Everybody Is People Too, Part One
Part one: The religion part.
So, a lot of things have been happening lately that have gotten me thinking about basic human dignity, decency, and kindness, especially in the Christian church. Most of what I will be talking about is geared mainly to professing believers in Christ, but it can definitely be generalized to anyone and everyone. I am pretty sure that most people would agree with most of what I say.
I have noticed growing up that we Christians can be some of the most hateful people, and yes, I am including myself in that generalization. But nobody is perfect, especially us Christians. Sometimes it feels like we as a whole do more wrong than right, but that is beside the point…. kind of. I have said for a long time that as believers we should be kind to everyone, no matter what their beliefs are or their moral stance. That is, after all, the entire message of the gospels and the new testament.
I believe that everyone, no matter their actions in the past, deserves at the very least dignity, but I also think they deserve love. This includes x convicts and present convicts. This includes the jerk that cuts you off on the road (though, to be honest, this one is hard almost all the time). This includes men and women of every religion, every race, along every part of the spectrum, and every ideology. Everyone deserves dignity simply because we are human beings.
I remember several years ago in Abilene, a prison bus flipped, and several of the correctional officers were killed as well as several of the prisoners. I also remember a few fellow brothers and sisters in Christ commenting on how terrible it was for the guards to have been killed but with the same breath exclaiming joy that the prisoners were killed. Well, I confronted them, explaining that even though these prisoners had broken the law, and possibly committed some pretty heinous acts, that we as Christians should love them like Christ loved those of His time, you know, the same people who murdered him and that He died for. Well…one such guy just resorted to name-calling and telling me I was going to hell because I believed in loving even the worst criminals of our society. These same believers who were given a second chance by God, never even thought to give those who truly needed the second chance even a chance to have a second chance! I think that is sad!
Just imagine if Christ treated us like we treat others. He would never have died for us. He would never have given us an opportunity to become better people. He would never bless us in any way. He would never comfort us when we need it. He would never help us through anything when we asked him. In fact, he would do the very opposite of all of those…if he treated us like we treat others.
To take the idea that we believers should love everyone to the extreme (which is what Christ himself did by becoming the sinless sacrifice for a sinful people who plotted and planned his brutal torture and death), I use the following example:
If Adolf Hitler were to walk into our church, we should show him love and kindness, just like we would (or at least should) show every other member of the congregation. We should befriend him and be kind to him…. even knowing what kind of person he is. I'm sure most people would not call him a good person. Many would even call him pure evil.
Now, I understand that maybe if I were Jewish and lived through the holocaust, I may not say this. I also understand that if some random guy (or even someone I already knew) kills someone I love, then I might be singing a different tune and dare I say, be plotting my revenge in terrible ways. I admit that I could very well do a complete 180 on this if certain bad things were to be done to anyone I love-but as of right now, I stand by that all men and women deserve dignity simply because they are human beings…I also think we should love peeps too, let's not forget that.
So, why did I start with all of this negativity towards the people of Christ? I don't really know. Maybe I'm just trying to show that we as a people group aren't always great examples of Christ. I know I sure am not. But the real thing I wanted to talk about is dignity and how we as Christians (and non-Christians as well) often don't give love and dignity toward those who sure could use it, and I believe, deserve it merely for being a human.
Have you ever really just looked at people without thinking of their religious background, sexual preference, political stance, socio-economic status, and just saw them for who they are?
I think so often those of us who don't know much about other religions ignorantly view certain faith groups or ideologies negatively. I would guess this is due to television portrayals of said people groups as the "bad guys" and even real-life extremist groups that identify with religious ideologies and committing terrible acts on behalf of their religious views. How many movies portray other religious groups as extremists and terrorists, as the bad guys, or people from other religions using their faith as a driving force for evil deeds?
Muslim extremists would probably be the first to come to mind, but then there are movies and the such where Christian extremists are the villains. Then you have the African and Native American characters or groups with religious motivations for their evil deeds. Sadly, we often don't just learn about the person before jumping to conclusions about them based on their faith or other affiliations.
Now, I want to be clear, showing dignity to someone doesn't mean you necessarily agree with their ideology as a person. You can be opposites in almost every belief that you have and still show each other dignity…dare I say…even be friends. It is true that I am a believer and I obviously believe Christianity to be the only way to eternity with God, that does not stop me from being respectful to people of other faiths and showing them dignity. They are people who I believe to be misguided, and they may feel the same about my faith, yet I believe we can coexist in harmony, even with a disagreement as significant as faith. We could even sit and discuss our faiths.
Let's take Muslims, for example, what are your first thoughts toward them? Good, bad, indifferent? What about their religion? Have you ever just talked to someone of the Muslim faith, or any other faith, for that matter, just to see what they are all about?
I remember this lovely substitute teacher I met in Abilene. She was a Muslim, and we both were subbing in the in-school suspension class, so we had a LOT of downtime. Well, we started talking about faith, among other things. Did you know that many devout Muslim women don't wear their covering from head to toe because it is what their religion demands? They wear the full-body garb out of respect for men in general, to help them to not lust after them. I, personally, think that is such a great reason to wear that…by choice, I add…even though I do disagree with their reasoning. After all, I ONLY SAW THIS WOMAN'S FACE, and I could tell she was smoken hot!!! A man will lust if he wants to, no matter how much a woman shows him or refuses to show him. That is my opinion, anyway.
Her attractiveness and my (or men's in general) potential lustfulness is not the point here. The point is that so many Muslims get this bad rap as wicked people and force women to cover up against their will, and even get lumped in with terrorists. This is due to ignorance, probably because of t.v. terrorists who so often are Muslim, not to mention the real-life fanatical Muslims who, just like any other group, are outliers of the mainstream religion. Take (I think the name of the church is) Westburo Baptist, we Christians know them to be a fanatical group that in no way embody the love of Christ. They are the complete opposite of what true Christianity is. Even we Christians who misrepresent Christ regularly and those who only claim Christianity in name only and not by actions know them to be grossly misrepresenting Christ.
Basically, any religion has its "bad apples" which are simply fanatics who distort their religion to become a great evil. Every religion has it as does Christianity. The fanatics should not be the standard to which the religion or persons of that religion is judged. The religion should be judged by the writings of that religion by itself and THEN its followers. I have never met a Muslim who wanted to cause harm to another human based on their religion. Most religions don't wish harm on others.
It was a blessing for me to know this woman, and it was because I showed her respect and dignity and was not hateful to her because she was Muslim.
I had a friend in Abilene who basically was the complete opposite of me. She was an atheist, bisexual woman who dabbled in satanism on occasion. Now, one would think she and I would be mortal enemies, but we had a lot of healthy spiritual conversations. A Christian and atheist, Satanist, bisexual! Who would-a-thunk! This just goes to show you that people can disagree about a lot and still not be enemies. We hung out a lot, mostly in a group with other people, but on occasion, she and I would just chill by ourselves and talk. Sometimes we would talk about religion or sexual preference and our beliefs on if it was genetic and the such. We were both kind to one another, even after realizing our religious differences. Neither of us ever felt like the other was attacking the belief structure of the other during our conversations. We were simply two friends having conversations and discussing our differences.
I had another really great friend when I was in the military who was a Wiccan. She and her husband (who was a Wiccan as well) actually came and hung out at my house. We were friends, and our faith differences weren't an issue. I remember how we met. We were in Tech school in the Air Force and were taking a class that talked about suicide. The instructor would make a joke about the photos of those who had killed themselves, and I found myself laughing with the class at first. I soon realized that I was laughing at actual, real, humans who had killed themselves. None of them were characters in a made-up movie. They were real people with real feelings and real lives. After that, I found myself pretty taken aback how comfortable everybody was laughing at other's suffering.
After the class, we were hanging out outside, waiting to march to our next course for the day, and I struck up a conversation with this Wiccan woman. I thought, at first, that she was a Christian because we had remarkably similar views on the sanctity of ALL LIFE and how appalling it was that everybody was laughing at the deaths of other REAL people. Well, come to find out she was a Wiccan. We still hung out and talked and became rather good friends. We got stationed at the same base and were deployed together as well. That was pretty cool.
Did you know that the Wiccan religion consists, like that of Christianity, with tons of different belief structures? Now, this particular -let's call it denomination- of Wiccan she was part of were tree huggers. I don't mean that in a bad way, she described herself like that. Basically, she would talk to nature. Talk to trees, rocks, etc. They weren't practicing magic and making spells, though I know there are "denominations" of Wiccan that do practice magic, but not this particular one -at least, not her. Now she did believe in stones and stuff, but there are a lot of religions who believe in the metaphysical.
I would never have known that there are basically "denominations" of Wiccan if I had quit talking to this woman simply because she had a different faith than me. I am thankful to have known her and what she taught me about her religion.
I also had a couple of other friends who professed a non-religious philosophy, and my best friend, when I was in the Air Force, proclaimed to be an atheist. We hung out like 24/7 when we were deployed together. Again, we were friends because we showed respect and dignity towards each other, even though our beliefs were completely opposite.
That's all for now. This post fell highly on the religious side, but the hope is that it will encourage you to show all that you encounter dignity and even love simply.
Next month's post will be a part two to this and fall heavily on LGBTQ + and my opinion on that. It might offend some on all parts of the spectrum, but hopefully not. I think it is an important subject to discuss, especially as Christians, in this climate.