Archive for March, 2014

I’ve been recently involved in some conversation with an acquaintance on the topic of faith, and I’ve learned some interesting things, both about my own views, as well as how like-minded Christians are perceived by non-Christians.

Last entry I hinted at my ‘devil’s advocate’ mindset (ironic calling it that, considering the “faithiness” of this entry). For those who don’t know, I’m a relatively conservative bible-believing Christian, with no specific denomination. I was raised Catholic, and spent several years as a pretty enthusiastic atheist all before discovering the faith that has grown into what I now believe. But I’m open-minded, at least in the sense that my goal in faith-based conversations is not to scare people into belief. The fire-and-brimstone model never sat well with me, and during my atheist years you can bet I had a huge problem with force-fed religion. Now, I’m not saying it doesn’t work, because for some it does…but it leaves a sort of bad taste in one’s mouth that even the most spiritual and righteous mouthwash might not cleanse.

In any case, I find myself valuing the unique and special ways by which people come to faith, even if it isn’t my own. And I probably wouldn’t be able to have such an open-minded approach to faith if I were otherwise unable to empathize with others. In this case, the acquaintance (mentioned above) and I were discussing the stereotypical ultra-conservative Christian (call him Joe), the kind that believes that the KJV bible is THE infallible word of God. We were talking about how that person might interact with others, and how other, non-ultra-conservative Christians may have trouble relating to said Christian if they otherwise didn’t have to (i.e., as a coworker versus a friend outside of work, or the person who serves you coffee versus the person you meet with over coffee).

Enter the topic of tolerance, religious and otherwise. If my acquaintance, influenced by any number of the liberal “flavor of the week” eastern philosophies were to interface casually with Joe, the gap would be hard to bridge. But—if you think of my beliefs as a suitable middle-ground, I could be a diplomat trying to bridge that gap. That was, at least as I saw it, my role in this discussion—the diplomat. And, I think from a Christian perspective, that’s how the conversation should go. Suppose we had the opportunity to have open, two-way conversation with God the way we do our friends…If I were struggling with my faith, or perhaps I was sure of the fact that Christianity was wrong, a conversation with God might not start with eternal damnation; instead I imagine it would be filled with understanding, and love, and tolerance. The reason I love talking about faith so much is because it gives me opportunity to hear other people’s stories, which I can relate to on some level because of my history with the ‘religion spectrum,’ at least in that I’ve been on both sides of it.

So back to my acquaintance, who we’ll call Eddie. Eddie is much more liberal in his views on faith, which also has an effect on his tolerance for other concepts of faith. It seems to be the natural order of things: our friend Joe I mentioned above (the super conservative, far-right Christian) isn’t going to be particularly open-minded in a conversation with a devout Unitarian Universalist; and that same UU individual may be turned off by the “extreme” beliefs of the far-right Christian. This is where I try to beat the stereotype, because I’ll listen to anyone’s story about faith. I know as a Christian that I should proselytize to others, spread the good word and whatnot, but I also have to be conscious of where those people are in their perspective life cycles. For someone who is a confident atheist, the ‘right’ time to have a conversation about the Christian God is probably not shortly after they hit the Mega Millions jackpot. I’m not by any sense suggesting that Christians do (or should) use the life events of others as a means of leveraging their own faith and then injecting it into someone else’s views. HOWEVER: people often come to faith through adversity, and as a result, it shouldn’t be leveraged any more (or less) than it should be ignored.

So, one way or another, it almost felt as if the liberal guy was picking on the conservative guy’s views, attacking him for not being open-minded enough. But the big “AHA!” here was that he, through being set in his liberal views, might also have been guilty of the very thing that, through implication, he was criticizing me for.  Funny how these things work out…

Thanks for reading. Be well and stay tuned!