Individuals in many faith traditions are struggling with this question: How do we share and worship together in our diversity, still holding to our own personal beliefs while engaging with others who may believe differently? How do we build bridges? This guest post articulates those concerns. I share the desire to bridge the gap between myself and others whom I like but have significant disagreements with…but I also find myself wondering if that is still possible.
I have kept this close for a while now, these feelings and thoughts haunting my waking hours and shading how my eyes see the others in my life. I was once asked by a friend and fellow Christian, to give space for their beliefs and interpretation, to not let my own view push theirs out or away. I agreed with the validity of the point and their life experience and have attempted to do so over the last few years. We have engaged on a number of topics and have found many points of agreement, even as we continue to disagree on many others.
As our country and our shared faith has undergone tremendous change and stress over the last few years the gulf between us has continued to grow, despite (or maybe because of) our efforts to keep the bridge open and together. I do not claim, nor can I know for sure their thoughts, and do not mean to put words into their mouth or intentions behind the actions I see, that is for them to share. But for myself I am feeling less and less like there is room in our relationship for my way of being and believing. As we have shared it has seemed (to me) to become less about listening to each other and more about being pressed to agree. It does not matter who started it, I’m not even sure I could say for sure if I had to, and both of us are guilty of it at times. But as their position has solidified, the ground between us has continued to move us apart and now, when I stretch out my hand, our fingers no longer touch and I can’t help but be saddened by that fact. And wonder what has happened and if it’s even possible to cover the distance any more. And this friend is not the only one this has happened with.
Social media has may positives, but in so many ways, I am not convinced it does anything to improve our lives or our communities. I have trouble reconciling the people I see on Facebook with the people I see in church, at work, on the street. For several, including the one mentioned above, I have to wonder that if they really believe what they post, how on earth do they tolerate being around me? And then that questioning filters into how I interpret our physical interactions… and I wonder. I also question how I can continue to be an ally to the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized, and still want to maintain “peace” with those who refuse to see how our actions continue to hurt people of color, the LGBT+ community, etc. Am I really an ally then?
Martin Luther King Jr’s words continue to haunt me – “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
I no longer wish to be silent but I do not know what words to speak. My prayer is that whatever words I use, may they be spoken in support of justice and love, of the Shalom of the peaceable kingdom, and of the worth of each person, even if those words require me to speak up in ways I find uncomfortable or even scary.