The Problem With Similarity
What about those other religions – the ones that are almost the same as ours?
You know, I’ve always been super interested in religion. I think the differences and traditions in various faiths are fascinating. I like the different "origin" stories, the words recited in worship – even from religions that no one practices anymore. What can I say? I’m a bit of a dork.
But I’m a tolerant dork. I’m not one of those angry windbags on television or online blaming the world’s problems on another religion (Christians, Jews, Muslims, atheists) or another culture (America, the Bible Belt, the Middle East, etc.)
I always thought of myself as a live-and-let-live kind of girl. Sure, I’ll debate, but I’ll also listen and respect the ideas of someone else. If anything, my academic training has only opened my eyes to the mosaic of different viewpoints. It doesn’t bother me. I don’t judge, I am open-minded, kind, and…wait, does this include other Christians and Jesus-centered traditions? Uh oh…
In this case, I’m a mean, judgmental harpy. You’re lucky to get any civility out of me.
That is my problem, you see, and it’s a big one.
When we’re discussing tolerance of just about any other faith, I can, as our confirmation catechism instructs us, "meet kindness with friendship and hate with love." But all that flies out the window when "another brand" of Christianity is brought up. It’s a big personal fault of mine.
Why is it so hard for me to find common ground with folks who preach that Jesus continued his ministry after his death with the Native Americans in North America?
Why can’t I extend the same respect and reverence for the Church of Christ that I do with Orthodox Judaism? They share the same theological views on women.
How come I’d be more open to the "call to prayer" being broadcast over the PA system at a university than a contemporary Christian praise song?
And seriously, the hate and vitriol I feel for Westborough Baptist Church is unhealthy and is in no way productive. What’s wrong with me?
Well, nothing is "wrong" with me. I’m just not as quite where I need to be in my relationship with my creator, redeemer, and sustainer, and I think admitting it is the first step. (Yes, even pastors need to dedicate time and space to expanding their spirituality.)
The second step is acknowledging that Christ does not need me to defend him. He needs me to follow him. Sometimes that involves sharing our faith with others who disagree, but it never involves attacking, or (my own method of combat) mocking others.
As I explore ways to "meet kindness with friendship and hate with love," I invite you to explore how you feel about those of "not-so-other" faiths. How will you respond to them? How will you interact? How can you show respect to them if you disagree (sometimes vehemently) on the role of women in the church, the inerrancy of scripture, or the person and being of Jesus Christ? How will you share differences of opinion while still proclaiming your own faith? When do you speak up and when do you stay silent?
And when you figure it all out, please let me know, because some of my friends might not invite me over for bible study anymore.