Especially depending upon the situation, there are simply subjects which are not to be brought up. Religion has always been one of them… and there is no need to clarify why.
Religion, by definition, is an organized form of spirituality. It comes with general guidelines, a similar set of beliefs and usually involves some form of group gathering. Religion centers around the belief one or more than one God.
Spirituality is not the same as religion. Spirituality suggest a set of beliefs that may or may not be the same as others. There may be the belief of a God or Gods however this is not a required element of spirituality. Spirituality may include a belief in elements like mother nature, the winds, and so on. Overall, spirituality involves the belief of a higher power or being.
Agnostic, for some, falls under the realm of spirituality in that it involves the belief of a higher power or being. An agnostic usually does not know what that higher power is, but simply that they know there is one.
Atheist is an individual who does not believe in a higher power or being at all.
As you can see here, spirituality is a continuum (everything from organized religion to no belief at all). Because of which, it is possible for individuals to fall anywhere on the spectrum. Overall, though, spirituality deals with our beliefs, philosophies and way of life. For many, spirituality is what gives purpose to our lives; talking about what you believe in terms of your life and how that plays out in your day to day life, well who wouldn’t find that a little touchy from time to time?!
I have a personal philosophy when it comes to spirituality and diversity as a larger whole. As a society, it is natural for us to come to know one part of who an individual is and base our perception, acceptance of and overall interaction with that individual based on the perception we have gained. If I interact with you and find you to be a smart, funny co-worker, I will interact with you differently than if I think you are rude, stuck-up and inconsiderate of others. This same concept is applied to much deeper elements of who we are…and, I think that this is unfortunate.
For some, if you figure out that I am a Christian, that automatically means that I fall into a fit set of characteristics, which are based on the knowledge you do (or perhaps do not) have on Christianity as well as the interactions you have had with other individuals who associate themselves with the label “Christian”. But, I ask, what happens when I don’t fit what you have pictured as a Christian?
When I was earning my degree in Women Studies, I regularly felt in our classroom that I should not disclose to the class that I self-label myself as a strong Christian. The material that we read and the discussions we had in the class made it rather clear that Christianity and Feminism are not items that go hand in hand. Additionally, that Feminism and pro-choice go hand in hand. So, where does the Christian Feminist stand? What about the pro-choice Christian? Or, the homosexual Christian or, in more recent events, the Muslim American?
Working on a college campus, we are working with students who are discovering who they are and how that might be different from who they grew up to be. One of my closest friends my first year in my undergraduate year in college was one of the people who helped me to believe that it was okay to be a Christian and it is not something to hide. She was incredibly involved in her church all through high school (and before) and came to campus looking for that same involvement. One year later, she realized that what she had been believing in all those years was something others told her was true, not something she came to believe personally on her own.
I was the student in the classroom who was asking, to myself of course- I felt as though I could never share it out loud -what do you mean I can’t be a Christian and a feminist? This is something known as “dueling locations” in the Women Studies worlds- half or a part of who you are does not match what society says fit with another half or portion of who you are.
With time, I have learned that we readily focus on one thing about someone (e.g. sexual orientation) and we struggle to look beyond that. Most times, our mistreatment of others comes from not understanding that piece of who they are or the situation at hand (many times because we do not open ourselves to consider the part of the individual or situation that we do not understand). Many Christians, for example struggle in how to interact with someone who identifies as bi-sexual or homosexual. In countless situations, I see an unwillingness to even consider who that person is simply because a piece of who they are does not fall in line with what the other believes in and the philosophy they hold. I ask, though, what happens when we consider the other elements of who that individual is instead of the piece of who they are that we do not understand/agree with/or whatever other excuse we come up with?
I believe that you have the right to be who you are, regardless of who I am and what I believe. It is not my place to tell you who you are or whom you should be. I have a right to share with you who I am, but you have an equal right to share with me who you are. My right to share who I am is not the right to ask you to be the same as me.
As it pertains to sexuality and Christianity (and I pick this subject because it is a current issue on our campus, luckily one which the campus is slowly working to address), I know this:
A core to Christianity is faith- trusting and believing in that which is unseen. This means that mystery is present. It means that we are not supposed to know it all. Knowing it all would eliminate faith all together. Regardless of how much I study, how strong my faith is, or what spiritual gifts I have been given, I will never know nor fully understand our world.
The Bible makes it very clear that I have no place in judging others. It is clear and consistent throughout the entire text. Judgment is something for Christ and Christ alone. Who am I to judge you? More so, who am I to judge you while only considering one part of who you are?
The Bible is also clear that my role during time on earth and that which waits for me when my time on earth is up it as simple as this: love the Lord and always strive to live my life as Christ lived His. Christ and God alike are called Love. My role here on earth is this simple: LOVE.
And, from the book I am currently reading (The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrotta):
“Most of the time, Tim did his best to be a good Christian and toe the biblical line, but no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t get himself all worked up about the sin of homosexuality. It just didn’t seem that bad to him, certainly not worth banishing someone to hell for, and probably not worth all the time and energy Pastor Dennis and lots of other people spent obsessing about it, especially since Jesus didn’t have a single word to say on the subject in the Gospels.” Page 141
I can’t say that I know this is how I feel about it too, but I had never made the connection prior to reading this paragraph that Jesus never once mentioned homosexuality throughout all the Gospels.
Great book I might add.
I can’t say that I know fully how I “should” feel about homosexuality as it pertains to Christianity. But I know this, God has asked me to love everyone, whole-ly and unendingly. If I ever find myself in that situation, I know that all I need to do is truly give my heart to the Lord and allow Him to show me how to move forward. I ask you, though, what would you do if He said that this (a same-sex relationship) is what I have planned for you? I ask because I now need more than one hand to count all of those who were once (and some still daily do) faced with this very situation. What would you do if you deeply felt and knew that this is what God had planned for you?