I grew up in an AG (Assembly of God) church. I was taught that all people without Christ are going to hell. Trained how to “win” all unbelievers to Christ. Was taught to speak in tongues, which often involved being slain in the spirit, rolling around on the floor, and or running around the church. As I child, I often felt like God wasn’t within me, and I would do the things I saw other kids and adults doing to win #acceptance and approval from my Mother, and her peers. I was taught to judge, and reject those who believed differently than I had been taught to believe. That most people were without God, and destined for an eternity of damnation, and suffering.
When I was in my early twenties, I began traveling the world, and quickly became exposed to many other world views and religions. Although my own faith had been something I’d struggled with for quite some time, it steadily became apparent to me that I believed differently than I had been trained. Years later, I can unashamedly profess that I remain a person of faith, but a faith I have arrived to on my own experiences, studies, convictions, and what I believe to be a natural desire to do what is right, no matter the cost. I’m not a professing Christian any longer, but remain close with many believers, was married in a traditional Christian ceremony, and acknowledge and value many biblical principles as true. Of course I’ve also discovered that most of those values are consistent among most of the mainstream religions, which was a bit of a surprise I must admit.
Our World in recent years has been plagued by the division that difference brings. Different faiths, race, world views, cultures, and in some cases values. I’m particularly bothered by the amount of fear, hate, and bigotry that so many Muslims endure outside of the Middle East. I’ve traveled to the Middle East, specifically, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Yemen, Bahrain, Turkey, Oman, Kuwait, and Egypt (technically North Africa, but a Muslim country.) In all my travels, not once have I ever been afraid of being an American in a Muslim country, even when I was in Bahrain a week before a riot broke out, or in Egypt, three days after the US ambassador was killed in Libya, and there were so called riots all over Egypt. In fact, we drove by one of the riots, and it was underwhelming to say the least. I’m in no way making light of the terrible acts that terrorists are responsible for, and the killings of innocent people. However, unlike most Americans, I have at least a dozen Muslim friends, some of which are Americans. What’s most interesting is that they call a terrorist the same thing I call them; a terrorist, because terrorism has no religion.
I often feel like I’m not doing enough. Look, let’s be clear, if I felt as if someone’s religion or world view put me and/or my family at risk, I would respond defensively. I’m no fool. However, I really feel as if so few are asking the right questions, but instead are just jumping on the no toll bandwagon. Sadly, I think that most, on both sides of the argument are just not bothered enough by what’s wrong to stand up for what is right. The attitude is, hey, “you stay out of my way, and I’ll stay out of yours.” It’s only the radicals and lunatics in the World that have a voice, because it’s the only thing the media will report on.
Think about this. Young black men are killing each other by the thousands each and every year, and our government and society are allowing it to happen. The solution is simple; education and opportunity. School shootings are happening so frequently now that most feel it’s not if it will happen again, but when. The solution is simple; better controls on gun ownership, which may included psychological exams. Gay men and women are being brutally attacked, bullied, and killed for loving a person of the same sex. No one needs to “understand” this, they just need to #accept it. Homosexuality isn’t a trend. The point is, there is never a reason to resort to violence in the name of any God, or world view. Every man, woman, and child, regardless of race, religion or sexual orientation has just as much right to their next breath as you or I do. And this I believe is the answer. For each of us to resign to what we think we know about God, religion, or particularly our neighbor, and start finding out for ourselves what’s on the inside of strangers. I’m confident if humans so desired; we’d find much more sameness than difference in every stranger and friend alike.
When watching movies like Milk, Selma, Remember the Titans, I’m overwhelmed with a sense of grief, and responsibility to stand up for what I believe is right, and as simple as it is, I do believe in “live and let live,” but most of all, I believe in “love and let love.”
I don’t think stoning women who commit adultery is justifiable, nor do I think thousands of America’s youth killing each other is necessary. I don’t think slaughtering Jews or native Americans was something any God would have ordered. I think above all, the problem remains, the ignorance of weak men, and the fear in those who have the power to change the World, one mind at a time. Have I changed yours? You have the power to do the same.
#acceptance | http://www.acceptance.org