Christmas Story: Diversity In Belief
Where A Person Is Headed
Is More Important
Than Where They Are
Historically, Christian groups have been a bit faddish. They promote favored ideas about God or mannerisms for living life and require all subscribers to adopt these ideas as a show of allegiance.
The system idiosyncrasies eventually become the identifying marks for the group. Everyone looks and talks the same. Stepford-like.
And, of course, many arguments are spun to justify the system – especially when countering systems emerge – to prove how right one is and how wrong the others are and hopefully win adherents to the cause.
But it doesn’t stop there. If the arguments are not convincing enough, fear is introduced.
The only way to heaven is through our beliefs and this organization. All noncompliant are condemned.
Emotional manipulation at its best or maybe I should say worst. Anyone who diverges is barred from membership or disallowed participation, which really doesn’t make sense for any group who claims to represent a loving God.
In some cases, it is only implied that non-compliant members MAY not get to heaven. They get a sideways glance or a look of disgust, which makes one feel condemned even if they are not. In other cases it is stated as fact. “No compliance” equals “No saving grace” which equals “No heaven!”
And in some cases, heaven is lost forever.
Do this one disallowed thing and you can forget about heaven.
Sadly, what is lost in all of this is “dialogue.” Fixed beliefs and fixed ideas about those beliefs translates into “no discussion allowed.” Even clarification isn’t allowed so don’t bother asking your questions. The position is, “accept the official statements and assume the posture, full stop.”
The clarifying questions aren’t allowed mostly because they shine light on the logical weaknesses in the arguments but it does little good to point that out. Beliefs, religious or not, have a way of locking the mind to logical input.
You might be wondering where I’m going with this. No, I’m not dissing the idea of holding firm beliefs. I hold some beliefs quite firmly myself and I haven’t come across arguments that would convince me to change. So, I’m not suggesting you give up your cherished beliefs.
What I am doing is encouraging you to change the way you view those who differ. Their beliefs may not blend with yours but that in no way means God rejects them. He may not agree with them on a few points but couldn’t we say that about everyone? Is there anyone you think God agrees with one hundred percent?
Of course, the next question is how do I justify this thinking and the answer to that question is found in the Christmas story. My argument stems from the diversity of all the characters in that story.
The richness of Christmas is developed through this diversity. The characters were very different and all imperfect but each one was used by God.
- Most of the characters were Jewish but not all. The wise men came from a culture not usually associated with biblical religion, the east. To say they were different is an understatement. But in spite of the differences they had very strong beliefs about when the Savior would come and how to find Him. God used that belief. As far as I know they were never converted to Judaism while in Jerusalem or after but they did believe.
- Zacharias represented the religious system. He was right in some ways and wrong in others but God used him in a very significant way in spite of his error.
- Simeon – a priest who had been put aside by the system – represented the individual who was religiously aware but not really included. He was more aligned with God than the system. God used him.
- Anna represented a nobody who demonstrated a level of commitment above and beyond. She was more sacrificial than the system required but as far as we know she didn’t look down on anyone because of that. She didn’t hold it over anyone’s head. She wasn’t on a soap box preaching how special she was. She wasn’t encouraging anyone to join her order.
- Joseph and Mary were poor common laborers. There was nothing remarkable about either. Mary could have been homely. Joseph could have been awkward. Both had incredible personal meetings with God but they didn’t glamorize or preach their experiences. In fact, Mary didn’t even get it until after the resurrection. Their differences didn’t become the religious rule for everyone to follow, thankfully.
And don’t forget that Mary got pregnant out of wedlock, which given today’s quick-to-judge mentality would have labeled her a slut. In her case God, not the Devil, was in the details.
I say all of this to point out that you can’t confine people to religious definitions. God uses all kinds of people. Some may not go to church with you or to a church like yours and some may not go at all. But instead of making judgments on-the-fly, give a little space. Every person should be defined by their journey and it will take a considerable amount of openness and investigation to understand that journey before you make judgments.
You don’t have to change your personal beliefs. You just need to change your attitude.
Merry Christmas! THINK!AboutIt