Thursday, November 13, 2008

Thursday, November 13, 2008 - 4 comments


I am not a happy camper this week, and I don’t know if I’m in a mood or what. But I haven’t had a good rant in a while (7 months and 25 days to be exact), so I’m due. First off, I don’t like being in an angry state of mind. Some people don’t feel alive if they can’t be on a soapbox about something. I am really the opposite. I am more likely to be conciliatory. I like to bring people together and focus on how we are the same and really are looking for similar results. Usually, it’s the path to the goal where we disagree. It’s not that I want to smother the differences of what makes us unique, quite the contrary.

I was watching a travel show the other day, and the host was talking about America not really being a melting pot but more like a toss salad. In the salad, we retain our individuality, but our flavors mingle with the people around us making our whole better and more interesting than the sum of our parts. I really liked that idea and have decided to adopt it as my own. But that’s just the thing; I’m not going to say that the carrot is bad or less worthy just because it’s not spinach. Both are important ingredients, and the salad would be incomplete without them. So, what I’m saying is that it gives me no joy to go on a rant, but sometimes there is no other way to resolve the turmoil. It could be considered the blogging version of having a good cry. lol

So, what am I on about? It all comes down to religion. The first part has to do with the prejudices and stereotypes placed on “the church” by some people outside of the Christian community, and that has at least a couple of facets. On the other, I was faced with someone within the community who lives up to some of those stereotypes.

It all started last week when a person that I consider a friend presumed that I had voted for McCain. I would not have been surprised if she flat didn’t know whom I voted for because I really didn’t talk about it all that much during the election season. The whole process is too contentious, and you already know how I feel about that. What hurt was that she made the presumption at all. What is it about me and anything that I have ever said that she thought that I couldn’t vote for Obama? More than anything else, I think of myself as a freethinking person and have ever tried to display my open-mindedness on any issue. That is not the same as accepting every view. However, I try to live by the quote of Aristotle, “It is the mark of an educated mind to entertain a thought without accepting it.” What saddens me so much is that because she knows that I am a fervent Christian, she presumed that I had to favor McCain over Obama.

The next thing that happened is directly connected, at least as far as my reaction is concerned. Lately, I have been seeing a lot of references to “the church” and its conspiracy to oppress people in the world. To be honest, the references are always there, but for some reason (probably because I was already sensitive on the issue), I noticed it more this week. In the same way that I was insulted that a friend of mine was presuming how I would cast my vote because I am a Christian, I am angered by the assertion that “the church” has any kind of unified agenda to oppress anyone. There are dozens of Christian denominations all over the world. The reason that there are so many is that they disagree. How can there be any conspiracy?

Webster’s New World Dictionary defines a conspiracy in this context as, “a group … to work together for any purpose or effect.” The only conspiracy I see among any denominations is to provide food to the hungry, to build houses for those needing shelter, to provide clothes for the needy, to visit the sick, and so on. Currently, there’s a great conspiracy between the United Methodist Church, the NBA, the United Nations, and many other partners in the Nothing But Nets campaign to stop the spread of malaria. (I encourage you to click the link to find out more information.)

Another reason this upsets me is that again they’re talking about me. When they’re referring to “the church,” in actuality they are talking about a fraction of the Christian community. And again, it is especially hurtful when people I know to whom I have tried to represent Christianity in a different way effectively ignore all of that. To me Christianity is about grace and love. It is about accepting everyone just as they are whether they deserve it or not. It is about uplifting people to be the best that they can be without having to live under oppression be it due to society, the government, or their own feelings of inadequacy. It’s about forgiving people whether they ask for the forgiveness or not because that is what God offers us. That is what grace is. It is a demonstration of God’s love for us, and it is how Christian disciples aspire to be. (For more information about how the United Methodist Church defines these ideals please read our Social Principals.)

So, after a couple of days of contemplating all of this and drafting a couple of incendiary blog posts that I have since discarded, I go to my weekly Bible study class, and I am faced with a woman who personifies much of what the secular community objects to when it refers to “the church.” The truth is that I follow her reasoning and agree with her about 90% of the time, which is why I agree to participate in her studies. But that 10% was included in the discussion last night. With my experiences of the last week, it was enough to set my thermostat to “seething.” There are several things about which we disagree, but for the purposes of this post, the most relevant would have to be how she sees the relationship of men and women in regards to authority both inside and outside “the church.” She does not think that women do not have influence, but that final authority should rest with men. That would describe a major difference between her denomination and mine where women have reached the highest leadership levels for the last 30 years at least.

She went on to describe the character of women as “emotional” and “tender-hearted.” I don’t know what bothers me more about this. “Emotional” sounds like code to me for “irrational.” So, is she saying that women are not capable of rational thought? The other side of that is the implication that men can’t be emotional and tenderhearted. I think that does a huge disservice. It makes them sounds like beasts that are incapable of caring for someone else. I guess in the end it comes back to my salad bowl analogy, and the fact that I prefer to focus on how people are alike than how they are different.

I consider myself a person, first and foremost, before I am anything else. I am many other things, but first I am a person. Men are people too. When I communicate with anyone, I do it on a level of person-to-person before anything else. I respect them as an equal of inherent value and intelligence. After that, we can consider things that a friend of mine refers to different “design features.” Then, we can come together and exchange information based on our different perspectives to understand each other better and learn more.

Does this mean that I couldn’t follow a man? Not at all, I could follow a man, but it also means that I could follow a woman. The thing is that I wouldn’t be following a “man” or a “woman” but a person, a person under whose authority I, through my own free will, chose to place myself.

So, where does that leave me? I’m not quite sure, mostly feeling misunderstood, I guess. That can be the most common thing that people share around the world that each of us in our own way feels misunderstood. Perhaps, if we sat down and actually listened to each other instead of screaming at each other, presuming that “the other side” has some evil agenda to take away our place in the world, to dominate and oppress, we could see that we really are more alike than we are different. We could come to appreciate that with our distinct flavors, we can create a world that is greater than the sum of its parts.


I can tell I'm going to like you a lot. This may be a rant, but you rant in a most reasonable and reflective way. I have tremendous respect for your points and the way you have made them.

And I am in agreement with you, person to person, despite my status as a faithless heathen. (That's not my description for myself, BTW. You can imagine the kind of person who called me that)

Thank you very much, kind sir. And, I am so sorry about the heathen comment. It wasn't terribly persuasive, was it.

My dad was Catholic and would lower himself to come to my "heathen church" sometimes at Christmas, but then again he was joking. ;) He wasn't going to any Catholic churches either.

hey wait a minute Travis! I am Cherie's long standing heathen ;)

I call heathen shotgun!! LOL

Cherie - I'm sure you've seen some 'the church' references at my place lately and if that upset you I'm sorry.

But I'm furious with the Mormon and Catholic churches who poured money into CA's Prop 8

and the Catholic church trying to bully CT voters

and the Baptist churches trying to bully Obama supporters to be anti-gay rights

and the rabbis in Brooklyn who tried to scare elderly Democrat voters into thinking Obama hates Isreal.

I have been following the protests over Prop 8 very closely and I hear very little coming from any religious organizations in the way of support

I have a hard time finding much patience for organized religion

all of my experience has been negative

"hey wait a minute Travis! I am Cherie's long standing heathen ;)"

No need for that now. lol I have enough love for my friends of all affiliations around the world. :D

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