Can We Just Be More Openhearted?

This past week as my news feed was filled with people talking about the Starbucks red cup controversy I rolled my eyes and avoided Facebook. I am sick of being a punching bag.

Fair warning, I am Christian who is about to vent a little and talk a lot about the idea of identity bashing. So if you don’t care to hear those opinions please move on. I don’t care to be your punching bag.

When I say I am a punching bag I mean that it feels like currently it is just fine to Christian bash. To say that Christians just need to change their beliefs or their way of life or insinuate that they are dumb or stupid or out of touch with reality or hateful or…I could go on but I’ll stop there. I am not saying that those words don’t apply to some who are also Christian. What I am saying is I’m sick of people using wide and vast generalizations and assuming that I as a Christian should just know that it doesn’t apply to me or that I shouldn’t take it so personally.

Any identity is personal. If you identify as a ginger and you are proud of that and happy with that and happy with that part of yourself it is personal. When someone says something not nice about all gingers it is difficult not to take it personally. Does that mean you should get really defensive and yell a lot? No. It also doesn’t mean people should take away your voice just because they don’t want their views challenged.

The thing that frustrates me the most is that the people now Christian bashing on a daily if not more than basis, are people who not long ago where victims themselves. Victims of some other kind of identity bashing. Also at least in my life they are often the most liberal and would describe themselves as open-minded. Just because your views currently align with the views of the populace doesn’t make you open-minded.

Being open-minded means being open to ideas that you may not agree with and open to hearing those views without attacking them. According to my old college Webster’s it means “receptive to arguments or ideas.” Unprejudiced is listed as a synonym. Above this is another word, openhearted. It means “candidly straightforward” and the synonym listed is frank.

True discussion helps those who take part to grow. Being able to voice your opinion in a straightforward manner allows you to hear it for yourself. It allows you to figure out what you really feel and think. Sincerity in conversation is slowly dwindling. Everyone is so worried that they will be attacked. One wrong post on social media and you are in a fight with someone you haven’t seen in years.

Identity bashing is wrong no matter who it is toward. And I don’t think any Christian ever stopped believing what they believe because someone called them ignorant. Winning hearts and minds is much more difficult and nuanced.

Christians who posted or talked about their faith being attacked this past week have some basis for those thoughts and feelings. If people took sixty seconds to look back and actually try to put themselves in the shoes of a Christian they might see what I see.

For a project recently I have been researching 1950’s family sitcoms. In them every couple was married. There are no gay couples or gay people. Before meals the families prayed. That was less than 70 years ago. There are people alive today who grew up watching those shows and feeling comforted by the fact that they could identify with the people on the screen.

Christians used to be the norm. Their ideas and ideals matched very closely to the populace. Now that is not true. When something that you are used to starts to change it is normal to try to fight for it. Even if that battle is futile. Can you really blame Christians for feeling attacked? For taking it personally? For getting defensive? Wouldn’t you?

If for as long as you could remember you were embraced for a part of your identity and then slowly people started to hate you for that same part. Wouldn’t that hurt a little? Might you react in the very human ways of defensiveness and anger?

I acknowledge that the changes in the landscapes of TV, Movies, and other media are good. I think it is great that now a gay person can see themselves in their media. Another part of me though is a little sad. While I can see the female part of my identity in my media and the black part and on rare occasions the native part I don’t see the Christian part. When I do I am angry at the misrepresentation or frustrated at the unrealistic viewpoints represented. Why can’t we have a world where I can see me in the characters and voices represented on screen and you can see you? Why can’t we all just be a little bit more openhearted?

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