Thursday, August 7, 2014

A Better Way: Religion and Politics

People say you shouldn't talk about religion.  I say that talking about religion is extremely healthy and is a whole lot better than fighting over it physically (I have no problem with people discussing their faith or lack-there-of with conviction and passion, so long as they remain respectful).  People say you shouldn't talk about politics.  I personally don't enjoy political conversations very much, but what does it say about people when we eliminate a very real and important aspect of life from our conversational options?  Are we incapable of disagreeing with someone in principle, while still remaining civil?  Can we maintain a loving and healthy relationship with someone with whom we vehemently disagree?  Do our differences not make life much more interesting?  Do not our own views become stronger, maybe more nuanced and a bit healthier by being challenged, gracefully, by those who may see things differently?

I've had a few conversations with people recently where my comparison of Christian faith with other world views and religions made some present uncomfortable. Some of the conversations dealt simply with historical facts.  Other parts of the conversations dealt with core convictions.  In either case, I made it clear that my faith in Jesus leads me to believe that ultimately he will be the final judge in the end.  I stressed that in simply comparing the different belief systems, I was not taking my place on the judgment seat.  However, I didn't shy away from sharing what the Christian faith teaches, based on Jesus' own words as recorded in the gospels and what the later New Testament writers had to say.  I fully recognize that my understanding of my own faith continues to grow and mature as I get older and that many in the world would have vastly different views to my own.  However, if we're not free to clearly express our views, what's the point in having them to begin with?  We may as well live in a dictatorship without freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, and freedom of speech.

Proverbs states that as iron sharpens iron, so two people sharpen one another.  Real differences exist in this increasingly pluralistic and globalized world.  There's a real opportunity for people from different faiths, world views, and political persuasions to actually come together and dialogue about their very real differences.  There's nothing wrong with this, in fact, it's extremely healthy.  However, when I look around the world, whether through the lens of the newspaper headlines or in some of my own conversations, it seems that the culture is increasingly forcing people to extremes.  Either we allow our differences to divide so deeply that we become uncivil in our interactions (or worse when we look at the trouble spots of violence scattered across the globe) or we refuse to even engage in dialogue, preferring to "keep the peace" and our opinions to ourselves.  Both of these extremes diminish our humanity and prevent us from growing individually and collectively.  A better way begins with each and every one of us. - Shay