Thursday, September 4, 2008

Crucified by Christians: Bitterness, Pain, and Forgiveness

My father has always been one of my heroes.  He was a man I looked up to, and in many ways, wanted to be like.  His sense of conviction, his perseverance in the face of adversity, and his unequivocal stand for what was right, inspired me and many others.  He holds multiple degrees from Florida State, Dallas Theological Seminary, and Oxford.  He has published 4 books, and written many others.  He has discipled hundreds.

God has used him to change the world as far as evangelizing Muslims goes.  Dallas Theological Seminary, Campus Crusade for Christ, Zwemer Institute for Muslim Studies, the US Center for World Missions, Open Doors, Operation Mobilization, YWAM, and on and on..., had their mission's philosophies and theologies challenged.  He also revolutionized the way many Western Christians think of Arabs and Jews.  In fact, many have changed the entire way they do Muslim ministry because of his work and teaching.  As the first known Druze convert to Christianity in 1954, his ministry has led to the conversion of many others, starting with many in our own family. 

He came from a privileged background with land, servants, and anything a child could want.  However, as a young boy, he watched as his father, Prosecutor General over Lebanon and northern Syria under the French Mandate rule, was assassinated.  His younger sister, an undiagnosed diabetic, died during my grandfather's week-long funeral procession from Syria to Lebanon.  His mother remarried and moved to Flint, Michigan, where she and her unborn child were murdered.  She was then cremated and her ashes were placed in an unmarked mausoleum drawer, not to be discovered until half a century later.

My father's uncles "appropriated" all of his and his 2 older siblings' inheritance and land and placed them in boarding schools.  He lived life as a scrapper, and eventually discovered his love for the arts.  He became a professional musician and actor in Lebanon and Egypt, and went on to befriend and discover a young lady named Nouhad Haddad.  He introduced her to a producer named Rihbani whom she eventually married.  No one knew that she would go on to become the best known Arabic singer of the 20th century.  The name everyone knows her by is Fairuz.  She is the 'Elvis' of the Middle East.

Once he immigrated to the US, he tried his hand at many things, bellboy at Mackinac Island, waiter, construction worker, driving instructor in Chicago, fencing instructor, etc...  Eventually, he rediscovered his love for music, which is where he settled.  

In the mid-50s, he lost his four best friends in a car accident.  They were driving from Missouri to Brooklyn for Christmas. He was in the front passenger seat of a 1949 Kaiser.  Their car went underneath an 18 wheeler.  All in the car were decapitated except him.  It is after that that Christ rescued him.

In 1964, at 36, he returned to Lebanon and married my mom - a 17 year old spitfire who was outgoing and full of life.  Their marriage was rocky from the beginning and remained so for the 36 years they stayed together as both brought a lot of baggage and immaturity into their relationship.

He had an illustrious teaching career until 1982, when he switched to the full-time ministry.  All went well until 1999.  It started with the daughter of Lance Ledford, one of my High School classmates.  The Ledford's 10 year old daughter was like a grandchild to my parents.  Over the course of about 3 years, she became a small part of our family.  Her parents had grown up "on the wrong side of the tracks" but had since come to faith in Christ, and even attended the same church as my parents - Evangelical Community Church in Jackson, TN.

My parents had just returned from a mission trip overseas.  Mom was out praying with one of her friends.  Dad was at home going through mail and phone messages when this young lady came over wanting to look through my sister's toys.  She didn't find anything that appealed to her so my dad hugged her and kissed her on the cheek, as was his usual custom.  Two hours later, 2 police officers arrested him for molestation.

Dad's case went to the Grand Jury after numerous interviews and polygraph tests which he passed with flying colors.  They chose to not indict as they found no fault.  However, the State insisted on prosecuting.  The judge downgraded the charge to a misdemeanor of simple assault and his case was expunged after a one year diversion.

The part that destroyed him was the reaction of the church and the elders.  Though he was well known and had discipled many in leadership, the pastor told the congregation that his name was not to be mentioned in church, he was not to be prayed for publicly, and he would be removed from the church rolls.  The elders refused to meet with him even once, though they met with the other family on several occasions.  This was all driven by a self-proclaimed and Reader's Digest educated "counselor" named Mary Ann who effectively ran the church.

Dad was essentially excommunicated and denied fellowship though he did nothing wrong.  He has spent the past decade trying to recover from this.  In the end, unfortunately, my mother unwittingly aided in his destruction by spreading many rumors about him.  Some were true, and some weren't.

Here was a man, falsely accused who need help, love, and understanding.  Instead he was met with hate and rejection.  These "Christians" still do not see anything wrong with their unscriptural reactions and believe themselves to be "righteous" when in fact, they were used by Satan himself to destroy and maim.

The reason I chose to write about this now is because EVERYONE I run into that knows him, still treats him as though he has leprosy.  They are scared to even mention his name.  I am tired of having to feel as though he is at fault when in reality, it is everyone else who is at fault.  They act as if they are perfect and he is tainted.  They don't even want to associate with him lest they get dirty.  I thank God that His son Jesus Christ chose to get dirty on my behalf.  What is Christianity - really?  Is this a picture of Christ?  

I agree with my dad, if this is "Christianity", I want none of it.  However, I will never deny my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.


erin said...

I've heard you share this story at a leaders' function before, but thank you for sharing it again. We can't lose sight of the cold truth that Satan often uses US to destroy the church from within. Sometimes it occurs this way - with one person being attacked and ostracized - and sometimes it's one person attacking the church and introducing false teaching. Either way we must be on guard and pray for those harmed in the process. Thank you for the important and timely reminder.

We miss you guys in Nashville! I'll be praying for you all next week as CBS gets kicked off.

Omar Hamada said...

Thanks Erin! We miss you guys, too. Please tell Bronce we think of and pray for you guys often.