Mrs. Trumbull lived on an old plantation in Mississippi in the 1950s. In his Study of Courage and Fear, Harvard professor Robert Coles tells her story. A native of South Carolina, Mrs. Trumble was “unquestionably a Southern lady” - from her family pedigree to her own community status as a white churchgoing mother of four to her refined Southern accent. And yet a doctor in her town described her in 1958 as “the most outspoken integrationist who has ever managed to stay alive in this state.” Using her position for the purpose of bringing unity between white and black communities and desegregating the Mississippi culture made her quite unpopular and puzzling even to some members of her own family. In discussing her treatment from most of her white friends, Mrs. Trumble said,
“To them I’m sick, mentally ill. They wouldn’t even believe YOU if you told them I was sane. They would say you’re crazy, too. That’s how they dismiss anyone whose thinking they don’t like, or they fear. They call the person insane, or they say the ideas he advocates are crazy ideas."
When I think on Mrs. Trumble’s comments here, I see them reflecting what appears to be a common human reaction to those whose thoughts challenge us to change our views on positions we’ve clung to like a baby’s comfort blanket…thoughts that challenge the status quo. One of the easiest ways to dismiss these thoughts is just to question the sanity of the speaker. Rather than to think through and logically refute if possible, it is much less demanding to simply say, “You’re crazy” and walk away…or even cast stones to silence the insane dissenter (in the case of Stephen in Acts 7).
Jesus faced this same reaction (as well as many of the prophets who preceded him). “You have a demon!” was a common response of those whose status quo was challenged by Jesus’s words and actions (John 7:20; 8:48, 52; 10:20). In fact, these same stiff-necked people asked the crowds, “Why listen to Him?” right after they asserted that Jesus was “insane” (John 10:20).
Sadly, the teachings of Christianity are still treated this way by many who fear any challenge to their comfort blanket to which they cling (whatever that may be - greed, sexual sin, nativism, warmongering, “progress and tolerance,” intellectual snobbery, etc.). When asked how to respond to Christians, atheist Richard Dawkins tells fellow skeptics to “Mock them.” Laugh them off as looneys. Comedian Bill Maher has built an entire show and career off of this strategy.
But I not only share this to remind you to expect opposition when you take a stand for a truth that is unpopular. I also challenge you to apply Jesus’s Golden Rule (Matthew 7:6) to your interactions with others. If you don’t want to be labeled as insane, don’t do the same to others. Treat them with grace and respect. Think through their positions, affirm what you can in what they say, disagree where you need to, and express the truth of Jesus in love. To label as CRAZY as your only response will never win anyone to Christ.
To His Glory,