It’s easy to love people who are exactly like us. They make us feel happy, settled, at peace with the world and our choices. There’s such affirmation in homogeneity: you never look crazy, you never have to explain yourself, you’re probably right because, after all, look at all the people who agree with you. Rosy.
Differences make people uncomfortable. There’s that nagging implication that someone might be wrong, or worse even than that, there’s the worry that someone might be snidely thinking that we are wrong and maybe even condemning us.
I have a lot of experience with this because I’m sort of quasi-Amish. I wear loooong skirts. I cover my head. I have babies every 22 months (at least so far). I have homebirths. I breastfeed. I homeschool. I’m part of a tiny little house church. When people talk about a television show, if it was aired after the turn of the new millennium, I’m usually clueless. It’s been years since I was at a movie theater. I don’t listen to the radio. I’ve never followed secular music much. You know, isolated and strange.
But there are a lot of people in my life who aren’t doing all of these things, or any of these things.
And so I ask myself, how do people with an unusual set of convictions and life practices interact with the rest of the world, the “normal,” less freakish people out there, without adding that element of supposed condemnation that makes everyone feel so uncomfortable?
Since my convictions are so unusual, I can’t seem to talk about them without making a lot of people around me feel condemned just by nature of the fact that they have different convictions. And I can’t honestly say my convictions are just “personal” convictions, as in “I feel called not to eat oatmeal, but I don’t mind if y’all eat boatloads of the stuff–it’s just a personal conviction,” because I never felt like God revealed anything to me as a special call just on my life. If I believe something it’s because I actually believe it. I don’t dress modestly because I think it’s something I need to do, but never mind, dear, God doesn’t care how you dress. I don’t avoid the majority of broadcast media because I think it’s a pointless, raunchy, morally desensitizing waste of time for me, but quite possibly good and wholesome for everyone else. No, I do these things (and most things) because I believe them to be true in the abstract, and then I apply them to myself. Stellar. I’m well set up to be a first class trumpeter of judgment and condemnation to nearly anyone on the planet. Because, you know, with my long list of all the ways I’m isolated and strange, it’s pretty easy for just about everybody to find a sticking point, some area of disagreement, some thing that I really believe in that they just don’t.
What to do? What to do?
Some people get around the issue by surrounding themselves with people that all think the same thing, join an oppressive group which dictates all convictions so they can be conservative without controversy, park their brains at the door, and do their condemning together as a cozy group. But then, who’s going to help them see where they’re wrong? It would be impossible for any of us to get it completely right. We need other people who see the world differently to challenge us and help us think through all those beliefs of ours to make sure we don’t decide oatmeal is the anti-Christ or something.
A better plan is to really believe what we believe, share it freely, and then lovingly give each other space to follow God as best we know how. We are not the ones other people have to please. They only need to please God, and He will reveal the things He wants each of us to know in His own timing.
Let’s genuinely love people even if they dress modestly (or don’t), or use birth control (or don’t), or send their kids to public school (or don’t), or even if they eat oatmeal (or don’t). People are still bound to get uncomfortable from time to time, but persevering in respecting them, valuing them, learning from them, and loving them seems to me to be a much better solution than either pretending we don’t believe anything, or limiting ourselves to people who already agree with us.