My friend wrote on facebook a few weeks back, “I find few things more annoying than ignorance. Over heard a small group of young adults trash talking about Mormons. Couldn’t help but speak up & kindly suggest they save the ignorance for their home conversations. Just because you’re not of a certain faith doesn’t mean you need to spread hatred toward the people who are of that faith. Time to grow up!” AMEN, brother!
I have encountered in sooo many different settings the mentality that if it isn’t my faith, there isn’t any common ground to stand upon. But what about the idea that we all have things that we value, and just because they may not be identical to my belief, they still have value to someone else? I have constantly preached (and perhaps over-preached) the gospel of acceptance and standing on common ground, rather than just your ground. But why is it so challenging for people to understand that faith is something that brings people together, not pulls people apart?
Last week, I met some new friends through the dean of Religious life at Smith. This couple are both Princeton alums (although the wife confesses that she didn’t get her M.Div, she got her M.R.S degree. Who cares, in my opinion, she worked for it…the rest is just in the details…), and they remind me a lot of my maternal grandparents. I had known them all of an hour before they were inviting me over, asking to take me to church, and offering me rides places. But what struck me most is how when we were leaving, they both offered me the biggest hugs – the kind of hugs only grandparents give their grandchildren. For them, it didn’t matter that I wasn’t Presbyterian (although I think they’re still secretly hoping that I’ll give up my RCA dreams and switch my ordination commitments to PC(USA)…dream on!), they saw another child of God, and that was more than enough. They loved me because I loved them, and I loved what they held close to their hearts. The specifics are less important than the general understanding we share.
I wish that such a passion, such a deep and pure love that God and Jesus have for us, could exist between people of different faiths, or even people of the same faiths. Should it really matter that my faith is different from that of the Fishers (at times, not always), or that my faith is different from that of my Jewish or Muslim friends? In a perfect world, no; in such a perfect world, people would recognize that faith and belief – regardless of what differences may arise – should serve to unite people, should serve as the catalyst for the formation of a beautiful (and diverse) community of spiritual people. This group would not be a place to distinguish “believers” from “non-believers” but rather would unite those with “beliefs” of all sorts. It would seek to find a common ground for all to stand on equally, creating not a hierarchy for some to be more powerful or stronger than others, but rather a home for all to share equally, loving others, not finding arbitrary reasons to hate.
My faith + Your Faith = Our faith, even though we may believe slightly different things. The important part is not “my” or “your” but the word faith. It is spelled the same way whether it refers to being a Christian, a Jew or a Muslim. Each of us has faith, and that is far more important than the details. So lets drop the hate for those that don’t believe what we do. Lets stop wasting our time, energy and emotions on finding what pulls us apart, when trying to find what unites us is so much more productive and less exhausting. I think that the time and effort is spent finding what makes us unique and distinctive is far more satisfying for some than finding what could bring people together. Why worry so much about what makes us different, why search for things that make us different when there is so much that should serve to bring us together? The world is such a mess and so many are torn apart from their brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers – we should be looking for reasons to come together in times of strife and suffering, to bring about peace and understanding through unity, not through differences. Let us not create divides among us, but rather let us mend the rifts that have formed in the past.
Because in the end, when all the mess and clutter dissipates, my faith + your faith = our faith. Period.