I remember a story a friend once told me about her boyfriend. When they’d drive by homes with republican political signs in the front yard, or come upon vehicles bearing similar bumper stickers, he would scoff. His immediate reaction was to dismiss those dwelling inside as human beings because they were republicans, “closed-minded conservatives.”
I’ve experienced this same attitude when I hear people around me talk about Christians (who, coincidentally, often get lumped in with the hated republican-sign-bearers). Anyone who believes in Jesus and goes to church is automatically intolerant, racist, sexist, stupid and hypocritical. Every single one. Forget that one of those Jesus believers may be sitting among them, fully embraced and accepted by that same group who professes to hate everything in which she has faith. And yet, she is not offended or angry because she knows that’s not her.
I find myself in this situation too often. And I’m too afraid to open my mouth, knowing even if I speak up, even if I say, “Hey, I’m not like that,” the reaction will not be one of surprise (to learn of my beliefs) and eye-opening understanding. Instead, they will challenge me, call me uneducated, ask incredulously how I could believe something so inane. I have to wonder if these people have considered any of it without first having to swallow their malice and contempt. People like Tod who have been through it all and come out on the other side disbelieving—I get that. I respect their opinions. But I get this feeling in the pit of my stomach when these other people talk, this gnawing ache that makes me ask myself, Aren’t they doing exactly what they say you do as a Christian? Aren’t they prejudging and generalizing and being closed-minded?
But I can’t ask. And maybe that makes me a coward and not worthy of calling myself a Christian. Maybe. But I’ve never found any decent in-roads in a situation like this. I will be shut out, mocked or otherwise chastised for my beliefs. And because the entire group (including me) knows there’s no scientific proof that God’s hanging around in the ether waiting to scoop up some of us and leave the rest behind while the Earth burns, I’m not going to be able to convince them I am right. All I will be able to tell them is what I believe, why I believe it, why I just can’t seem to shake it, no matter how many brilliant atheists cross my path.
I am, without a doubt, the least closed-minded Christian you’ll ever meet. And while I may be conservative in my lifestyle, I’m not in my political or social views. I am pretty darn liberal, actually. But I do believe Jesus lived, died and rose. I believe God’s hanging around in the ether. I believe they watch over me in my life and hear me when I speak to them, tell me things when I listen. And maybe that makes me schizophrenic. Or maybe it’s just a mechanism I’ve developed to deal with loneliness and a perceived lack of purpose in my life. But maybe it’s all true. I don’t think any one of us knows for sure.
The problem for me is not being the butt of jokes or on the receiving end of ridicule—I can handle those things. I am not fine with intolerance or hatred for any reason, by anyone, toward anyone. Whether it be about religion, gender, sexual orientation, lifestyle, appearance, behavior, social standing—there should be no hate, no prejudice, no malice or intentional harm. I think we all have the ability to hurt others indirectly, inadvertently. It should never happen on purpose. I should never look another person in the eye and tell him how awful he is, no matter how much he has hurt me or how little I agree with his views. I was hurt too often in my younger years by peers and others to justify ever wanting to hurt someone else like that, no matter how badly they’ve treated me.
Please stop judging based on bumper stickers, at least ones so general as Jesus fish, Darwin fish, republican or democrat. And if you see one that says, “I kill and eat babies—and they are DELICIOUS!” you may want to check and see if that’s a joke before you run them off the road. Y’know, just to be sure.