A couple months ago I was speaking to a fellow Christian who comes from a rather conservative perspective, both religiously and politically. They were talking about how ‘the seculars’ and want to stop people from being allowed to things like ‘Merry Christmas’. They had heard something on the news that had conveyed this to them and genuinely believed it to be true. I pressed back and went round in circles with them a bit, but I didn’t say the thing most on my heart. You know what was on my heart, and what is often on my heart when I hear people from my faith disparage or assume the worst of outsiders?
“Those are MY people.”
I am protective of my atheist friends, my gay friends, my Muslim and immigrant neighbors, and others who qualify as outsiders in any given context. I am at home with them in many ways. I’m even able to be myself more than with the types of Christians who assume I think just like them. With skeptics in particular I feel this way because I think in so much the same way… even though I’ve decided to trust Jesus, I very very much get the mindset. In intense conversations I am normally respected in my differences, not written off. I can be utterly honest with many non-believers in ways that would make many believers uncomfortable. These are my people… anyone I can be intellectually honest and relaxed with is my people, whether Christian or non. Luckily I do have some Christian friends I can be honest with too, but so often I just feel like most Christians don’t get me, aren’t asking the same questions as me, or just have very different brains than me. I guess I have the brain of a skeptic and the heart of a Jesus follower. Or something like that. 🙂
Anyways, think of it this way: Imagine you have a racist aunt (I don’t, for the record) who starts saying ignorant things about black people. Imagine your best friend is black. How do you feel? You feel like telling your aunt to shut it. At the same time, you look at your aunt and ask yourself why she thinks and feels the way she does. You want to talk some sense into her. You want to help her see that her attitudes are based in ignorance and judgement, not in empathy or love or understanding. Through your frustration though you don’t despise her.
This is kind of how I feel when people tell me how horrible the atheists or secular feminists or whoever are. I’m conflicted. I’m angry. Those are my people. Those are my friends. I love them. I’m angry to hear them misunderstood or assumed to be represented by the worst characters in their group. But the one speaking against my friends is my family- they share my faith- the faith which is the single most defining thing about me. They are often good people in so very many ways. I can’t dismiss them as people any more than I want them dismissing outsiders.. They are just as important and valuable as anyone. In a very significant way, they are also MY people.
I sometimes find myself struggling to keep my cool with some in my extended ‘christian family’. I feel the tension on being tied to two sides of an imaginary canyon- Christians on one side and everyone else on the other, and I’m not willing to let go of either side. I’m not supposed to let go of either side. I long for us to open our hearts and minds to those outside of our clan. I long for us to honor the questions and push back of skeptics. I want us to hear and honor the struggles of LGBT folks. I desperately wish we would walk a mile or two in the Muslim and the immigrant’s shoes. Of course that doesn’t mean we won’t have opinions or disagreements with those outside (or inside!) of our faith… But when love guides our attitudes we won’t need to talk about people we on the other side of the canyon as if they are our enemy. We are called to be peacemakers and make our natural enemies our friends. I want our family to live into this calling. Of all the clans in the world, we be the most open hearted towards all people because we know that’s exactly what God’s heart is like. He is the ultimate friend, longing to draw all into His embrace.