In today’s culture of vitriolic comments from unidentified authors, it’s easy to make assumptions about people. But it’s not only internet trolls who make them; we all do. I certainly have and frankly am not proud of some of the assumptions I have made. Because, I can say from experience, they are often inaccurate, misplaced, or just plain wrong.
In the past two years, through my graduate studies in marriage and family therapy, I’ve learned more about biases, assumptions, and judgments. A takeaway for me has been not to believe that I will stop making assumptions or having biases, but rather that I need to be aware that I will make them, so that when I do, I am able to recognize them and confront them head-on.
Many biases, judgments, and assumptions come into play with religion and the higher powers that we, as humans, believe in.
This isn’t inherently problematic unless we continue to believe those initial assumptions and start to behave in a way that perpetuates false or misleading information.
There’s a reason why religion is up there with politics and money as topics not to raise at a dinner party. A person’s religious views are extremely personal; for many, the most important part of his or her identity.
As such, I can understand why people, including Christians, can come across as “preachy” when they talk about their faith. While I certainly cannot, and will not, assign motives to anyone, I would hypothesize that oftentimes those who are “preaching” care very deeply about what they believe and thus hope to impress upon others the passion they feel about their beliefs.
I get it, though I don’t agree that this is always the best approach. The Bible teaches to “go and make disciples of all nations.” This means something different for everyone. My intent is not to condemn Christians who are out there witnessing to people around the world. In fact, I believe in the value of missionaries. What I don’t believe in is condemning someone for what they do or don’t believe, shaming someone for not holding an identical belief, or arguing with someone about what they believe instead of listening with an open heart and mind.
I try, but of course do not always succeed, to show others evidence of my faith through my actions. I endeavor to witness to others by treating them the way I want to be treated. I try to employ curiosity instead of judgment; love instead of hate; questions instead of declarations.
My intent with this approach is to open a dialogue and foster an enriching discussion. What I’ve found is that people are much more interested in talking when they know that you are listening to them to understand instead of attempting to convince them that you are right and they are wrong.
As I shared in another article, Logan and I were both raised Christian, but our experiences were very different and thus how we approach religion now differs as a result of those experiences. When we first met, on our first date actually, Logan and I briefly touched on our religious upbringings and he shared that he had a desire to re-explore his faith.
Throughout our relationship, we’ve talked about religion, what we believe, and our individual faith journeys on many occasions. While I can’t speak for Logan, I try my very best to listen to his questions and engage in a discussion about them in a way that works for both of us. I also endeavor to gently share with him how I might see things a bit differently and listen earnestly when he does the same with me.
I can say that this isn’t always easy, and I don’t always handle conversations perfectly.
Sometimes I do think it would be easier if we believed the exact same thing. But then I also wonder if that’s possible because part of faith is believing in something that cannot be seen, which leaves all sorts of room for varied interpretations. Sure, we can explore the historical accounts, but Christian faith requires more than believing that Jesus was a great teacher of morality.
Even though it can be hard to challenge aspects of my own faith through these conversations, I believe that faith can become stronger through dialogue. I also believe in the value of discussing religion with someone who doesn’t think exactly like I do. That’s how I grow. And there’s that saying, “Growth happens outside of your comfort zone.”
There are Christians who prefer to stay in their bubbles and interact only with people who believe similarly. I don’t know that this is what God would want. In fact, given Jesus’ actions when he was here on earth, when he associated with everyone, never excluding anyone for any reason, I would venture to say that God would want us to engage in dialogues about religion with everyone.
Maybe if we were all a little kinder and more generous to each other when it comes to religion, it wouldn’t have to be a taboo subject.
Three of my favorite fashion and lifestyle bloggers, Kathleen, Stephanie and Haley, share snippets of their Christian faiths on their Instastories and blogs. I truly admire the ways in which they witness to others simply by sharing that they are Christian, that they attend church, and making references to the Bible.
But never do they, in my opinion, preach their faiths. They let readers know that their faiths are important to them, and that God is part of their identities, while also respecting that others might not share their beliefs. In my view, this transparency takes tremendous courage, and I respect the heck out of them for exemplifying Christianity in such a beautiful, open way.
I struggle with the way Christians (as well as people of other faiths) are portrayed in the media. Sometimes it seems like the entire religion is vilified when a negative news story comes out. Suddenly, generalizations are flying, and assumptions are being made about what Christians stand for (or don’t stand for). This hurts my heart and led me to want to share a few wills and won’t regarding how I live my life as a Christian.
-preach my faith to you.
-tell you that you’re going to hell.
-tell you God doesn’t love you.
-disassociate from you because we don’t believe the same thing.
-answer your questions to the best of my ability.
-listen to you with an open heart and mind.
-show you love.
-respect your opinions even if I don’t agree with them.
As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts, but ask that you keep your comments respectful.