Our society has grown to be very antagonistic. Us vs. them. As a former president once proclaimed, “if you’re not with us, you’re against us.” Conservative vs. liberal, pro-choice vs. anti-choice, Christian vs. Muslim, pro-gay vs. anti-gay. It’s become a war between differing opinions. Each side convinced of their own righteous.
I will openly admit that I am guilty of this mentality. I have found myself unjustifiably angry at people that do not share my views of the world. During the last election cycle I found I could not stop myself from thinking everyone that badmouthed the president was a flaming idiot and that everyone that blindly supported him was brilliant beyond belief. When the election was over and my candidates were successful I recognized how ridiculous my beliefs were. Now, had they lost I would more than likely still be licking my wounds, much like many conservatives are still.
What I find most disturbing about my thought patterns are how closed minded I can be when someone doesn’t agree with me. Why can’t I see beyond this differing of opinions and see the person for who they actually are. Confession: my father, brother, step-mother, and sister-in-law are staunch conservatives and we rarely agree on anything politically. For them I often find myself softening my own views and demurring for the sake of peace. But, this is my family and I find very little worth destroying the love we hold for one another.
So, the question I often pose to myself is, why can’t that sentiment pervade the entire country? I have been pondering this post for several days. And I couldn’t figure out the answer to that question. These differences have caused different factions to put up walls. How can anyone spread love when there are obstacles blocking the way. We tend to congregate with like minded people; often too afraid to open our hearts to others.
One thing I have discovered with the us vs. them mentality is the feeling that if our side doesn’t win we are somehow “less than” the side that was victorious. I vividly remember when Al Gore ceded the 2000 election. I was distraught. How could we be cursed with George W. Bush for 8 years? But, on the flip side I know many conservatives in 2000 that were saying, “thank God, our Clinton nightmare is over.” Now, I’m not here to argue politics. In fact, I’d like for everyone to give up “arguing” about politics. It’s not a win/lose situation. It’s not a game. When we see it as a win/lose strategy game we make enemies of our brothers, our friends, our co-workers, our partners. Is it really worth it? Can this not be approached with an open heart and mind? When you think mindfully on this idea you cannot help but think of a 3 year old that does not get their way. How many politicians, acquaintances, friends, family, loved ones, have you seen, throwing a childish tantrum because they did not get their way. (I think I our recent government shut down was the perfect example, no matter which direction you lean politically).
Eckhart Tolle teaches us to strive for the death of our ego. This desire for “our side” to win at all costs is nothing more than ego telling us we are better than “them” if we win and they have humiliated “us” if we lose. These self-defeating thoughts must be purged. The ego cannot gain control. It has no place in our spiritual life.
Ohhhhh, I talk a big game here. My Mr. Know-It-All rears his ugly head. And, I recognize that it is far easier said than done. I know for a fact that my ego is deeply entrenched and I still focus on the us vs. them ideal. My greatest us vs. them that I cannot let go of is me vs. Christianity. I have had a bad taste in my mouth for a long time when it comes to “Christians”. I am ashamed to admit that I have so often thought that anyone who is a self-professed Christian is automatically weak and a bigot. I remember in high school my favorite teacher often told me that organized religion was for the weak of mind. I held on to this idea. I still have not completely let it go, but I now see it as a fault of my ego, not of my Christian brethren.
What has stemmed this dislike and distrust of Christians? Their long held belief that I am somehow flawed for being gay. Growing up hearing you are an abomination who is doomed to the fires of hell does not place those that proclaim this in your good graces. Logically, I know that not every Christian believes this. Logically, I know that when I think of Christianity and Christ as bad words that deserve my derision and not my respect that I am allowing anger, disappointment, hurt, and ego to lead my heart. I still find my self cringing when someone professes to be a Christian.
I work hard every day to overcome my prejudice. My hope is to open my heart fully, to love everyone completely. I am not there yet. But as well all know I am not perfect. No one is. Gandhi once said, “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians; they are so unlike your Christ.” I have held onto this saying for many years. I agree with the sentiment for so many of the in your face, judgmental Christians that hold themselves as better than others. But, I also recognize the ego and hypocrisy of feeling I am somehow better because I do not identify with Christianity. I am no better by assuming that every Christian I meet is a weak minded bigot. I certainly know this is NOT the case. I have met many beautiful and loving Christians. And my heart turns to them each time I see another so-called Christian misusing the words of Christ to justify their hatred.
Thich Naht Hanh wrote an amazing book, “Living Buddha, Living Christ” that shows the parallels of these great men. It has begun to lead me on the long walk back into the light of acceptance of all beliefs. Another great book that has softened my heart is “The Shack” by Wm. Paul Young. Both books have helped me open my heart to the teachings of the Buddha and the teachings of The Christ. And it is with this open heart that I go forward. Not perfect, not fully forgiving my past hurts, but forward on the road to love and healing.
Will you join me? Can you forgive your hurts? Take my hand and let’s walk together as a family.