Breaking with History

Imagine this description in a news story:

The young men gathered at the event were able to stand for the first time in openness and honesty before their peers. They were no longer required to cover up their private lives to save their public reputations. The burden of secrecy was finally lifted off their shoulders after years of living a lie.

And fears of violence or reprisal proved unfounded. Despite being a minority — just 10% of the population, on average — the attendees talked of the acceptance and tolerance they experienced. 

“It’s just not a big deal to my friends,” one man shared with a wide grin. “They know me, and they know this is a part of who I am. Our friendship matters more than our differences.”

I received a forwarded opinion piece in an e-mail from a Christian friend today. The article expressed deep concern that the Pentagon “broke with history” by celebrating its first gay pride event.

In the realm of “blinding flash of the obvious,” let’s do the math. The policy change allowing homosexuals to serve openly went into effect in September of 2011, three months after the last LGBT Pride month.

So… duh. This is the first such month that the Pentagon could even remotely support that without blatant hypocrisy.

They acted in accordance with the policy changes they’ve put into effect. Were we wanting duplicity instead?

But the tone of the article is what really got to me, with its one part fear-mongering, one part disgust.

We — the Christian community in America — are mostly operating under a double standard.

That “news story” description at the top could easily apply to Pride month. But that wasn’t my intention. I’m thinking of the way many of these same Christians would respond if the situation was different. What if this was a news story about a church function in a predominantly Muslim country? Or perhaps if it was an account of a meeting in China under communist rule?

Most of the Christians I’ve met would rejoice at the thought. Our brothers and sisters across the world, permitted to serve God openly in a place formerly hostile to expressions of faith? That would be wonderful news!

It would also be “breaking with history.”

My news story is fictional, but I know the hopes and the prayers of my fellow believers… and my own, for that matter. We look for change in governments that are opposed to open expression of religion. We desire a shift toward freedom and individual rights, even if that’s not the historical way of the nations in question.

Abandoning social norms is acceptable if the change agrees with us.

And we act like our stance on religious freedom makes perfect sense; why doesn’t everyone see it our way? Why shouldn’t Christians be allowed to believe in God in a public fashion in these other countries?

But God forbid that homosexuals in America should have a chance to live openly instead of hiding who they are.

Shortly after joining the military, I learned that the standard I use to judge or limit other people’s activities can very easily be turned around against me.

It’s natural that we believe our moral standards are the best. People can call that arrogance, but that’s a silly argument. I believe what I believe precisely because I think it’s the best, most accurate choice. And everyone else does exactly the same thing. If I thought my beliefs were flawed, I would give them up. I expect we all would.

The danger in having a strong belief or moral standard is that you risk applying it to everyone else, regardless of what they believe.

It’s great that I believe the Christian Gospel and the moral standards of the Bible. That’s the choice I’ve made based on my faith.

But why should I act like that’s everyone else’s choice too?

We set ourselves up for needless conflict and miscommunication when we expect others to align with our beliefs when they do not share those beliefs. I expect people who claim to be Christians to act like Christians. I expect people who aren’t interested in Christianity to live how they choose, not necessarily according to my rules.

News Flash: they didn’t sign on for my moral standard.

People of other faiths or no faith are going to live in accordance with their beliefs. That’s a good thing.

We always hope that our missionaries to other countries would be permitted such freedom. We want them to be able to worship and live out Christian values even if they are the minority.

Why is it we’re fine with the majority imposing values on the minority here in the States?

The standard I use to limit someone else’s freedom will sooner or later be used to limit my own.

For example, some of my Christian friends would balk at the thought that other religions could use Base Chapel facilities for their own religious ceremonies and meetings–especially those pagans and Wiccans! The latter term would come out in the hushed whisper that somehow conjures a mental image of spitting on the ground. “I can’t believe they let them into the Chapel!”

One of my Wiccan coworkers tried to get a rise out of me by pointing out how the Chapel opened its doors and permitted them to meet in the facilities.

“Good,” I said. “The day they tell you that you’re not allowed to meet there, they can come tell me the same thing.”

Celebrating freedom is more than just getting to do what I want. Freedom for all means that I also celebrate the opportunity for others to do the things I oppose.

I don’t need a back-seat driver in my life telling me what to do. I don’t need to be one for someone else either.

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