If there’s one thing I have learned over the years, it is this: good friends are hard to find, harder still if you expect them to fit into some specific idealized box.
One of these boxes that I find people wanting to cling to is religion – Christians like to hang out with Christians; non-Christians prefer the company of other non-Christians; some folks are even pickier than that. I don’t identify with any organized religion, but I have friends and social connections spanning a wide variety of belief systems, and I believe that the election to follow any particular religion does not, in and of itself, define one’s value as a person or the values that one holds.
That said, while I don’t actively seek out connections from among the Christian communities (as I have a lot of trouble finding common ground with members of the mainstream Christian groups), sometimes they happen nonetheless. Most often at work.
Here’s the thing though, while there are many Christians out there who are angry, overbearing, closed-minded, judgmental people, who feel entitled to shove their beliefs down the throats of anyone with a differing opinion (including other Christians), there are plenty of folks out there who, in addition to be kind, open-minded, generous people, happen to also be Christian.
These are the ones I get along with. And sometimes, when these connections happen, it really surprises me.
Take my friend DB, for example, here is a woman who is dedicated to her Christian faith – it is an active part of her every day life. She is devout in her beliefs and takes an active role in her church and faith community. This is not typically the type of Christian that I grok with. This is the type of Christian that, in my personal experience, are the ones who stereotypically push their beliefs on others and judge harshly those who don’t agree. With that in mind, even though we get along famously, I’ve tended to avoid topics of a philosophical or religious nature in discussions with DB.
Color me pleasantly surprised to find out, after an unexpected, yet delightfully open-minded, discussion of philosophy and life goals, that D is very much on the same page that I am when it comes to connecting with people: what matters is a person’s values and intentions, regardless of their religious perspectives.
There’s just something so refreshing about encountering that perspective, about being valued for one’s actual merits, not because one picked the correct deity out of the Magic Religion Box.
Besides, there are few things I value more that having a stereotype that I fell into believing shatter before me, forcing me to reevaluate my perspective and to remember that people don’t fit into boxes and that everyone deserves to be seen as an individual, unique person, not as an archetype.