Thursday, March 26, 2009

A Mouth Full of Walls

It's always exciting to meet new people you get along and interact well with until the make-or-break question pops up: "so, what do you believe?" Every time I'm asked to describe my beliefs I have a mini-panic attack. First, I find it difficult to put into words what I actually believe, and second, I fear the Walls of Ignorance will shoot up and whatever relationship we may have had may not exist after this conversation. It was bad enough when I was growing up as an SDA speaking to other Christians that viewed us as cult members, but now it's worse as a non-traditional Christian tolerant of other religious views living within the Bible Belt.

So I can either tell them I'm a Christian, but exclude the fact that I don't believe that Christ's death is needed to atone for sins (including that darn Original Sin), or I can tell them what I truly believe hoping that the Walls of Ignorance will stay down allowing us to have an inter-faith dialogue. It is rare to find those that are open-minded enough to sit and listen to your "strange" beliefs without attempting to convert you. I don't force my beliefs on people anymore nor do I want to convert anyone. I enjoy sharing and listening to other beliefs which tells me a lot more about a person's character than basic personal information (martial status, age, location, career, etc.).

But what is it that gnaws away at us when we meet someone with a different belief? It used to bother me that so many Baptists thought I was in an cult. I would defend my faith without ever considering that I might be theologically wrong. I was spiritually trapped in a box and the thought never occurred to me that there might be something more on the outside.

I was afraid to look outside my religious box for two reasons:
  1. Fear of learning "false" doctrines which would taint my spirituality.
  2. Fear that these "false" doctrines are not false at all but may even contain truth which then challenges my perception of reality.
If I even peek outside my box I could either damn my soul or see beauty radiating in all directions for eternity. I overcame my fear and chose to look. Looking does not mean accepting, it means understanding. The choice to accept what your brother believes is up to you and if it makes you a better person, fantastic. That should be the goal in THIS life, striving to become better people. But the path to understanding and loving one another is a two way street. If one person in a conversation chooses to erect mental walls of fear and ignorance then nothing will be gained.

I still get nervous from time to time when I have conversations on faith with other people. This is not stemmed from rejection but from a lack of connection. This yearning to connect with other human beings lies at the core of our humanity and is crucial for our existence. Let us tear down our mental walls and transcend the fear of loving one another.


Paul Bahleda said...

Hi Eruesso,
I was only asked what I believed point blank one time. My response went like this: " I believe I need to learn a way to love and help you more than I have. Is there any thing I can do to make that happen?" The guy told me I could come to his Church. "Do you feel like that will help you?" I asked. He shuffled his feet a bit. "Well, probably not..." he said. "OK", I said "then what can I do?" He told me uncomfortably I was avoiding the question. I literally reached out and grasped his hand and said "I answered the question as factually as I could. You predetermined my answer. And what I said didn't match."
He gruffly walked away. Two weeks later he called me and asked me if I could explain myself. For 5 years now he has been one of my best friends.
Talk love when asked my friend. It can't fail.

Eruesso said...

Your responses are always so simple and loving like a breath of fresh air. Thanks for the comment.

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