Recently I came across the phrase, “The Holy Spirit works in conversation.” I can’t remember exactly where I read or heard it, though I did search through the usual suspects (Slacktivist, Father Jake & Thunder Jones). I haven’t written anything but fluff on this blog in a while, but I’ve been having very serious conversations about faith on some other blogs, and I urge my readers who are interested in spiritual matters to check out the relevant posts on Glennalicious (here and here), Obliquity and At the Mountains of Madness.
As someone who is passionate about both a progressive political agenda and Christianity, and further as someone who sees that not as an oxymoronic condition but rather one of natural harmony, I realize that I’ve picked some tough battles and some worthy…well, I don’t want to use the word “adversaries,” but I face strong arguments from people on either side of my political/religious spectrum, not all of which I have good answers for.
I was very fortunate to be educated in a religious tradition that taught that starting off with “You’re going to Hell!” is not a great or remotely effective way to win people over to the faith. Likewise, it was a religious outlook that not only tolerated but encouraged as essential questioning and doubt. Hence, I have always aimed to teach people about Christianity not by criticizing them and threatening them with eternal torment, but by simply being the best person I can, educating them when appropriate about my beliefs, and contradicting misperceptions.
I think I’ve been fairly successful in this regard; none of my close friends in New York are religious, and my moderate attitude has earned me praise and respect from bloggers like Glenn and Spencer, neither of whom could exactly be called Jesus freaks.
One of those misperceptions is that Christianity is a conservative, oppressive, superstitious, vehemently anti-intellectual religion with a doctrine that conveniently manages to mirror exactly the Republican party platform. Of course, there’s good reason for nonreligious types to believe that Christianity is every bit that unpleasant and idiotic: the radical right has worked hard to encourage that perception.
While other churches are suing school districts to get Intelligent Design into the science curriculum, I attend a church which just elected a scientist (and a woman!) as its presiding bishop. Some Christians read Left Behind; I read When Bad Christians Happen to Good People.
I wholeheartedly believe that humility is an essential Christian virtue, and so while I frequently say I disagree with certain interpretations, I refrain from judging people as “wrong” unless I can point to something that is, actually, wrong. In that spirit, my personal goal with my religious writing on this blog is only to encourage understanding that Christianity is diverse. Usually my targets are evangelicals like the folks at the American Family Association, but sometimes I have to take on secular types, too.
Recently, over at TinManic, and again at Glennalicious, I had occasion to respond to comments from Homer. Now, I don’t know Homer, and commenters on his blog assure me that he’s a cool person, which I have no cause to dispute. However, the particular statements he made were generalizations that not only don’t apply even to a bare majority of people of faith (and among all the great faith traditions on the planet, he made zero attempt at distinction), they were factually incorrect. As a person of faith, I felt an obligation to respond.
Unfortunately, Homer has taken my responses as a personal attack, though I did not mean them as such. Well aware that the Gospel requires turning the other cheek, I felt I couldn’t let his statements go unanswered. I hope Homer will accept my genuine apology since he thought I meant to belittle him personally, but I also hope that in the future he will temper his statements with the recognition that there are very few generalizations that can be accurately made about a group as wildly diverse as the global faith community, and also that some of us are on his side.