat. Not just Charge of the Light Brigade type combat, not duke it out with the enemy at a distance or even face to face. The real combat was against our own fears and uncertainty: booby traps, ambushes, hidden tunnels from which the VC could suddenly appear, get off some shots or throw a grenade, then disappear again. Combat against the frustration of being hit without the opportunity to hit back. The enemy could rarely afford to stand and fight a pitched battle. If they did, air strikes and artillery were often immediately called down upon them. Go on YouTube and watch what a single AC-130 or HueyCobra gunship can do.
I often had only one interview with which to determine whether the soldier in front of me was telling the truth, whether he was truly unable to function in the field, or malingering and lying. Most were the former. Why not pretend, why not lie to save your life? Because we (I did start out my tour of duty in the infantry) were fighting for the man next to us, not for some lofty ideal or to free the Vietnamese from communism or to prevent a domino from falling. No sane person wants to engage in combat, even less so in these conditions where you get only the rare opportunity to strike back, and where you don’t know what the war is about. But no sane person wants to abandon his buddies either. Most of us chose to fight for the lives of those around us, rather than lie our way out of danger and frustration. Remember that when you criticize Vietnam veterans.
So the title of my post is apt. I had to find the nugget of truth in a story that might be true, or not, from a man who had just been flown out of the battlefield after a breakdown. What incredibly great training for discernment! Now I am going to switch gears, but not really, because the principles of how you find the nuggets of truth apply as much to the written word as to interviews. The following is copied from a blog post. I don’t know the person who wrote it, but it’s a great example of how truth can be slightly twisted to attach a completely wrong meaning.
“The worst Jesus story for me is in Matthew 15, when he kind of acts like a jerk toward the Canaanite woman. Maybe he’s just tired and he’s short with her. Maybe the story lost something in translation and it was kinder than it appears. But Jesus calls her a dog. Kind of the way Pratt’s church and the UMC call LGBTQ people less-than. Someone loved, but lower. Someone who doesn’t deserve a seat at the table. Someone whose presence is taking food away from those who REALLY deserve it. It’s not a good look for Jesus, tbh. And it’s not a good look for a church either. But the woman wasn’t having it. She wanted what Jesus had to give. She wanted healing for suffering in her family. She wanted his attention. And she told him that at the very least, she deserved the crumbs. She sat at his feet and demanded crumbs. She said that those crumbs didn’t take away from the feeding of the more deserving. That even the lowly deserved some measure of sustenance. And Jesus changed. He didn’t give her crumbs, he gave her the full meal. He praised her faith. He gave her the healing she had asked for. She got it all. We don’t have to make our LGBTQ friend and family settle for crumbs. We can be like Jesus and give the full meal. We can say, “We love you. We accept you. We affirm you. Come, sit at the table and eat the meal prepared for all of us.”
The passage she is referring to is this one: And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly. – Matthew 15:23-28.
Her explanation is wrong on so many levels that I can only deal with a few here. No one is deserving of God’s love, nor of salvation through Christ. She seems to think that the church believes some are deserving and others not, all on the basis of their behavior. God’s love is the result of His sovereign will alone, and not because of favor bestowed on either behavior or inherent worth; God calls whom He will.
Jesus is never “kind of a jerk” nor too “tired” to love. He told the Canaanite woman the truth, and was testing her faith. The writer sets herself up as a critic of Jesus’ behavior, but if she truly believed He is whom He declares Himself to be, and capable of healing diseases and casting out demons, she would do as the woman in the story did, kneel at his feet and call him Lord. I don’t have to know the blogger to know that she sets opinion above Jesus Christ.
The woman wanted healing for her daughter, and the text does not say how the demon oppressed her. What if her daughter was sexually confused, or promiscuous or lesbian? Would the writer have commended Jesus for healing her, or called Him a bigot for not respecting her daughter’s orientation? I would say the latter. This story of Jesus is about faith, not about lgbtq acceptance. They need healing and truth more than affirmation.
Jesus Christ accepts and heals all who come to Him in faith and repentance. She would probably say something like “but you have to accept and love people as they are before they can repent and believe.” Acceptance and love are important, if it is acceptance and love as creations of God, and as sinners in need of a savior, rather than using sexual orientation as their identity.