So today is the first of many of the upcoming guest posts for some Agree or Disagree topics. The reason I decided to do this is because I felt it was to give a fresh voice or voices to the discussion. Some will be actual experts in the field of topic. Some have a unique perspective
As we go forward with these, I would like to establish some ground rules.
1. The views of the person does not necessarily reflect my view.
2. Please no attacks on the person. Focus on the topic at hand.
3. Perhaps take some time to thank the person doing this. It is really appreciated.
The first of this comes from Megan Biggs. Her story is unique. She is involved in something here in Calgary called the House of Commons. She describes herself as “ a freelance Christian librarian who lives in a commune”. Her blog is Unicornsrevenge.WordPress.com. She presents this discussion about respecting other beliefs. Read below.
Sometimes religious debate hurts my feelings.
Sometimes I wish I could be associated with a group of people who had never caused war, or hurt, or pain, but that was never possible. It wasn’t possible because we’re people. Nobody, atheist or Christian or Muslim or Buddhist, has the chance to be free from the stain of human error.
This is why religious debate can sometimes be counter-productive. Because no matter if you respect other peoples’ beliefs or not, your religion’s dubious past choices will always come back to haunt you. It doesn’t matter if you were alive or even a “twinkle in your father’s eye” (gross) at the time of the Salem Witch trials. Somebody’s going to bring that up. Somebody’s going to bring up the Crusades. Somebody’s going to bring up Westboro Baptist. It can be hard to have a respectful and meaningful conversation if someone keeps rubbing your nose in past doo-doos. Come on, guys. Everybody poops.
They all say that you have to learn to separate attacking religion and attacking a person who believes in that religion, but what if you can’t completely separate them? What if that’s just not possible anymore? People are their beliefs, in a sense. There is a lot of talk about “respecting others’ beliefs” but what does that mean? What does it mean to only respect and not believe?
For example, I say I respect Led Zeppelin’s music, but I don’t like his music (with the exception of bron-y-aur stomp.) So what do I mean when I say I respect it, but I don’t like it? To be honest, I don’t know if I know what I mean.
Is respect admiring someone for their beliefs? But then, why would I admire someone else’s beliefs if I think that mine are truer than theirs? By respect, do we just mean tolerance? And if we do, why don’t we say “tolerance” instead of “respect”? Respect sounds better, that’s why. But why does it sound better? Tolerance is like saying, “You smell, but I can hold my nose.” Respect is something different, and it’s something everyone wants to have for everyone else’s beliefs. Because then that makes us good, and we so desperately want to be good. If we were good, we would be more lovable.
Maybe it means that you don’t think less of someone for believing a certain thing (or for listening to Led Zeppelin.) For example, when someone says they listen to Led Zeppelin and really love his music, I don’t feel disgust or repulsion. Does that mean I respect their musical choices?
Really having respect is not defining a person by what they believe. It’s about having the grace in your heart to not pass judgment. It’s about loving the person, no matter who they are or what they believe. It’s about being uncurious about a person’s religion, because they’re a person first.
You may be aware of a little thing known as the Egyptian revolution that took place in the past few years. Amidst the unspeakable violence, chaos, and hate crimes that were taking place daily, a picture was taken of Christian protestors standing together to protect Muslims as they prayed. A group of Christians held hands and faced out surrounding hundreds of protestors to protect those who were left vulnerable as they prayed.
This is exactly what I mean when I say we need to have respect for other peoples’ beliefs. This is what that type of respect looks like. This is how it acts. Not out of self-interest, or self-preservation, or greed, or the thought of what others will think. It acts out of love, compassion, solidarity, and only thinks of the protection of its beloved ones, while giving no thought to itself.
How it will look on a day-to-day basis for you and me, I don’t yet know. In the middle of an Egyptian revolution, it looks like Christians protecting praying muslims. Maybe in my life, it means holding my tongue and changing the tenor of my discourse to something more gentle, more compassionate, more Christ-like. Try this : swallow your harsher comments. Weigh your responses. Communicate love and acceptance. And remember – constantly talking isn’t necessarily communicating.