Who's Your Neighbor
photo courtesy of Interfaith Youth Core, Chicago
Love your neighbor as yourself.
Who’s your neighbor?
We drill the kids in our church with this question all the time. The answer of course is (let's not always see the same hands) "everyone."
This month we are looking at other faiths. How do we find common ground to make the world a better place? How do we find peace? How are our faiths similar? On what can we agree?
But what about getting along with a growing segment of the population, those of no faith? They are our neighbors, too.
Many people, particularly millennials, are examining the role of faith in their life and finding that there may not be a place for it. Many are skipping "spiritual, but not religious" and going straight to "no, thanks." We can twist our handkerchiefs and make worried noises about this, but we have to face it… the religion they see in the media is partially responsible for this.
The overtly "godly" are setting a terrible example. They see United States Senators claim God is changing the climate, not us. God wants women to be subservient. They see ministers condemn gay people in God's name. Poor people are not "deserving" and God has decided their fate. They see people beheaded by an apocalyptic "religious" army. They see Christians grab the microphone from peaceful Muslims and claim the Capitol of Texas in the name of Jesus Christ, as if He would want it. To the world, religion is often presented as a negative force in the world. The "Religious, but Not Spiritual" are producing atheists and running three shifts.
Those of you who have read this blog in the past know that I have a great disdain for "Christians" who do not follow the teachings of Jesus (RBNS, see above.) I ask forgiveness for my lack of tolerance, just as Kelly does.
So, there is an increase in Humanism. The open-minded Humanists think our God ain't getting it done, so people have to do it themselves. We can work with this. As people of faith, we believe that God gave us the responsibility to get it done. Either way, with people of faith, or no faith, we can work for good.
It may sound odd, but atheism has its own problems with factionalism.
Atheist – "I don't believe in any gods."
Anti-theist – "Religion is bad and you shouldn't participate."
Fundamentalist Anti-theist – "Religion is damaging to humankind and needs to be destroyed."
Faitheist – "I don't believe in God, but it's okay if you do. What can we all do to serve humanity?"
So, lack of faith can show the same judgments that faith can. There are atheists who will tell you what you need to not believe. There are atheists who want every place of worship closed. There are also atheists who want to help in the construction of the Kingdom, but don't tell them that.
"Faitheist" was once a pejorative aimed at atheists who were too "soft" on religion. It is now the name of a short memoir by a young man named Chris Stedman. I found his articles on the Religion News Service blog when I was going down Internet rabbit holes looking for something. As a youth, he looked for comfort in fundamentalist Christianity. When he came out as gay, he was rejected by his church and he rejected them right back, and became an atheist. Eventually, he met open-minded Christians and realized his animosity toward religion was preventing him from connecting to people who wanted many of the same things he did; peace, justice, and kindness. Indeed, it is our animosity toward others of whatever stripe that prevents us from connecting for the greater good.
Stedman believes in religious freedom. Go figure. Acknowledging that we live in the most religiously diverse nation in the world, interfaith cooperation is the only way we are going to get the right things done, and religious freedom is essential to cooperation.
To Stedman, interfaith is a combination of those who have faith in gods and those whose faith is in humanity. When one is trying to feed the hungry, promote justice, and stop the total destruction of the environment, trying to convert, save, kill, repress, or conquer in the name of gods or not gods, is a monumental waste of time.
Stedman believes that atheism does not have to be anti-religion and that the loudest voice should be one of cooperation. Okay. We can work with this guy. Like the hymn says, "They will know we are Christians by our love." That is our testimony to the world. Who knows what happens when we set a good example?
When we accept donations to the Reverse Food Truck, we don't say that only believers can contribute. When we deliver the food to Vickery Meadow, we don't say that only believers can be fed. With all the divisions among the world's religions and denominations, we may find we have things to learn about serving humanity from those who do not believe.
Who's your neighbor?