Respecting the “Other”…

oth·er
adjective & pronoun

1.used to refer to a person or thing that is different or distinct from one already mentioned or known about.

I am all about “other.”  I love the concept of variety and the reality that more than one truth exists.  I feel that “other” offers me an opportunity to grow, to learn, and to expand the truths that I live by.

As a “Christian,” a variety of “others” exist outside my little world of church, work, and family, and I love to encounter the people who live within those truths.  I think the way interact with them and learn from them helps build relationships and friendships, but I was disappointed the other day to learn how some of my fellow “Christians” responded to a group of “others.”

Several weeks ago a group called the South Dakota Coalition of Reason sponsored several billboards across the state promoting their organization with the slogan, “Don’t Believe in God?  Join the Club!”  The billboards listed the organization’s web address and Facebook page.  All-in-all, a pretty harmless piece of advertisement to inform people of a group of “others.”

Not long after, in direct response to the Coalition’s billboards, the “Christian” owner of a construction company purchased a sign quoting Psalm 14 that says, “The fool hath said in his heart, ‘there is no God.'”  I’m not a big fan of the billboard with the Psalm quote on it.  The story I am telling myself involves a “Christian” who became defensive when presented with a truth other than his own.

Bigger than my dislike for the response billboard itself is the message its purchase and display send.  The timing was poor to say the least, and leads me to believe that it is a defensive response from a defensive mind.  It unfortunately paints other “Christians” with a very broad and unfortunate brush.  This response also serves to pigeonhole the majority of “Christians” as intolerant.  It makes us, them, me, look like we don’t understand or want to include groups of “other” in our community or lives.

The ultimate problem is…the billboard with the Psalm on it doesn’t really support what Jesus might have done.  The billboard, whether directly or indirectly, attacks the Coalition of Reason.  It was meant as a response and a statement.  The problem is that hard and fast statements do not promote dialogue.  They do not encourage conversation or relationships.  Jesus is all about dialogue and relationships.  From his conversations with the woman at the well to dinner with a tax collector, Jesus often entered into OPEN conversation with “others.”

It is not an easy task.  Being open to other people involves revealing part of yourself.  It means facing your insecurities and being willing to admit that maybe your “truth” isn’t the only “truth.”  Only when we open ourselves up to others are we able to truly have the important dialogue that encourages community, builds relationships, and brings us all closer to a common “truth.”

I pray we all recognize and appreciate “otherness.” (even in ourselves).  I pray we can all see the value in others.  I pray that God is present in the relationships we build.

One Love
One God
One Way

Jason

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~ by archangel66 on September 10, 2013.

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