Cultivating Understanding in a Severely Divided Society

Some say that everyone wants to be understood. Whether we all agree or not is secondary, and frankly, not a realistic goal to pursue. Seeking to understand, on the other hand, strengthens relational bonds and breaks down our black-and-white view of the world. At times, however, efforts to bring attention to common ground or highlight shared values often patronize one side and hold up the other, on every issue. An article you may find in a conservative magazine entitled something like “Understanding LGBTQ+ Activism” would no doubt subtly patronize members of that community and assume superiority in this area of disagreement. On the other side, a liberal article about “Understanding the Pro-Life Side” may softly treat members of this community like anti-science, unloving fear-mongers, or perhaps worse, naïve and ignorant children. Before we can seek to understand, we must put aside our differences and our subtle (and not-so-subtle) jabs at what we deem as the wrong side.

“Putting aside our differences” does not mean that we pretend that they are not important. For goodness’ sake, political and personal issues are important. If you’re a believer in global warming, your belief is that we are ruining this planet for the animals today and our great-great-grandchildren tomorrow–that’s not a small issue. If you’re pro-life, you believe that millions of pain-experiencing children, full of potential and innocence, have been killed wrongly in the womb. If you’re a gay rights activist, you believe teens and adults are pointlessly being excluded from their homes and their communities, all for the sake of an archaic value system. If you’re an advocate for religious freedom, you believe that religious adherents are being criticised and often forced to do things they shouldn’t really have to do. If you’re an anti-gun activist, you believe that fewer lives would be lost and this society would be safer if we simply banned (or severely restricted) guns.

Global warming, abortion, LGBTQ+ rights, religious freedom, and the 2nd amendment are all important issues that must be discussed in a functioning society, but when we let these issues divide us, we only create more problems. Anger, mistrust, hatred, and disrespect arise. Instead of a passionate, caring discussion about the topics that matter to us most, we divulge into arguments that (if we’re being honest) never change anyone’s mind. In fact, some say these arguments only cement our preconceived notions into our minds, so what does that help?

A common refrain you may hear from politicians or activists is that we must “find common ground.” I don’t even believe in that, because honestly, it can be quite difficult with some people, and we make a mistake if we believe it’s necessary to love and connect. A staunched pro-gay, pro-abortion, stereotypical liberal can love and appreciate a rigid anti-LGBT, pro-life, stereotypical conservative. All it takes is understanding.

How do we cultivate understanding, even with people whose ideas we are adamantly against? It starts with respect, which is why the aforementioned condescension is so unhelpful. When we acknowledge that others have reached their own separate opinion through (usually) valid thought processes, we take the first step of respect. Instead of writing off our opponents as hateful, ignorant, thoughtless, or idiotic, we see a bigger picture and recognize that justifiable thoughts, past experience, firm convictions, and concern for their world brought about these opinions.

Often, it isn’t enjoyable to see the world in the full color that it is. We would rather see it in black and white, neatly packed into boxes of right and wrong, and good and bad. While I must affirm the existence of right and wrong, and good and bad, I will clarify that mere humans cannot be simplified to such terms. We are not characters in a children’s novel; we are complicated, messy, intricate.

Seeking to understand does not mean downplaying, ignoring, or putting away differences. And it certainly doesn’t mean coming to an agreement. Lots of people feel that to change their opinion on certain issues would sacrifice their belief system, and I don’t believe that’s necessary, because it doesn’t stand in the way of kindness. A Christian can love a gay person, while believing their actions are wrong. A pro-choice advocate can love a Catholic friend, while believing that abortion is not murder. And a gun safety activist can love their gun-toting neighbor, while believing that guns are unwise. We don’t need to hold hands and pretend we all agree, or ignore our convictions. We must only seek to understand by respecting and loving others.

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Some Things Have Changed – An Update on My Faith

A while ago (December 6th), I posted an article titled ‘Truth and Doubt.’ In it, I shared my doubts about Christianity. It was pretty big for me and I’m sure it was big for you if you know me well.

You all showed a lot of care and prayed for me like crazy. And, I think, especially at first, I kind of felt it. (The prayer, I mean.) I didn’t see everything in brighter shades or.. I don’t know… Turn invisible or something. But I felt like my thinking was changing.

For a long time, I felt like I believed again. I still had all the same… misgivings. And I still do. But I just believed it all again, no matter my doubts.

In a sense, this hasn’t gone away in the last few months. I’ve just had this sureness that God exists, whether or not I can understand everything.

But it’s still hard. It’s hard for me to just accept the Bible. And it’s hard for me to pray at times. But I’m trying to return.

I still don’t really know how it’s goin’. I’m not sure what’s to happen. But I want to know Christ, just as I wanted to know Christ three months ago and three years ago.

I want to have Christ’s power in me. I don’t want to just go around being me and having my power and ‘my’ talent and my works.

Thank you all for your encouragement, your kind emails and comments, your talks with me. I have been so blessed by all of you. Keep praying. Please, keep praying.

Truth and Doubt

Hello, friends and family!

I’m sure many of you have noticed my lack of blogging, and I wanted to share the reason for that with you today.

Ever since I could remember, I believed in God and the Bible and Creation and all those things. One of my earliest memories is talking to my dad about sin and how we need to be saved. When I was about five years old, I prayed and confessed my sin and received Christ during bedtime prayers with my grandpa on my mom’s side. Until about two months ago, I was a Bible-believing Christian who wanted to please God and would witness to people and write a blog about being a Christian.

But, over the course of time, I had doubts. I didn’t have trouble believing in Creation. I knew there was evidence for a flood. I knew it was possible (even likely) that God created man out of the dust of the earth, not apes or whales or cows. I didn’t for a moment find it hard to believe that Jesus was a person. And I never doubted that He could have been God or that He could of risen from the dead. I just had misgivings here and there.

There were two main causes for my doubt. First, I was disappointed with the actions of so-called Christians. Not only others, but myself. I wondered (and still wonder) why it would please God more to let us struggle than to make living perfectly an easy thing. I always thought “if the Spirit of Almighty God is living in you, then why and how do you act that way?” My second struggle was the idea of Hell. I couldn’t believe that a good God would send people to a place of eternal fire and bitter torment forever. I could understand punishment. I could understand separation from God. But… eternal punishment? Why not “annihilation of the wicked,” like the Seventh-Day Adventists believed? Why not just a less enjoyable place than Heaven (even that would be torture if enduring for eternity). I felt that no normal human being would do that to anyone. I doubted that Hitler himself would sit at the edge of Hell and look down upon thousands of Jews for more than a few thousand years. At some point, some inkling of compassion would bubble to the surface of that dark soul.

These doubts grew stronger and came more to the forefront of my mind. At some point, I gave up believing. And, while I would never say I am an atheist (more of a firm belief that there is no God or gods) I would have to identify as agnostic (the doubt that there is a God, kind of the “well… I don’t know” position).

Typing those words is surprising to myself. I never thought I would doubt. I believed the Bible with all my heart. I had committed my life to Christ. I wanted to follow every bit of God’s Word. I don’t know what happened. And, I know, the idea that Satan or his demonic force attacked me in some way may be a wise explanation, but it feels like an easy answer. Instead of giving guidance in my doubt, one may find it easier to conclude that Satan has gotten a hold of me. Maybe someday I will believe that. Actually, I’m pretty sure that one day all these doubts will fade away and the God that I have loved will show Himself to me. But I don’t know. I can’t know.

So, why am I sharing this with you? Because I know you care about me and I was encouraged to by my dad. Many of you are friends from church. Some of you are uncles and aunts and cousins. Some of you are grandparents. Some of you are dear brothers and sisters that I’ve met while operating this little blog. And I’m sharing this with you because I know you will do all that you can to help me. I want to believe. I want this. But I want to know that it is true. I don’t want to convince myself of something that isn’t reality. I pray that God will use this Christmas reminder of Jesus to show me His love and give me faith again.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. Please comment or send me an email or talk to me at church. I want to hear stories from your life. I want to know if you ever doubted, and how God has given you faith.

Until next time,

LeviGrant