Respect. This must be the central focus in discussions of faith. Respect for differences. Respect for history. Respect for emotions.
A few days ago I received a correspondence about faith that put me in a tailspin. I don't want to discuss it too much here because of some privacy issues, but I was all a-mess over this. I was angry, then I was sad, then I felt bad for the other person, then I was just confused. Then I talked to my friend Lucy^. She pointed out that basically, I was feeling disrespected.
As a Catholic. As a new-age-crystal-wearing-hippy-type. As a descendant of Native Americans. As a woman. As an adult. As a politically liberal American. Etc. And yes, I realize that some of those labels don't seem to belong on the same name tag. So be it.
I realized, that this is the line I was trying to articulate in my earlier post, An Open Letter To God, where I discussed my negative feelings toward some expressions of faith. These are the expressions of faith that upset me, as a currently-ill person preparing for transplant:
It upsets me if people talk to me about Christianity as though I'm not a Christian. My first name is Mary. What are the chances that I haven't heard about Jesus? I mean, seriously.
It upsets me if people accuse me of not praying enough over my health. I am not sick because of a lack of prayer. I will not get "better" because of increased attention to prayer. If I succumb to illness, it will not be because I did not pray. It will be because I have Cystic Fibrosis. I always want to say, "Oh! Prayer! I have been meaning to look into that!"
It upsets me if people presume to speak to God for me. People can speak to their God about me, sure - have at it. The only person who can speak to God for me, is me. And perhaps a few other people. Is it you?
It upsets me if people assume that an open discussion of faith requires one person to adopt the other person's beliefs by the end of the conversation. I believe much can be learned by just putting ideas on the table, and looking at them. Look at your belief- over there. Look at mine- over here. Look at that other belief over there - what does it all mean? I believe in asking questions of one another, not shouting answers. Hey look, it's a gummy bear. What does a gummy bear MEAN?
It upsets me if people assume that a question of faith indicates a lack of faith. Sometimes, it's just a question. I have a garbage disposal that I use daily. I believe that it works. Sometimes I wonder, where does the food go? But I still believe that the garbage disposal works. This was the least-offensive metaphor I could come up with, believe it or not.
It upsets me when, unprompted, every single person takes the news of transplant as an invitation into a gigantic spiritual conversation. I'm totally fine with it with family and friends, but I feel like 90% of the people I interact with go right for the deep talk, regardless of our prior relationship. I am tempted to be like, "POP QUIZ: What's my last name? (Gal) Am I married or single? (Single) Straight or gay? (Straight) What do I teach?" (Drama) For example, at times when this has occurred.
That being said, I LOVE THE COMMENTS THAT HAVE BEEN WRITTEN ON MY POSTS SO FAR! AWESOME. KEEP 'EM COMING and a big SHOUT OUT to CYSTICDAD who chimed in! Yay!
That's all for tonight. I'm tired. Doc tomorrow. Low oxygen today. Must sleep well.
PS. Ronnie and I are still in a blogmance.
PPS. Thanks so much to everyone who donated to Unleash Your Story.
PPPS. Gummy bears.