I can’t quite wrap my head around the paradox of so many people professing to be “of the faith”, yet leading with their hate rather than their heart. This does not imply to everyone, and is in no way meant as a blanket statement. I know plenty of religious people who are not hateful, judgmental, or condemning of others who have differing views on religion and deity. They are good and kind people who are just trying to live their lives by the values they profess to believe. Unfortunately they seem to be drowned out by hurtful and hateful shouts and screams of the hypocritical masses.
A long time ago, in another lifetime, I attend Christian church. I was raised in a family that was/is fairly ambiguous about religion, and I was given the opportunity to figure out for myself how “God” was speaking to me. It was a gift because I was able to experience different paths, and to critically think about what god, and faith, and belief meant to me. Through friends I attended a Jewish temple, a Lutheran church, Methodist, Baptist, Nondenominational, Catholic, etc. I found (and still do) beautiful and amazing things in them all.
My longest exposure was to a baptist leaning, nondenominational church. I was 13 to 15 years old, and went with my best friend at the time and her family. I had a really positive experience with my friend and her family, and with the church. But as time moved on, so did I. I came to the realization it just wasn’t for me. It took me many years to figure out why. I didn’t disbelieve everything I learned from the church, but I didn’t really agree with it all. I think there was a part of me that understood there was more to know and discover, I was just too young and uniformed to figure out what is was that I believed.
I never didn’t believe in something, but it took a long time for me to really feel the connection in that something. The word “God” is a generic, impersonal term for me; kind of like “man”, “woman”, or “child”. Jenny, John, Karen, and Sandra, those are more personal and reflect a closer association to a person. “Wife/husband”, “father/mother”, “son/daughter”, “sister/brother”are even more personal, more intimate, and express the connection to the person. So I will use “God” here with the understanding that whatever more personal or intimate term I use with my God to express my connection is not important, nor anyone’s business.
To borrow and paraphrase a saying, “I don’t have a problem with God, it’s his followers that scare the shit out of me!” The more I read and research about the teachings of various faiths, the more I believe it is the (some) followers who are vengeful, hateful, judgmental, and to be feared. They use God and religion as weapons, and believers of a different path as enemies to be destroyed. They are the bullies on the playground who pick a fight with someone, and then shout, “my dad will kick your ass!”
So many “Christians” proclaim to believe and follow the teachings of Jesus, yet they never turn the other cheek, they judge everyone who is different, and condemn all with the wrath of God. And somehow Christianity is under attack because not everyone wants to say “Merry Christmas”!? Wanting to be acknowledged, recognized, and included doesn’t equate with attack. Despite the incorrect belief that this is a christian country, our founders created a nation that is meant to be flexible, and able to evolve to include a variety of beliefs, opinions, and life-styles. I realize it is not necessarily so simple as the statements I just made; you can’t literally never judge someone. And once and awhile you can’t turn your cheek, sometimes you have to fight for your survival. Whatever your belief system, in this country, you do not have the right to invalidate or destroy mine; and I do not have the right either. We don’t have to like each other, but we do have to find a way to coexist.
The Christianity I was exposed to, and the Jesus I remember learning about, lead with love, compassion, and empathy, not hate and vengefulness. And the more I read, the more I have come to believe that his underlying message was self-responsibility. You and you alone are responsible for your thoughts, your heart, and your presence in this world. Regardless of how you are perceived by others, what is deep inside of you, where only you and your God can see, that is what counts. You can be a pillar of virtue to the rest of the world and still be a monster on the inside.
Other faiths are no better. On every religious path, jew, muslim, hindu, atheist (it’s a belief in not believing), pagan, buddhist, agnostic, etc, there are those that warp the teachings they follow and lead with hate. They are the ones that are dividing us all by focusing on the differences instead of the similarities of this amazing family of humans that includes all of us. Christians, Jews, and Muslims all believe in the same creator, and humanity being created in that image, so why is it okay to hurt members of your family?
Right now, all I can see is hate from every direction. Liberals hate conservatives, and visa versa; jews, christians, and muslims hating each other; gay and straight hating each other, republicans hating democrats, whites hating non-whites, citizens hating immigrants. . .the list is never ending. And just where is all of this hate getting us? Not all conservatives and republicans support or agree with Trump; and not all liberals and democrats agreed with or supported Hillary. And there are many people of all faiths that don’t hate those whose sexual or gender identity doesn’t conform to their religious beliefs. Regardless of what side of the (religious or political) coin you are on, if you are leading with hate, you are the problem and the abomination.
We are no longer willing to listen to other viewpoints. Somehow listening, talking, debating, or exchanging viewpoints, opinions, or life experiences is now viewed as somehow agreeing with or validating the other side. We have gotten to a point where we no longer really believe that there is room for us all in this country. I have friends and acquaintances who have “unfriended” or disassociated with people strictly because they support or don’t support Trump.
And I’m pretty sure I have lost the respect and friendship of people that I mistakenly told how I voted in the election! And it hurts; it hurts on a personal level, and on a human level. Imagine if the founders of this country were as divided and angry as so many of us are today. Imagine if they weren’t able to listen to each other, argue and compromise, and find some common ground. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson’s relationship is quite famous for surviving their often volatile differences. I hope that I am wrong about my lost friendships; I sincerely hope they will survive our differences.
I believe I am a better person for listening to those that see things differently than me. I always come away more informed; which either strengthens my beliefs and how I am able to express them, or allows me to evolve my beliefs to include new information. At the very least, it gives me the opportunity to understand the “other side” and where the view/belief/opinion has come from. It gives me the opportunity to reflect on the experiences and environment that has shaped those views. It makes me more compassionate and empathetic. I think that is a good thing.
One last thought. . .
One of my all time favorite shows is a sci-fi show called Farscape. There is an episode where the main character and his mortal enemy have to work together and coordinate an offense to a common threat. They each are required to wear a special bracelet. The bracelets connect the wearers so that whatever happens to one will happen to the other. This keeps everyone involved from trying to kill each other and focused on the common threat.
Imagine if we all had to wear those types of bracelets. Would it still be so easy to lead with all of the hate, rage, and anger if we immediately felt it directed at ourselves? Instead we have free will, and the simple words “do unto others as you would have done unto you.” Lead with compassion and empathy and you will get it back. Lead with hate. . .