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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

What is Love? Baby, don't hurt me no more.

Today, we’re going to be talking about religion. Kind of. But we’re looking at the topic from two sides. Hear me out: if you’re one of those people that are instantly turned off by the idea of discussing religion, then this post is for you. If you’re one of those people that read the preceding statement and became troubled and upset merely at the thought of people who dislike religion, then please, keep reading. This is more for you than anyone.

One thing I shall never understand is how ridiculous people can be. Laughably open, I know, but for this discussion this statement refers to the judgment and hate passed upon those of different groups; specifically between Christians and atheists (for this post, these two groups will be the easiest to talk about; however, this surely applies to other groups as well).

There are plenty of atheists who have no respect for Christians or believers in any faith, for that matter. Understandable. But let’s think about this for a moment. One of the biggest reasons why Christians are hated is because they are seen as hypocritical and judgmental. In essence, intolerant. Many people who are not Christians dislike, or even hate, Christians because of the hate they show. It’s like a brother and sister who refuse to be nice to each other because the other one won’t be nice first; neither is willing to be the bigger person. And that is the issue of true hypocrisy. Being a hypocrite against hypocrites, both parties just as bad as the other.

Please understand that I am not stereotyping here. I am speaking about trends of individuals who share these negative character traits. But unfortunately, it is the negative individuals in the groups that often are the face of the group. Negativity gains more attention. If you are buying strawberries and one or two in the package are spoiled, you will pass it up and look for another, right? Of course, people are much more complicated than strawberries, but the same concept remains intact.

I am a Christian, proudly and openly. But I am neither too proud nor too blind to see the problems that exist within Christian culture and modern, fabricated views of the Christian belief system. Reading the Bible apart from the way most Christians observe it is a separate experience. Ignoring context is both foolish and dangerous. The words of the Bible exist(ed) in both the context of the time period and culture of where they were written as well as through the filter of the writers. Much of contemporary church culture is disconnected from the culture of the early church. For the most part, this is not a bad thing. But when this disconnect fosters negative actions and mindsets, that is where the issue lies. Surely, passing judgment is not exclusive to a modern-day context. Jesus spoke of its dangers. But the issue becomes exacerbated by the largeness of today’s Christian community. Much of the way modern Western church culture acts is not directly the result of Christian teachings, but rather groupthink and the accepted interpretations of the teachings. There are good Christians out there; just because someone believes something strongly does not make them narrow-minded or hypocritical. It may make it easier if one is not careful, but the beliefs and mindsets/actions are far from inseparable.

So here is my challenge to you, the reader. In you are a believer in Christianity, do not allow yourself to tarnish the face of yourself, and your brothers and sisters. Be sure to observe the essential, core teachings of Christianity that teach love, acceptance, reaching out, community, and charity. These things are the epitome of what a Christian should observe, and you are not a Christian if you cannot observe them (the Bible says so; I will not quote them, but rather let you find them yourself so maybe, if you don’t agree with me already, you can find it in yourself to learn something). Or if you are not, whether a nonbeliever or believer in another faith, please realize a few things. One, I, as a human and as one following the teachings of Christianity, accept and respect you, even if I do not agree with your beliefs. And I am not the only one; we are few but we are out there. Also, never let yourself stoop to the same low level as the misguided Christians who would judge you and look down upon you. Everyone is better off when we can learn to respect each other and coexist.

After all, we are all observers of Faith. Whether your faith is in monotheism, polytheism, science, logic, or yourself, no one exists with no measure of faith. Faith is simply a belief or trust/confidence in something. It takes faith to not believe in something just as it takes faith to believe in it.

Semi-sidenote: Most of the disputes over religion are not over religion, but rather the underlying issues. And that’s what we are dealing with here. The issue is not simply belief. But rather the issues are intolerance, misunderstanding, narrow-mindedness, and sometimes, immaturity. Religion just makes it easier to find things to disagree about. But that is a complex topic for another time…

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