I identify as a Christian. I am an ally. I think science is beautiful. I have been hurt by the church. I have hurt as the church.
I am guilty.
I am guilty of scapegoating those who follow a faith tradition because it makes me feel morally superior, or as “they” put it, holier-than-thou.
I am guilty of scapegoating those who defer to science because it makes me feel holier, or as “they” put it, morally superior.
I am guilty of labelling a whole group of people as uneducated and insane, because they believe some old book and what some person in a robe has told them, and because they claim to have experienced something.
I am guilty of labelling a whole group of people as “God-haters” and “ignorant,” because they believe their textbook and what some person in a coat has told them, and because they claim to have found something.
I am guilty of laughing at “them,” because their questions made me feel uncomfortable. As though I might be missing something. Maybe that they had experienced or found something so great, and here I was, a single human being, seeking the unknown and not seeing what “they” have seen.
I am guilty of not listening. Of not letting my heart be open. Of not letting myself listen to their story. Of not validating “their” human experience. Of trying to think of an argument to combat them for “our” side while they tried to explain how they thought.
Today there was a man who was trying to tell everyone they were all going to hell. I joined the crowd, mocking him, laughing at his supposed ignorance, rolling my eyes at his statements, throwing metaphorical stones at him with the crowd — all while hiding the fact that I used to be him.
If I have learned anything in this political election, it is that it is so easy to tear “them” down. It is so easy to cast “them” out into the gutter, holding our heads high as we prance upon our higher sidewalk of superior morality, judging them while ignoring the crumbling buildings about to crush the both of us.
There are people I considered as friends that I have thrown into the gutter, thinking “How could I ever be anything like them,” while only 3 years ago I thought as they do.
There are people I considered as friends with whom I refuse to make eye contact, because they made a joke I found offensive, while only 1 year ago I laughed at the same thing.
I am happy with how I have changed over the years. It’s not useful for me to hate who I was before, or how I thought before—it ignores the fact that I have grown. That I have learned things. That I am better than before.
People change and grow. But we cannot create healthy environments for growth by refusing to listen to their thoughts. We can help them grow through conversation.
This conversation is not always peaceful. It is not always easy. The conversation does not imply agreement.
But a conversation does involve listening.
We can, we should continue speaking our truth about what we believe to be right. What we believe to be necessary. What we believe to be just.
But we must also try listen to what “they” believe to be right, even if “their” thoughts and actions seems vile and despicable to us. Because it’s likely that our thoughts and actions seem vile and despicable to them, too.
We must listen because we, they, us, them — all of these form the human experience. All humans have voices, and we need to make sure that we are listening to their cries, not simply casting our ideological stones at our enemies without listening to their words.
Like that Jewish rabbi said, let those who are without guilt throw the first stone.
2 sidenotes to my progressive friends:
- I am not advocating that people should be forced to relive traumatic experiences. I personally think we should advocate for triggers warnings. But I don’t think we should demonize people who don’t advocate for triggers — they might not have experienced discrimination for a certain identity and therefore might have difficulty empathizing with that experience, just as we might sometimes have difficulty empathizing with their life experience. Either way, while they might have a bad impact, they usually are not intending to hurt people—so we can explain how we perceive their words while trying to love and assume good intent, and have a conversation.
- All humans have voices ≠ all humans have had equal power in their voices. I think that systems have oppressed different groups’ voices throughout history and in the present. But on the individual level, in individual conversations, I think we should validate each person’s voice, because they do have a voice.
Sidenote to my conservative friends — I am sorry that you have often been demonized during this season. You are a human who is deserving of love, and I hope that you continue to voice your opinions so we can engage in a real conversation.