the failure to understand: by Jim Palmer
Jim October 17th, 2008
an Atheist friend of mine pointed me in the direction of a few Atheist blogs. it’s often the case that a “Christian” will feel the need to leave a comment on these blogs in an effort to defend God and Christianity or evangelize the Atheist. to be completely honest, reading some of these comments was scary, and i could understand why an Atheist would conclude that religious people are seriously lacking in the intelligence department.
i’m on several email lists, and i often receive emails that are intended to represent the “Christian” response or view to various current events or issues. lately such emails have been about the presidential campaign. it’s hard to string together nice-sounding words to describe the stupidity of some of these emails. i realize the word “stupidity” sounds harsh and judgmental but the word “idiotic” seemed worse.
i realize that the above mentioned blog comments and emails are not representative of all Christians, and admittedly there was a time in my life when i was one of those writing such comments and emails. in hind sight, i can plainly see that back then if i had simply applied common sense, or considered the voice of reason, or truly listened to the witness of truth within myself, or examined things with more of a critical eye, or took the time to press deeper and investigate expressed opinions and views of others more thoroughly, then i would have spared myself from a lot of the insanity i found myself in.
lately i’ve noticed several instances where Christian people seem to lack understanding. here are a few quick examples:
1. the inability to hold a differing political view or perspective from another person without demonizing the other person by either mischaracterizing their view, or attacking them personally in terms of their character, motives, faith, etc. for some reason is still hasn’t sunk in for many Christians that people of faith are on both sides of every issue and political view. there is no political litmus test that defines a Christian.
2. a grossly inadequate and inaccurate understanding of other religions or worldviews, and a failure to appreciate the objections these religions and worldviews may have with the Christian’s understanding of God and the world. too often i see that people buy into the unfair, simplistic, and convenient stereotypes, rather than truly seeking to understand.
3. a failure to understand the importance of the separation of church and state OR a failure to appreciate others for whom the separation of church and state is extremely important. the examples in the world we have where church and state are not separated show us that this leads to tyranny and oppression. many people believe that “absolute power corrupts absolutely” and that the result would be no different even if it was Christianity as our state religion.
4. an inability to recognize what appears as a double-standard in the eyes of others. Christians often accuse other religions of promoting hate and violence. meanwhile, in the Christian’s Bible the Old Testament tells stories where military campaigns against pagan peoples are justified in the name of God. a more recent historical example would be the crusades. of course a Christian is going to say in this case it was okay because they were following the one true God, but can you see why this appears as a double-standard to other religions who equally think they are right about their God? it can come off as, “hate and violence is okay as long as i’m the one doing it. if you’re doing it you are evil. if i’m doing it i am righteous.”
so, what causes all of the above and how does one change? probably the best i have to offer is to reflect upon how it has seemed to happen with me.
the more i have listened to and followed the ‘real’ within me, the more i process all of life differently. when i wasn’t listening to and following the ‘real’ within me, i was listening to and following the ‘ego’ me. the ‘ego’ me was bent on creating, extending, perpetuating, defending, and protecting a human identity. the system by which the ‘ego’ does this is a system of winners and losers, right people and wrong people, us and them, allies and enemies, etc. while playing that game, my energies were solely focused on my ego agenda, which led to my doing all the above four things i mentioned. other people, other ideas, other views were all threats, and were rejected, attacked, or dismissed accordingly. i was always right and good, which meant others were always wrong and evil. many people of all worldviews function out of this ego-agenda, which is why there is no secret as to why there is so much hatred, division, and violence in our world.
here’s what i’m finding as time goes on:
1. as i become more in tune with what’s real, i seem to approach more of life from a state of peace. what i mean is, my need to find identity on a human/ego level has died off considerably, and i realize that nothing on that level poses a threat to what is real for me. no person or view poses a threat, and there is nothing for me to truly gain or lose in my interactions with others whoever they are or whatever they believe. i am peace within myself, and i find that i can approach the world without that frantic internal mess of self-focus. this allows me to not just hear what the other person is saying but a genuine openness to understand why they are saying it. i am finding it extremely helpful in moving beyond a stated view or opinion, and seeking to understand the process that led to the formation of that view or opinion.
2. as i am more aware of the ‘real’ within me, i find myself seeking to relate more to the ‘real’ within others. the ‘real’ within all people (i.e. “image of God”) produces the same desires. every person desires love, peace, freedom, compassion, well-being, contentment, and harmony. the ‘real’ within all people desires this for themselves and all people. when i relate to a person out of those spiritual attributes of the ‘real,’ i often find that it connects with the ‘real’ within them, and opens the door for meaningful connection and a desire for a common reality of goodness. relating to others back and forth on the ego/self level creates gridlock, but when i choose to relate to the ‘real’ within others, i find that “kingdom” realities are stirred and manifested.
3. day by day i seek to live out the ‘real’ in the context of my human circumstances. for example, yesterday i voted in the presidential campaign (early voting in Nashville). while standing in line, i struck up a conversation with the guy in front of me. as it turns out, he planned to vote for a different candidate then myself. i asked about what influenced his decision and learned quite a bit about him in the process. i agreed with him on many instances and i could see we both had similar desires on what the outcome of the election might ultimately produce but i had my own reasons for voting for a different candidate. i felt like we connected on a deeper level, and that making that deeper connection truly mattered.
a final word about this very long post. i’m not trying to convince you to look at or approach things like i do. heck, six months from now my view of some things may change itself. any blog post is like a camera snapshot, capturing a moment in time. each day is an experiment in living out what’s real in the context of everyday life. i’m not saying my way should be your way. i don’t mean to unfairly come down hard on Christians. i’m sure people of all beliefs and views do the same. since my world, directly and indirectly, involves a lot of people who identify themselves as “Christians,” this is a group that often supplies examples. anything i may pin on others is likely something i did myself, and so i am only pointing the finger at myself.
anyway, thank goodness the Red Sox squeaked one out! 😀
To read more of Jim’s blogs, check www.DivineNobodies.com/blog