When I learned that a friend had decided to plunge himself into the political world and run for office, I thought it prudent to offer two pieces of solid advice.
"Just remember," I said, "that friends come and go but enemies accumulate."
He threw back his head and laughed heartily. Yeah, he's laughing now, but just wait until he opposes a "friend" on some political stance. His laughter, I guarantee, will fade quickly.
Next came the big advice. "Whatever you do," I began, looking him straight in the eye, "don't make the Christians mad."
He blinked. Then he looked bewildered. He is a church-going, God-fearing, fervent-praying believer. Without a doubt, he expected that the Christians, all of them, would be on his side. It is a misconception of the secular world that Christians are one for all and all for one.
"What do you mean?" he asked.
"Some Christians can be the meanest critics you'll ever face." His smile faded.
I know of which I speak.
I've given it a lot of thought, having felt, on more than one occasion, the vicious stab of their righteous swords. See, I, too, am a church-going, God-fearing, fervent-praying believer. I tithe, too, which pushes me even further up the chain of Christian compliance. But in the course of my public life, the venomous-spewing chastisers have crawled upon their Bibles and brought out the whips to flog me.
I have decided that the trouble begins with the Bible. See, the scriptures are left to interpretation. Each person who reads them, is left to her own discernment of the words. This is evidenced by the various translations that differ one from another. People, meaning well, and I do know they mean well, will read one scripture, clutch it like a cross to their heart and disregard other scriptures.
I'll give you examples.
One reader wrote and thoroughly upbraided me for writing that when the good Lord calls me home, I hope there will be much weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth over my departure. He wrote that I should have more sense, that I should be rejoicing that I was leaving this world for a better place.
First of all, I said nothing about how I would be feeling. I was talking of the people left behind. Secondly, I have loved many people who believed vehemently in a better land on the other side of the River Jordan and are there now. And each one, with the exception of Mama, did not run with joy toward the Pearly Gates. They were a bit tenuous about it.
Thirdly, I wrote that column to be funny and it was. One of the funnier ones I've written. To the Christians without a sense of humor, let me please quote from Proverbs, "A merry heart doeth good like a medicine but a broken spirit dried the bones."
My favorite example, though, came from the woman in Heflin, Ala., who completely annihilated me over the column about the long-practiced Southern tradition of sitting up with the dead.
"Distasteful," she proclaimed, then went on to explain that the spirit is with Jesus and that it's just a body in a casket. I think I knew that. But still I had written of the compassion of our people who wanted to gather in love around the newly departed. Turns out, she's a transplanted Yankee from Minnesota. So that explained that.
Now to any who might be the least bit tempted - and if you know your Bible, you know where temptation comes from - to fire off an epistle of reprimand over this column, I'll leave you with words from the Apostle Paul:
"Be ye kind one to another."
Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of the new book "What Southern Women Know About Faith." Sign up for her newsletter at www.rondarich.com.