"It’s really hard to hate someone for being different when you’re too busy laughing together."

— George Takei

"Otherness is the heresy that says we, of all the world, are unique."

— Sr. Joan Chittister. Alleluia for All There Is, p.111 (via revnaomiking)

(via uukady)

"It Doesn’t Mean You’re A Bad Person"

Back in October, I wrote about a dinner debate I had with two friends over the definition of the word “Christian.”  There was one moment in that conversation that has continued to play in my mind.

As I wrote in my earlier article:

Her definition of the word “Christian” corresponds with what the Episcopal Biblical scholar Marcus Borg defines as the “heaven and hell framework.”  Man is born in a state of original sin (thanks to Eve and that apple), but God sacrificed his son Jesus on the cross in order that those who believe in him shall have eternal life in heaven.

While I have often been excited by the teachings and stories about Jesus and found great meaning in the symbolism of the resurrection, I come up against a brick wall when confronted with the idea that only those from a Christian background have access to salvation.

After a fruitful discussion of some of the writings about Jesus that have informed and inspired me, and how my understanding of their meanings varied from my Baptist friend’s theology, my friend concluded that I could not be considered to be a “Christian” if I interpreted the story of Jesus in this framework.

The other friend at the table at this point said, “It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person or anything.”

This is the part of the conversation I keep thinking about.

My first reaction, of course, was to wonder why someone would assume that I would ever think that my own religious point of view made me a bad person.  If I did, wouldn’t I believe something else?

Whether my working hypothesis about the nature of the world and our place in it is labeled Christian or not Christian does not change anything.  It certainly doesn’t change my sense of my own morality.

What is interesting about “It doesn’t make you a bad person” is that its text belies its meaning.  It says that the speaker equates being a Christian with being a good person. 

If someone were to say this to someone of a different faith, say a Muslim or a Jew, would it not be perceived as, at best, insensitive?  Imagine the kind of hot water a politician would get into for saying to a Muslim, “You’re not Christian but that doesn’t mean you’re a bad person.”

Beyond that, there are quite a few atheists out there who not only think that their point of view is more rational but also more moral than that of Christians.  It is hard to imagine them saying, “You’re not an atheist, but that doesn’t mean you’re a bad person.”

Being able to say something like this means that you feel confident that you hold the socially dominant point of view.  That your assumption is society’s default assumption.

The conversation with my friend about the requirement to accept Jesus to enter heaven ended, as it had to, with a friendly acknowledgement of our differences. 

Later, though, I had to wonder.  If you do not think that my difference in belief makes me a bad person why would you have me damned to hell for it?

"There is both good and evil in the world, but the line separating them runs not between nations or institutions or groups or even individuals; the line that separates good and evil runs through the core of each nation, each institution, each group, and, most tellingly, through the core of each human being, through each one of us. Cutting through each one of us is the reality of our own limitation. “‘There is a crack in everything God has made,” Emerson observed, and—not least of all—in each one of us."

— Ernest Kurtz and Katherine Ketcham, The Spirituality of Imperfection

"

If I am full of myself, there is no room in me for what you bring. I keep myself intact when I convert you; I keep myself intact when I politely tolerate you; in a mutual interaction, I lose something of myself to create an opening for your perspective, your experience to enter my world…

'Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares' (Hebrews 13:2). This ancient advice to “entertain strangers,” to be open to others, to invite them in and offer them food and listen to their stories, point to the reward that comes from this “entertaining,” this response of mutuality: in that other, we may just find an angel.

Now I admit that I have never seen any sort of mystical angel, a divine glowing being with halo and wings, and I suspect I never will. But I have met a fair number of angels in human guise, if an angel is also someone who offers me something I never expected to receive, tells me something I never expected to hear, shows me something I never expected to see, helps me understand something I never expected to grasp, or otherwise breaks into my usual mindset. When another manages this feat, moving past my defenses and my absolutely true opinions to remind me that I really, finally, do not know everything, then I have been visited by an angel.

"

— Rev. Dr. Kathy Hurt, Unitarian Universalist minister

(Source: bucmi.org)

"Anybody can create community with people who believe just like they do. The true test of community rests in the ability to create it with people who disagree with us"

— Lee Barker (Unitarian Universalist, minister, educator)

(Source: uuquotes)

Today most people have in their lives, and deeply care for, at least one person who is no closer to being a Protestant Christian than I am to being French Canadian. Today everyone is related to, shares a neighborhood with, works with, or goes to school with someone who is gay, Jewish, Muslim, Catholic, Buddhist, Sikh, Hindu, Mormon, Unitarian Universalism, Wiccan, Native American, Shinto, Baha’i, Rastafarian, Cao Dai, Tenrikyo, agnostic, atheist, or any combination thereof. (Humans. We are a creative group, are we not?)
 
It’s a great deal more troubling to condemn to hell someone for whom you have affection than it is an abstract member of an abstract group. Growing up in my white suburban neighborhood, I didn’t know a single person who was Hindu. Today there are five young men who are Hindu living right next door to me. Those young men have become friends. If part of my theology insists that my Hindu friends are going to hell, you better believe I’m going to reassess that part of my theology. I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t.

Chimamanda Adichie: The Danger of a Single Story.

“a professor… once told me that my novel was not ‘authentically African.’ Now, I was quite willing to contend that there were a number of things wrong with the novel, that it had failed in a number of places. But I had not quite imagined that it had failed at achieving something called African authenticity. In fact I did not know what African authenticity was. The professor told me that my characters were too much like him, an educated and middle-class man. My characters drove cars. They were not starving. Therefore they were not authentically African…

It is impossible to talk about the single story without talking about power. There is a word, an Igbo word, that I think about whenever I think about the power structures of the world, and it is nkali. It’s a noun that loosely translates to ‘to be greater than another.’

Like our economic and political worlds, stories too are defined by the principle of nkali. How they are told, who tells them, when they’re told, how many stories are told, are really dependent on power.  Power is the ability not just to tell the story of another person, but to make it the definitive story of that person..”

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=1219608346345310021#

A very moving sermon by minister Mel White delivered with great passion.  One line I particularly liked was “Jesus was a person of color.”

drhackenbush:

How Can I Be Sure That God Loves Me, Too?

This was sent to me about 5 years ago by a kind intern from a church I used to attend. I would like to share this for all the LGB & Trans people who follow my blog who may also be christian.Mel White is an amazing person. Look him up you could check out his books also.

(via positronics-deactivated20110914)