Not that there is anything wrong with the original ‘list’, mind you. Those will always be relevant. However, some of my recent observations in my life as a Christian have led me to come up with a few that should be added to the list. Or, at least, paid attention to.
1. Give others the same respect and consideration you would want yourself. It’s really sad that I have to say this, seeing as pretty much *every* religion and philosophy that has ever existed has taught some form of this. However, it has apparently fallen by the wayside, in favor of ‘instilling moral order.’ Yes, I’m looking at you, Religious Right. Somehow I don’t think you would appreciate it if someone came in and tried to make your kids pray to Vishnu in their public schools, and yet you bitch and moan at the very *idea* that you aren’t given preferential treatment. And, yes, it is preferential. I’m sorry you feel ‘oppressed’ because you are being told ‘Happy Holidays’ in PetSmart rather than ‘Merry Christmas’ and see it as a ‘war’, but really, don’t you have better things to do? Like ‘feeding His sheep’ or tending to ‘the least of these’? I know many of you already do this, and I commend you for it. I don’t mean to lump you all in with the more negative people; it’s just that the negative ones get the most attention because they make the biggest fuss. The squeaky wheel, and all that.
In my view, there is a difference between a ‘fundamentalist’ and a ‘fundie’. The former simply keeps to the fundamentals of the Bible and the Christian faith; the latter does this while beating everyone else over the head. I’ve known them both, and I’ve still got the bruises. Both think they are behaving in a manner pleasing to God; the problem is that the latter seems to think that they are the only ones God is pleased with, or even paying attention to. How this view is supported by general life, I don’t know. Maybe this will be answered on the next episode of <insert cheesy soap opera title here>.
Also, I know you’re upset that you can’t put up Nativity scenes or monuments to the Ten Commandments out on the public square. And you know what? I can see your point. We all want a way to express our beliefs and what is important to us. The problem is that many of you would have a severe problem if someone wanted to put a menorah in the same place. Well, maybe not, since you seem to have at least a modicum of respect for Jews, but my six-foot marble statue of Buddha* would be out of the question. The point is that you aren’t the only game in town worth watching anymore. Sorry, you’re going to have to share the field for a while. I’m sure you’ll manage.
And contrary to popular belief, prayer is still allowed in public schools. The only restrictions are that a) it can’t disrupt class time and b) cannot be led by a teacher or administrator. I don’t think that’s too much to ask. Again, see the earlier Vishnu example. And you know what? It’s not just you. Every religion is subject to the same rules. A Muslim kid who wanted to lay out his prayer mat during the middle of Math class for one of the five daily prayer times would be told not to as well.
2. Unless someone is being hurt, thou shalt not unnecessarily push your views on other people. Don’t want your kids to learn evolution in science class? Some schools have now made allowances for a student to be given alternate assignments if there is something in the curriculum they do not want their children to be taught. When I was in school, long ago (well, not that long ago, I’m not that old), parents would be notified by teachers when the ‘sex ed’ unit was taught in science class. Parents would either sign a permission slip for their child to take the class, or ask for their child to be excused and given an alternate assignment. The same thing was done during the ‘dissection’ units in biology class. Seek these options, and use them. If they are not available, that doesn’t mean that your child is going to be ‘ruined’ for life. Reinforce the word ‘theory’. Teach them alternate views, and give them the tools to think and sort fact from fiction. Besides, is it *really* that big of a deal? There are so many other things to be concerned with, such as the recent onslaught of insipid reality shows. Okay, I’m somewhat kidding (note the word ‘somewhat’…), but you get the point. Pick your battles. Save your energy for the things that *really* matter, like loving your neighbor.
Above all, clean your own house first. If someone’s marriage is threatened by Adam and Steve down the road getting married, they have much bigger problems.
3. Related to the above, continue to teach your children what is right and what is wrong, but respect other parents’ rights to do the same. If you don’t like the witchcraft in Harry Potter books then, by all means, tell your children not to read them. Don’t, however, make a big stink about those books being available in the school library and/or attempt to get them banned in general. No one is *making* your child read those books, so there is no reason to be threatened because they are available to other children who do not share your apprehension.
On another tip, I consider myself pro-choice. While I think abortion is repulsive and probably couldn’t live with myself if I had one, I feel the option should be available and safe for those who do not share my view. I have every intention of teaching my values to my children, but I understand other parents who disagree will do the same. That, and there are some situations where we never know what we will do until we are in them. My parents taught me growing up that I am going to have some ideas as to what is right and what is wrong that others might not agree with, and that I should be prepared for this. I tend to be quite open about things in my life because I am pretty open-minded and accepting of differences, and I assume others will be the same. Even in my 30s, I am still trying to learn this. I am mentioning this to say that I understand how difficult it can be at times to remember that not everyone is going to think as we do, and that sometimes we will have to adjust our behavior accordingly. This doesn’t necessarily mean that we have to adjust our *beliefs*, although that will often happen. What it *does* mean is that these differences are here to stay and that we would do much better to represent our side…and keep our blood pressure low…if we could at least try to listen to each other and agree to disagree. Just because someone thinks differently does not necessarily make them a threat. Have compassion in dealing with others, which doesn’t always feel natural but puts a much better face on you and your cause than throwing darts-verbal or otherwise-at people.
You know what? Perhaps I should stop here, because pretty much anything I have said and anything else I will say goes right back to #1. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you…such a simple thing to recite, but such a difficult thing to live out. *Sigh* …yes, very difficult. I am definitely guilty of this, probably one of the worst offenders I know. In that spirit, I will end with an apology to anyone I have called out here, because we are more alike than we might realize. God bless.
*No, I don’t really have a six-foot marble statue of Buddha. It’s actually seven feet tall, and made out of bubblegum wrappers. My nephew made it in art class last year. 🙂