At happy hour two months ago, you said something to me that I have thought about in the passing weeks and I have been burdened with it since. Not that what was said I found distasteful, or disagreeable, but that I felt excluded from something far deeper; a dialogue of trust and friendship.
Generally words like these have hidden in them a lifetime of experiences. Experiences warranting legitimacy. Who is anyone to tell us that what we believe, and how we came to believe it—short of being brainwashed, or impressed with another's knowledge—is wrong? We are, after all, the sum of our experiences, moments weaving a canvas patched with assumptions and conceptual gaps informed by the majority of the fibers. So when I hear you say “creepy-Christian-shit,” in reference to my beliefs, I can only assume that you were brought to that conclusion by legitimate means and that the defense of that truth is warranted.
There are common assumptions made about one’s beliefs by the Other, that we succumb to naturally, if not due to some form of mechanic employed by social evolution, to preserve our identity in the presence of something we don’t understand. I do this all the time, usually in the presence of the marginalized and the poor, occasionally in the presence of those of a different faith. If introspection is worth anything, and it likely is despite what postmodernism has suggested, I would say that I am afraid of losing my identity in the presence of another, more convincing and powerful one. Warding off intellectual and spiritual fascism with definitive statements. Without overstepping my bounds and assuming your prejudices, I would say that this is at least, in part, something that influences your beliefs about my beliefs.
Likewise, in a current climate of relativism, not to be confused with pluralism, I will be bold enough to say that not all beliefs are as valuable as the rest. Prejudices, for instance, are not worth as much as truths, because they are innately defamatory and aim to devalue something else, person, institution, presupposition, etc. A belief that declares a value statement needs to be assessed and vetted to determine whether or not it is a prejudice. Being that you and I are cut from the same cloth, or that I aspire to be what you are, I hope you can appreciate the social obligation we have in a pluralist society, to establish a mutual dialogue that encourages a common understanding and a collaborative spirit.
|Transparent Faith For a Transparent World|
I admit that in your life you have crossed paths with undesirable permutations of Christianity. History subjectively describes movements and campaigns that highlight the forceful and dominant expressions, which I have struggled to reconcile. Those in a position of power leveraged their social and political influence to perpetrate acts out of self-interest that tainted the reputation and following of forgotten followers, their voices drowned out by the influence they did not have over the events they did not initiate. (The same is ever true today, with the rise of the “Moral Majority” and other caricatures promoted by fringe groups and leveraging fear of the the Other.) We are all familiar with the corruption of institutions and the choice we make to generalize that quality across the diverse spectrum of historical expressions. I have chosen to not do that in regards to secular humanism, to see the good that it has brought to society by questioning beliefs long held, and often proven untrue upon further reflection. I would not wish to make a straw man like administers of my faith have made, often to draw simple comparisons and conclusions for those without formal education, to create a digestible, conceptual framework; much to my chagrin as I know full well, the multiplicity of expressions. As I have had patience for those accepting simple explanations I ask you do so as well, understanding, with positive intentions, the intended effect.
But there is a personal dimension to all this, for without it I would just be blustering elevated quips. Rather than see you as the Other, I wish to traverse that gap as a confederate, a brother to you in attempt to achieve a common goal of understanding. Regardless of my points of view, informed by my personal theology, I would like to express my love for you as a person, with identity and worth. I see you as unique and capable of great things, as we all are the same at the core, acting out of self-interest on the small and large scale. I wish to express my intentions that I am committed to your well-being because of what I believe, and that I am committed to doing good for you, your family, your friends, regardless of their positions and beliefs. I believe that my truth is definitive to this reality, but that does not stop me from appreciating what you offer to the world, what I believe my maker has given you to advocate for those that cannot advocate for themselves, to seek equal opportunity and rights, for dignity in an undignified world. While it is true that I have given myself over to what others would declare an insane proposition, the belief in an entity unverifiable by empiricism and its tools, of a poor, homeless Jew embroiled in the socio-political conflicts of 1st century Palestine, I have paradoxically employed tools of reason to do so, just as you have defended the antithesis. Without the guarantee that I would dully receive your blessing and acknowledgement of my beliefs, I would like to acknowledge yours are valid and legitimate and it is my deepest hope that we can foster a relationship of mutual empathy.
My Best to You for the Betterment of All,
Stuart J. Warren