If you listen to the news, there’s so much talk about immigration that it’s not even funny. There’s a fine line in helping the immigrants because immigrants formed the United States. When I think of the people in Afghanistan who have fled the country to start a new life, my heart aches for them. They’ve had to leave their homes, their way of living, and everything comfortable to go to Western civilization. It must be a sense of culture shock leaving things behind that are so customary to you but foreign all at the same time.
There’s a lot of uncertainty with helping immigrants in today’s world. We’re not supposed to profile people, yet we tend to put other people in that group because of certain groups’ acts. What’s difficult for me is when I worked for Habitat for Humanity, I struggled with the identity of certain groups. I met the families and quickly realized that these were good men and women who wanted a better life for themselves and their children. But I also recognized that people in some of the same families wished to harm those trying to help them. That’s where faith comes in handy. When we assume that we know what people will do before they do it, we make a dangerous assumption.
Another example is the church community. Yes, I am going to talk about this because there is a lot of hypocrisy in religion. Men wrote the Bible, and many men wrote excerpts in The Bible. You can take just about any verse in The Bible and make it fit what you believe is right. And I’m not going to get into an argument about theology. I will say that when churches try to dictate what behaviors are acceptable and what aren’t, we are starting to judge. I attend a country church. The vast majority of members are white. Quite frankly, it pisses me off. I’ve often commented that the church could use more soul, and I don’t mean it in a derogatory way. I’ve watched other cultures have a fire in their souls when they worship the Lord. Sometimes I think that we all need the spark they share with God to spread to others. There’s a passion that some groups have that can’t extinguish, nor should it be. To have that kind of energy is an incredible connection. It’s the kind of energy that is infectious with unconditional love. We have a family that has several children that are interracial. Everything that the church is doing gears toward the older ways of life. I have urged the church to come through for the community with the younger generations. It’s their voices that churches need to hear. But the church has a significant problem. It doesn’t know how to change to stay relevant.
One thing that many churches have had in their favor throughout generations is loyalty. Families have continued to attend services, but there’s been a significant decrease over the last twenty years. Some people are dying out, while others have had it with organized religion. I can’t say I blame many people for their views. You would think some of the congregations would get the hint that they need to adapt to the changing times. Pews are emptying quickly. But expecting people to change the way they believe is complicated. I think that’s one of the reasons that our society struggles with so many complex issues. There’s a wave of changes happening so rapidly that very few people know what to expect.
Everywhere I look, there are arguments about the LGBTQ community and their acceptance in the church. I don’t care who somebody is sleeping with because it’s their life. It’s not my business to know who someone prefers to involve their lives with and share. The only thing I care about is that people are good to each other and treat each other with kindness. I expect people to behave around each other and use some common sense. I know the saying that “common sense is not very common.” I get it, but I don’t have to like it. When I see other church communities start shunning people because it doesn’t agree with the way people live, I have to question what God would say about this. No matter what people may believe, judging people takes more energy than moving forward in life.
The younger generations think differently than we do. It’s not so much a matter of disrespect. It’s more a matter of their experiences are different than ours. Most of us who grew up in the seventies, eighties, and earlier nineties never had to deal with social media the way it’s occurring today. Internet bullying, social media embarrassments, harassment, and ridicule exist on different platforms. Too many kids are taking their lives because they can’t take the bullying.
I suppose it’s taken way too many people away from us as it is. Why is our society so determined to be unwelcoming to those that we should welcome with open arms? If I’ve learned anything working for the various nonprofits, it’s never to judge people based on how they look. I used to be one of those people who would think poorly of somebody with many tattoos. Then I dated a tattoo artist. Talk about a significant turn of events. I used to talk smack about my grandfather smoking all the time, and I became a smoker. I used to make fun of those who couldn’t tell the truth, and then I started lying all the time. And after learning about my faults, getting my life back together, and straightening out, I realized that when we begin judging everybody else, we have to face the judgments that we’ve had on us all along. It’s a difficult pill to swallow.
It’s easy to think that we know everything. But the truth of the matter is that our actions are a reflection of who we are. If churches want to find a way to stay relevant, they have to meet people. You can preach all day long, but if you don’t have something that speaks to the people and makes them understand they are wanted and welcome, they will not participate. If programs are not available that meet different needs, people won’t stay. You can throw insults and accusations at everyone else around you, but that doesn’t mean things will be the way you want.
I keep talking to my church and telling them that they will have to figure out ways to reach out, but not just to the community. They need to reach out to themselves. See, you can’t help others until you help yourself. That should be common sense 101. Unfortunately, many groups want to reach out and help everybody else and not deal with the confrontations. Isn’t that typical behavior, though? Most of us don’t want a deal with difficult discussions. We’d rather hide. But we need to ask what we are so afraid of because many things in this world could disable our lives; living in fear doesn’t help.
So today, I hope that you’re able to start looking at ways to welcome those that would typically be unwelcome. Maybe there are people that you work with who are loners. Perhaps you could bite them over to sit with you or invite them out to lunch. Perhaps you could strike up a conversation with someone that you see alone. Or, if there are conversations that you know you need to have with other people, then find a way to have those conversations delicately. Running from confrontation is not always a good thing. Especially if those confrontations lead to hurt feelings and resentment down the road, not saying you should be combative because you never want to instigate a fight. But rational conversations can have a significant impact on complex topics. Conflict resolutions are a big part of helping the unwelcome be welcome. Learn to take the time to see things from a new perspective and accept information for what it’s worth. The day we stop listening to one another and being willing to have those difficult conversations is the day that we might as well shut everything down. This world is hard enough, but we don’t have to add to that difficulty. Have a great day, everyone.