Blacklisted

  
 

TRUMBO

I recently saw a highly inspirational film about ‘Trumbo‘, a screenwriter (Dalton Trumbo) who, along with many others at the height of the frenzied paranoia, propaganda and suspicion in the USA surrounding the Cold War, was Blacklisted and jailed for his political beliefs

The film highlights how he and his friend were vilified by the press, shunned by the film industry (Hollywood), watched by the FBI and even betrayed by those who were former supporters, colleagues and close friends. As a result of the Blacklist, they lost work, jobs, had to screenwrite under aliases and also endure tremendous financial and relational pressure exerted on their respective families

As I watched the film, it caused me to reflect on some of my own journey- which, needless to say, has not been even remotely as arduous as the likes of ‘Trumbo’ or those suffering greater levels of persecution and injustice currently around the world and throughout history…

However…we who experience the pain of persecution or ostracism…still feel the pain…regardless of how it is measured or compared with the pain experienced by others who have endured far worse

BLACKLISTED?

So although I have not been officially ‘Blacklisted’ for my political beliefs…I have experienced a type of ‘Blacklisting’ in the past (and perhaps still in the present?)…and it has had a similar effect…

Those considered friends have turned against us…those who’ve worked with us as ‘co-workers’ suddenly stop returning messages…those we have invested time and energy, love and all we have, have in return spoken out against us. Those in positions of authority have denounced us, smeared our name and spread doubts about our credibility or character to others in such a way that people have chosen not to associate with us as they have either believed the rumours or are concerned that associating with us in some way might tarnish their own reputations, opportunities and that all so elusive ‘success’

As you read this…you may either be nodding in agreement saying to yourself…’that’s happened to me too’

Or you may be thinking ‘The author of this article is just licking his wounds and throwing a pity-party’

But actually…I’m highlighting these things for several reasons…

When it comes to movements in church history…it’s almost a guaranteed pattern that those who are in the throes of the beginnings of movement find themselves ‘Blacklisted’ in various ways…

St. Patrick for instance…describes in his journal how he was accused by the religious authorities of all manner of things…they tried to undermine him, they tried to intimidate him…they asked him who had given him the authority to spread his mission work all over Ireland and so on

George Fox and his Friends who began as ‘Quakers’ (Society of Friends) were thrown in prison, beaten (some to their deaths) and barred from the so-called ‘middle-class professions’ (not too disimilar to the ‘Blacklisting’ of people at the height of the Cold War) 

John Wesley was literally padlocked out of church buildings so that he couldn’t preach his radical message inside the building and so took to preaching outside, on occassion even standing on gravestones in the yards of those very churches and even ‘dained to be so vulgar’ to preach to the ‘masses’ (it was probably the best thing that could have happened). Every place he went to for over 30 years he was persecuted (along with many of his fellow ‘travelling workers’)

William and Catherine Booth and their family preached to ‘the great unwashed’ and declared ‘War’ on sin, poverty and injustice wherever they found it….this brought many enemies; in many places where the Salvation Army arrived…the ‘Skeleton’ army was ready to meet them (a ragtag group of angry mob, hooligans, and publicans who feared they were losing their customers to this new army). But that was not the worst of it…Christians of the day would also pull up in their carriages and turn their noses up at the spectacle, some even described William Booth as ‘the Anti-Christ.’ He was kicked-out of denominations of his day, whilst others tried to force him and his work into a straight-jacket of control that he simply refused to wear.  They too, in their own way, were ‘Blacklisted’

These Movement Founders and many others in their wake received opposition not only from notorious ‘tough nuts’ in the streets but also major opposition from the established church of their day which was considered acceptable, refined and  dignified, in stark contrast to these vagabond movements of ‘unauthorised’ and ‘unaccountable’ persons that went from place to place seemingly ‘stirring up trouble’ and riots and mobilising new people into ‘leadership’ usually almost immediately! Some also received opposition from political authorities…

But then, this should be unsurprising to us, as the very founder of the original movement also received the same treatment. This guy Jesus was only around 30 years old and started going about the countryside in a backwater and seemingly seditious place called Galilee calling and banding together a hodgepodge of unofficial leaders who were probably between the ages of 18-30 to spread the message of a new type of government, a new spiritual reality that broke out of the conformity and neat little boxes of the authorities of that era to literally ‘turn the world upside down’

Jesus and anyone who associated with him, were also ‘Blacklisted’. If you were in the synagogue (a political and religious local structure of the day) and mentioned Jesus in a favourable report you could face being expelled from the local community. If you mentioned Jesus in the Temple in a positive light you risked public embarrassment among the well-to-do and even political suspicion and the threat of being labelled a traitor as the Temple was also a political and judicial centre of the nation). Jesus was executed and many of his first disciples also faced execution, imprisonment and exile…

Paul and Silas, also early Jesus Movement proponents were accused of causing trouble all over the Empire and inciting riots wherever they went…among many other things Paul cited betrayal by ‘false brothers’ as one of the weaknesses and difficulties he had had to endure…

In saying all this, am I comparing myself to Trumbo or to those in the early throes of movement or even to Jesus and His early disciples? 

I know myself too well to do that. I know that many times I haven’t really been ‘persecuted’ as much as humbled for my own stupidity. That many times I have lost friends due to my own lack of understanding, empathy and care. That sometimes what I have considered ‘hardship’ has just been the result of my own sinful choices…there are others who have had to endure seemingly insurmountable levels of persecution for doing absolutely nothing wrong…

But this is not just about me, and it’s not just about the past…Jesus promises that all who want to live His kind of life will suffer persecution… 

Maybe you have been ‘Blacklisted?‘  (For many this can be a very painful experience. Those of us who have been through this can take comfort knowing that Jesus, others throughout history and others presently around the world are going through similar sufferings because of their beliefs. It could be easy to become bitter…but that helps no-one…however it is not easy not to be bitter, right?)

Or perhaps you have heard the reputation, whether true or false, of others who have been ‘Blacklisted’

What part do you ‘play’ when you hear the reputation of others maligned? 

It’s not easy to stand up for people the majority or those in authority are denouncing, right? It’s certainly not easy to go against the status quo? 

One of the biggest issues I encounter when travelling across the UK and Europe is the ‘fear of people,’ in other words, people fear what other people might say, do and think…I would go as far as saying that this is THE major hinderance to the rapid spread of movement across the continent right now…

Jesus pronounced a strong judgement of ‘WOE’

He said ‘Woe to those who ALL people speak well of…’ 

Jesus didn’t mince his words- even if we often find ourselves doing so in order to to court popularity or even in a misguided attempt to defend His name and reputation (which of course is highly amusing as Jesus made himself of no reputation)

Perhaps in the places where I have not already been ‘Blacklisted’ this article may now be all the evidence needed to actually ‘Blacklist’ me in new quarters! (I’ve gone past being concerned about what others think- I only care about what He thinks. And I write this not to air my own grievances…even if I did have any…but in the hopes that this inadequate blog post might connect with those who have also been Blacklisted and in hopes that this might goes as far as to embolden new generations to stand for what is right and true even in the face of what might seem like insurmountable opposition…and perhaps, even to go as far as ‘appealing’ to those who have found themselves in the position of being the ‘Blacklisters’ of others, or amongst the crowd of those who have ‘sat on the fence’ to avoid personal discomfort or to those who have even found themselves going as far as betraying their friends to court popularity…we all make mistakes under pressure)

But perhaps there will come a time when those who currently appear to be respectable to others will also be ‘Blacklisted’

What will we do then?

Perhaps only God truly knows…I don’t even trust my own heart on that one…do you?

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

james February 21, 2016 at 11:04 am

“One of the biggest issues I encounter when travelling across the UK and Europe is the ‘fear of people,’ in other words, people fear what other people might say, do and think…I would go as far as saying that this is THE major hinderance to the rapid spread of movement across the continent right now…”

Agreed!

I might be slow at replying to messages sometimes 😉 but can only ever offer my thanks to you for shaking things up when you first taught us/me. The ‘problem’ you bring IMO is that you cause an uncomfortableness which causes people to question what they are actually doing and some might not always appreciate it… perhaps like the old saying the truth hurts or the new one haters gonna hate? Those focused and dedicated to a specific mission will always bring an energy and drive which others might not appreciate.

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