Saturday, June 5, 2010

More alike than we know

Tonight I took my kids to see a musical. We typically go each year at this time, it's a play put on by the church that runs my son's preschool. This year the musical was about the story of Esther in the Bible. The production is always pretty cool, particularly for a "church run" play. The church who puts on the musical is what I would categorize conservative, evangelical, perhaps bordering on fundamentalist.

While I have sent both of my children to this church for preschool, I have cringed on occasion at some of the things they have come home singing. "I'm in the Lord's army" or "The Devil is a sly old fox" - the songs are cute little numbers...but I worry about what messages my children are getting. After all, I am basically a pacificist - I don't want my children to be part of any army. And I'm not certain what I believe about the devil...but I don't typically think he's lurking around every corner wanting to trick me.

Ultimately though, as I watched the musical tonight, I became aware again that we are more the same than we think we are. We, as humans, draw all these boundaries and lines and demarcations. You are good, but you, well you are bad. Republican, Democrat...conservative, liberal...Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Jews, Agnostics, Atheists...American, illegal alien... As a people, we have spent so much time figuring out who is like us and who isn't. Who we are and who we are not. And despite all of my "open-minded" notions, I still judge people I meet fairly quickly. Particularly if I think they are close-minded or conservative or judgmental themselves.

The people at this play are not people I would normally socialize with. They make jokes about Hillary Clinton and laugh at the ideas I believe whole-heartedly in. But, perhaps before I get too far down the "self-righteous path" I should recall, that I make jokes about Sarah Palin and I laugh at things they are passionate about too.

As I watched the play, I was swept up in the music. Several songs about being fearless, about being thankful to God, about loving each other. These are all things I can subscribe to. Things I aspire to. While I have no doubt we have very different definitions of how these things should be lived out...we still have a commonality. Certainly this is what I hope my children are learning from this place. And sometimes I see the results of learning our shared story in them...when they come home and talk about Jesus ... when they sing "Jesus loves me" or "This little light of mine." I'm reminded we are part of one body, one world.

We really aren't that different. While we choose to express ourselves in vastly different ways, we remain part of a whole. I recall a good friend I had in college. She was someone I loved from the day I met her. We were on opposite of ends of every spectrum. As politically conservative as she was, I was politically liberal. For as seriously Baptist as she was, I was not so serious about being an Episcopalian. While church and faith were important to me, it was as important to me to question what I thought I "knew" as it was for me to worship or pray. And the questions didn't scare me, they brought me further into the faith. She, on the other hand, didn't have any use for the questions. She was fairly certain of her beliefs, and didn't have any use for the debates and messy stuff. But, I never questioned her faith. I certainly knew that she loved me and God. And it wasn't superficial. In some ways she represented everything I would fight against, and in other ways she was a blessing to me. If I needed her, I have no doubt she would've been one of my defenders. While there was a whole heap of things we disagreed about, she was kind and loving. I hope she would say the same about me. I cared about her, and no philosophical differences could've stopped me from being her friend.

As Pollyanna-ish as it sounds, I sometimes think if every person could have one person in their lifetimes that was completely opposite in his or her beliefs, but who personified love, that perhaps most folks could look past their own prejudices. I think about how different racism looks when you love someone of another race. I think about crazy homophobia seems when you love someone who is gay. Suddenly racism, homophobia, sexism, etc. all have a distinct taste. And it's ugly and not at all something we can tolerate. We are all bound together in this mystery of faith, of life.

And so, when my son sings about "the Lord's army" - I smile it at him and tell him what a great job he did singing it. I hope he will learn someday that we really are more alike than we know.

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