As I get older, I’m noticing a shift in my perspective…and my patience.
In my interactions, I’m finding that it’s less about what someone believes and more about how they behave that catches my attention, and brings out my admiration. Or raises my ire.
Some of the nicest individuals I know are atheists.
Some of the nastiest claim the name "Christian."
Some of the most thought-provoking conversations I’ve ever had are with those who ask a lot of hard questions.
Some of the most useless conversations I’ve had are with those who think they have all the answers.
The "sinners" have embraced me while the "saints" have rejected me.
I have dear friends who sincerely believe that homosexuality is a sin, but they don’t put me down.
I know gay men who are racist, sexist, ageist and misogynistic.
On one hand, I’m told of God’s unconditional love for me. Then I'm informed that because of who I love, God's church rejects me because I'm an abomination to God.
God gave me a mind, and a free well, but the clear message I get from some in the pulpit is that I must distrust science and education, it’s dangerous to think for myself, and I’m only to believe what I'm told.
I see those who look to God for peace.
And I hear those who use God to justify war.
I interact with people who haven’t made up their mind, and our discussions were mutually rewarding.
I’ve interacted with those who only want to change my mind, making our discussion feel oppressive.
Though I’ve studied (and taught) the Bible for 45+ years, I listen to preaching about a Jesus I don’t recognize. In His Name, I hear calls for attitudes and actions compliant with the principles of marketplace capitalism and extreme militarism, but completely inconsistent with Jesus’ teaching about love, peace, and the “least of these.”
I’ve been helped by those who’ve been deeply hurt.
I’ve been hurt by those who assumed I needed their help.
So many will identify as “Pro Life” and passionately advocate for the rights of the unborn as “fearfully and wonderfully made,” but see no problem with rejecting a gay child, putting to death a criminal, cutting government programs to the needy, denying healthcare to the poor or waging war in the name of nationalism.
I’ve learned from those who weren't teaching, and I’ve had those who refuse to be taught attempt to instruct me.
I know conservative Democrats.
But I also know liberal Repub…well, scratch that.
Here’s where I am these days.
I honestly don’t care what you believe. Your beliefs may be intricate, and grounded in centuries of theological traditions, or based on the latest self-help pamphlet you read last week. You may identify with the Holy Roman Church, The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints, the Written-in-Stone King James Fundamental Fellowship, the Holy Roller Life in the Spirit Worship Center, Temple Beth-El, the Islamic Center...or with no religion at all.
I will respect your beliefs, and defend your right to hold those beliefs. If we disagree, that's not a problem for me.
But if you treat others (and me) with prejudice, judgmentalism, condescension or disdain, I do have a problem: YOUR BEHAVIOR!