Let’s find a way to coexist

In an abstract world, controversy is fun.  Everyone picks a side and argues their points, shooting down the other side with logic and theory.  It’s high school debate meets law school meets logic games, stirred together with a nerdy competitive streak and a sense of humor.  Someday soon, I’m going to host a dinner party where people are forced to pick a position out of a hat.  They will be forced to argue that particular side over a chocolate flourless torte and coffee and hear the other side’s arguments.  Maybe it will encourage people to think that every coin has two sides.  That we are all made with different thoughts rattling around inside our brains.  And that’s a good thing.

But then there’s real life.  Whether you’re getting donuts or pumping gas or eating waffle fries – you are constantly being judged.  Judged for your appearance, or haircut, or bumper sticker.  Judged for what you appear to believe.  Judged for what you say to your children or what organization you donate to.  You are tarred, and feathered, and left to die.

In real life, you have to pick a side.  There’s no room to scratch your head and see that two differing opinions have their own independent merit.  There is no ability anymore, with the advent of cable news and talk shows and celebrity obsession and facebook, to think someone who has a strict religious code who can’t wear pants or must never cut their hair has the right to think that way.  They are crazy, or need to keep to themselves, and they are wrong on every social issue that varies from yours.  Don’t give those people money.  Pray they don’t vote.   Make sure they keep to themselves – oppressed and put in the corner where they belong.

Aside from being a carnivore or vegetarian, if someone believes differently than you do on an issue such as same-sex marriage or abortion or any issue touching upon race or worship, that person is deemed to be wrong.  They are so wrong that they are borderline evil.  You don’t want your children playing with their children.  You don’t want to live around them.  You don’t really want them to maintain a successful business or have a long, healthy future or even make it through a string of green lights.  They contribute to hate.  They fuel all that is wrong with the world. You want them to fail.

When did we grow so angry?  When did we stop seeing the value of differences, and embrace our ability to come to our own rational decision?  Come on.  Let’s all put our big girl pants on. Maybe we don’t see eye to eye, but let’s find some common ground.  Let’s search for a middle area where we can all walk around without spitting or seething or giving each other dirty looks.  So I believe in God and you don’t.  So I think one way and you another.  That’s okay.  I still like that purple shirt you’re wearing and I think you deserve to a good night’s sleep.

There is evil in the world that must be stopped.  Hitler murdered Jews.  It was not only acceptable, but mandatory, to do whatever it took to stop him.  The same goes with leaders in today’s world that commit genocide or murder children or encourage rape or sexual trafficking.  If one person says, “let’s all hate Hispanics and do them harm,” obviously our overarching moral compass will react with “hell no.  That’s wrong and I’m not going along with it.”

But for goodness sakes.  The fact that one person believes one way and other differently makes this entire world a more interesting place.  If someone supports Cause A that differs from your personal belief system, donate to Cause B that is in line with what you believe.  Take care of your own family, and your own life. Then go about your business.

If only our world was a fairy tale, we could all eat torte and debate about controversial issues and go home happy and fulfilled at the end of the night.  We would embrace the unique talents and styles and thoughts of those around us without being so hateful.  We could simply agree to disagree.  We would find a way to coexist.

You know that funny little plastic bracelet that kids used to wear?  They handed them out at church camp and Sunday school.  It said “what would Jesus do?”  It’s been overused and vilified, but it’s a legitimate question.  How would Jesus handle all these differences?  How would he deal with all these competing moral dilemmas?

I’ll bet he would love, and forgive, and love some more.  Jesus certainly didn’t apologize for his beliefs, but I’ll venture to guess he didn’t walk around tripping those who thought differently. He might have known in his heart they were wrong.  But I’ll be he didn’t stare them down with hate like they had a disease or paper their houses.  I’ll bet he didn’t call them ugly names or start a Disciple-wide boycott.  He did his best to spread his own message of salvation, love, and forgiveness to the poor, distraught, and sick. If others didn’t like it, that was fine.  Let the chips fall where they may.

Let our lives be more like that of Jesus – filled with peace, and logic, and patience.  Let us not fear that which is different.  Let us coexist, for goodness sakes, so we don’t live like a bunch of savages.

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/auntiep/407993029/”>Auntie P</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photo pin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a>

Comments

  1. Very well said. It’s gotten to the point where I’ve come to dread logging into Facebook because so much of the discourse is just so vile and hateful.. and that’s just as much true from people who hold opinions similar to mine as it does people with opposing views…. and it’s just heartbreaking.,.. and to be honest, a little bit frightening. You never know when this kind of anger can just come to a boil and things turn violent… and that’s not something anybody wants.

    I’m not a Christian personally, but I agree wholeheartedly that we could all take a cue from Jesus’ behavior on this one. From what I’ve read about him, chances are he’d probably invite you to hang out and have dinner instead of hurling a nasty insult to you on Facebook.

  2. Yes! Coming from a family full of healthy (even if not always civil!) debates at the dinner table where opinions and thoughts certainly differed, I love a good challenge in discussing real topics. I think we all walked away from that table still thinking we were right, but a bit more understanding of the other side. I’ll join you for that tart for sure :-)

  3. FrancesVettergreenVisualArtist says:

    I’m in, too! Though I think you must be following the wrong people on Facebook.

    I count myself enormously blessed to live among a group of people where I DON’T have to pick a side. That sort of defensiveness must be exhausting.

  4. I agree with Jessica – the dinner table and through modeling those good discussion behaviors is how we start to change things and to find common ground. I do believe that social media does contribute to further polarization because people tend to follow people with like mindsets.

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