Thoughts on Differences

>> Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Today I spent some time browsing through OneWheaton's website, which some of my friends have been following closely.  It's a supportive community for students and alumni of Wheaton College, where Lanse and I attended, who identify (or suspect they will) as homosexual.  Wheaton, being a (mostly conservative) Evangelical Christian college, is not experienced as a safe place for people struggling with these issues.  Regardless of my personal opinions of homosexuality or Christianity, I'm saddened that a place like Wheaton is not a safe place, and I'm grateful that there are people working hard to make positive changes.  High school and college years are when a person goes through a major, and usually mostly permanent, identity crisis, and the environment in which that crisis settles plays a primary role in directing the final result.  The experienced Christian leadership at Wheaton has such a profound opportunity to reach those most in need of guidance in many areas, not just in sexual identity, and yet so many students leave feeling humiliated, ashamed, and betrayed by the theoretically supportive body of Christ.  I have a physical disability, and I was one of the people who left.  But some students have felt this so deeply that they chose to not only leave campus, but end their lives, and that is absolutely unacceptable from a community that stands up to proclaim that what we all have in common is the ability to experience and share God's love.

I've been irrationally angered lately with differences, and the experiences of individuals in OneWheaton have set me off once again.  In my degree studies for early childhood education we learned ways in which children are different from one another, and how to reach out and meet each individual need.  Key here being "individual"... while we may loosely group children for the sake of curriculum planning and easing specific struggles, every single child is a unique creation.  Understand that fully:  Every. Single. Person. Is. Different.  It hurts my head in the same way as contemplating eternity or infinity.  If you look inside a box of 96 Crayola crayons, you may see a row of "red" crayons.  But if you break down the pigment combinations we see as shades, you have what they label "brick" and "magenta" and "jazzberry" and "radical" and "scarlett" and so on.  Even every "brick red" crayon is different at the microscopic level, depending on the weather and the machinery on the day it was poured.  Every "red" crayon is different, just like every child is different, even if you choose to only see "red" as you may choose to only see "white" or "tomboy" or "special needs".  So why do we assume that changes when the child is grown up? 

Obviously, labels are necessary to some extent in order to meet functional needs for healthy development, or even simply to make sure an elevator doesn't exceed capacity.  But just because adults can already do math or eat neatly or understand quantum physics, we assume that we are fully developed and have socially conformed, and therefore we fit ourselves - and others - comfortably into a soft-sided box.  In reality, our brains and our abilities continue to change and grow, or decay if unfed, until the day it stops pumping blood to the brain.  We, as adults - every single one - are different. 

Christ did not sit on a hillside and say, as I've heard preachers say in parts, "Thou shalt love people who are black or hispanic.  Thou shalt love people who are in wheelchairs or have an eye patch.  Thou shalt love people who don't understand how to respect your personal space, or who talk really loudly to themselves in public. Thou shalt love people who haven't had a shower in a month.  Thou shalt love people who are sexually attracted to people of the same gender as themselves.  Thou shalt love old people.  Oh, and kids too.  I love kids, and thou shalt love them also." (Though He did get awfully close to that last one.)  While those things are all true, it's ludicrous to think He'd break it down for us in that detail.  It's ridiculous to think that He would think we'd need such a thing.

What did He say instead?  "Love your neighbor.  Pray for your enemies.  Help the widow and orphan. Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give a drink to the thirsty."  When He was specific, it was to address survival.  In the culture in which He lived on Earth, being a widow, orphan, hungry, naked, or thirsty for any length of time meant death.  But regarding everyone who wasn't at risk of dying, He told us simply to love our neighbors*.

We are all different, but the one category we all share is "human".  Are you genetically human?  Not a cat or from outer space or anything else?   Great!  Let's use that term then in our sermons and lectures.  Love everyone around you who is human.  (It might make life easier to love your pets, too, of course.)  And remember, "love" in this case doesn't involve standing there feeling pleasure at their presence.  It means giving that person respect as a fellow human being.  Giving them the right of benefit of the doubt unless they have proven themselves untrustworthy; but even then, to care about their survival in life as you would like others to care you exist.  In what way does their skin color or their inability to reach tall shelves or his desire to kiss another man mean that they're not as human as you are?  How does that influence the destiny of your soul?  It doesn't.  How does it make you less of the person God wants you to be?  Whether or not it does depends on your use of the label you put on them.  Human?  Or something less?

*Sermons on who constitutes "our neighbor" are plentiful.  Feel free to Google.  In summary, "our neighbor" = everyone.


About This Blog

Life is about changes; transitions from one place to another, from one purpose to another, from one being to another. They say that the person you are today is a completely different person from who you were ten years ago and who you'll be ten years from now. So far, at the age of 33, I've had four major transitions in my life which redefined who I am. Two years into the results of the most recent transition I am again - still - exploring how God is shaping me. Over the next few months I hope to review my past and set goals for the future, and embrace the next adventure of rediscovering me.

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