Imagine a World War II vet coming back from Germany in 1945 to find himself in 2016. At first, the technology would probably make him think he was hundreds of years in the future, not just dozens, but once he got his bearings and started catching up on culture, he might find himself confused, frustrated and eager to find that portal back to sanity.
Yesterday I saw a video about a short white man interviewing college students at Washington State. He asked them how they would feel if he told them he was a woman. No one had a problem with it, kindly affirming his right to be who he felt that he was inside.
Then he started asking more questions: What if I told you I was Chinese? What if I said I was six-foot-three? What if I told you I was twelve? What if I wanted to enroll in the first grade?
The students were obviously uncomfortable with the questions, though they tried to be as accommodating as possible, claiming that they had no right to judge another person, that he could be anything he wanted to be. They ignored the witness of their own eyes, bending over backward to say the appropriate thing.
It makes sense. Yesterday, Curt Shilling was fired from ESPN for saying the inappropriate thing.
Imagine our time-travelling World War II vet taking classes at Washington State. While he was busy calling people queers and whores, they’d be busy calling him a narrow-minded bigot and shuffling him to the margins, and I would be commiserating with Rodney King, “Can’t we all just get along?”
I want to be who I am, just like everyone else. I want to be a white man without having to apologize for the mistakes of other white men. I want to enjoy my 40’s without a pressure to act or look any younger. I want to like certain kinds of books and movies, enjoy certain foods and appreciate certain people without wondering if the rest of the world agrees. Ultimately, I want to seek after God with my family, learning and growing without a pressure to hide what I think I discover because I might offend someone who disagrees.
Is this possible in a postmodern world? Of course it is. Compassion and respect are noble virtues, and should be promoted. But when the movement seems to swing around too far and bite us in the nether regions, stirring up cultural confusion and feeding our natural depravity, it’s time to consider some course corrections.
Here are three thoughts. Feel free to add your own.
We all know this phrase: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Most of us would agree with the concept, though we would hesitate to admit that we love ourselves. That sounds arrogant. But don’t think of it that way.
Despite our weaknesses and insecurities, most of us are careful about getting enough rest, bathing, trying to look nice, and trying to work hard so we can enjoy our lives. I think that’s the nuance of this verse. If we cared for another person the way we care for ourselves, looking after all of their needs and wants, we would definitely call it love.
This shouldn’t be a chore. Life is full of variety—flavors, sights, sounds, personalities. Can’t we appreciate the variety of this life without feeling threatened by it? We enjoy it when we go to the zoo or visit a foreign country, but we struggle when it’s our own spouse or a person on the opposite sideline or that guy with his gut hanging out at WalMart. If we could somehow see that each person has their own set of likes and comforts and routines, just like we do, it might help us to be more patient, humble and, who knows, maybe even curious.
How many problems would be solved if we all acted like infatuated couples in the throes of dating instead of disgruntled spouses complaining about a vertical toilet seat?
We all believe in something we can’t see. Even the most informed scientist has to put his faith in events beyond the reach of any telescope or microscope, making conclusions about what must be, spinning theories about the origins and development of life. Is that any different than the billions of people that claim faith in a Creator God? Or even the ancients who sincerely believed in a pantheon of gods that could give meaning and hope to their lives?
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that all faiths are equally valid. I’m saying that faith is faith. And just like we can appreciate and even empathize with the feelings and impulses of a person that is our polar opposite, we should be able to have pleasant and enlightening conversations with people of different faiths, including atheists.
Every time you think of another faith as asinine or insane, take a moment to consider your own. If you’re like me, a Christian, you believe in a conscious being that has no beginning and no end. You believe that this being—existing as one or some mysterious form of three—invented this whole universe, and had the power to bring it about with a spoken word. You believe that a being of this kind would be willing to be born into his own creation, and subject himself to persecution and death to save human beings from something that he could have prevented in the first place. You believe in seas that can be parted and walked on. You believe that a man can survive three days inside a fish. You believe that people can come back from the dead.
Yeah, you’re pretty crazy. So smile, and don’t get frustrated when someone tells you that you evolved from an ape, or Jesus came to North America after the resurrection, or that he returned invisibly to the earth in 1914 and has been ruling his faithful witnesses ever since.
I can’t tell you how much better I feel when I listen to Mormons talk about their faith without feeling defensive or angry or the pressure to convert anyone. They can sense it too. And we can have a conversation.
I’m not talking about compromise. I’m talking respecting faith as faith, and moving on from there.
I can be a Christian without being a blowhard or a bigot. I can also have patience for blowhards and bigots, understanding that most of them have a reason for being that way, whether it be culture or upbringing or faith, all things that are true of me as well. And, yeah, I’ve been known to rub people the wrong way, especially when I was younger. I took up my hammer of truth and used it to pound on people instead of pulling up the nails.
Just like this millennial generation, I want people to listen to one another and be compassionate. No one likes to be dismissed or marginalized. No one wants to feel like they have to be someone they’re not. Those instincts are good. They bring society together. They create a healthy environment for conversation.
However, the solution is not to blur all the lines between our differences. That only fuels the crazy. The solution is love.
Too simple? Imagine if we were all patient, kind, not jealous or arrogant, showing self-control, looking out for one another, not easily offended, not celebrating things that confuse or harm others, celebrating truth, enduring with one another, and setting a powerful, hopeful vision in front of us.
I want to be a Christian because love is the solution, and God is love. Not because I’m right, and you’re stupid, and I hope you all burn in hell.