Sometimes (nearly every day) someone says something to me (usually via the Internet) about my faith that’s insulting, ridiculing, or just plain rude. Usually I say nothing in response, because I don’t want to be baited into an argument, and generally, that’s exactly what those people want. But sometimes I do respond, because what I have to say might benefit the person I’m speaking to, and it appears they are not looking for just an argument.
Today, someone made the comment on Facebook that how I teach my child about God might not sound disturbing to me, that it does sound disturbing to my child, and to people outside of my faith. Then he said that “religion poisons everything.” Here is my response to his comment:
While your opinion is just as valuable as mine, and I wouldn’t dream of censoring it, you can’t make statements like that and believe you are being truthful. The truth is that you’ve never heard a word of what gets said in my house, so you can’t possibly know what it sounds like to a child, someone outside my faith, or anyone for that matter. All you know is what you’ve experienced personally, or heard second-hand, and while those experiences are completely and totally valid, they’re not representative of everyone’s experiences. To speak in such generalizations, and make such sweeping authoritative statements is short-sighted and prevents any sort of genuine discussion from happening. Opportunities to have meaningful, non-destructive discourse with people of differing perspectives are becoming rare, and it’s a shame to waste such an opportunity by poisoning fertile ground.
I know it’s easier to believe things about groups of people, and to just assume that everyone you label a certain way will always and forever behave the way you think they will, but in doing so, you rob people of their individuality, and you willfully inhibit the broadening of your own perspective. It takes time and effort to always be reevaluating people and beliefs, but humanity deserves that.
I wish I could always be so eloquent, because usually I get so immediately frustrated with that kind of judgement, that I can’t even find the words. But the thing is that I really do value the discourse I have with people of differing backgrounds. It’s how I learn, and how I grow. It’s how I’ve developed into the person that I am, and how I’ll develop into future versions of myself. And more than anything, it’s how I find grace and mercy for those that are not “just like me.” The guy that comments that “religion poisons everything” is just as much my brother as the guy sitting across from me in church, and the chances are that I can learn more from the judgy-commenter than from my church-brother.
I need more patience. I need more grace. I need more understanding. I need more love for people who don’t like me or what I stand for. I need the courage to speak when called to do so, and the wisdom to choose the right words. I turn to God in tiny bursts of prayer so many times each day because my heart hurts for the never-ending stream of people who have been wounded by religion, and religious people. They say these kinds of hurtful things because they themselves have been hurt, and I know it has absolutely nothing to do with me, but it still breaks my heart. These people need healing, and they need to know the true love of God.
If you’re the praying type, please pray for the people who have been wounded by The Church, and those of us that call ourselves followers of Christ. And pray that we, as the hands and feet of Christ himself, would only ever bring glory and honor to his name.