The Authentic Voice Project: Week 2
I was near tears already. Angry-sad tears at the current state of affairs in our country and world. So it wasn’t with the most gracious heart that I took in the message on the frame around the license plate of the SUV parked in front me:
“If you are living as if there is no God, you better hope you’re right!”
To this I thought:
If you claim there is God but are living with a Belief that dictates that Roe vs. Wade should be reversed or claims all Muslims are evil, LGBT rights should be denied, or that Black Lives don’t matter, you better hope you’re WRONG.
Because I’m pretty sure I remember learning “God is Love,” not “God is Dismiss Those Whose Experience/Belief is Different Than Yours.”
BELIEF OR FACT?
Yes, Belief, when professed to be Fact, can be dangerous.
For some, Belief is Truth. There can be no wavering, no room for questions or doubt, and therefore, no room for possibility. When Belief becomes Certainty, any one else’s Belief must be wrong.
Dismissing other people’s versions of the “truth” can lead us to dismisses the actual human-beings who hold those different beliefs, opinions, or perspectives.
Michael Puett and Christine Gross-Loh in The Path: What Chinese Philosophers Can Teach Us About the Good Life, write:
Our certainty that we are absolutely correct in our views on organized religion or standardized testing, abortion or euthanasia can make us less receptive to other people’s perspectives, putting up insurmountable walls between ourselves and others. […]
This sort of thinking leads us away from … a state in which everything is inter-related, with no distinctions.
In other words, it leads us away from Love. Belief can, if it has concretized into Certainty, turn love on its head and look and act suspiciously like hate.
To me, to love is to act knowing everything is connected, that we are all One; that to, “do for the least of your brothers and sisters, you do for me.” (I’m not saying that’s always easy or that I’m never guilty of forgetting this.)
BELIEF IN STORY
To truly love, one must be willing to listen — and hear — the story behind the person or event. While it may seem like a strength, Certainty in religion or politics or any other arena, eliminates the power of story. A person’s story, a place’s history, or a situation’s backstory highlights its many, often mysterious and always changing, facets.
Until we accept that people are multi-faceted, that they are more than just one story, we are blind to our shared humanity. Until we see there is as many Right Ways of Being as there are people in the world, we imply that one “brand” of human matters more than another. Until then, we will all remain Other.
Every person is, The Path tells us, “an individual with a complex set of sensibilities, habits, emotions, and behaviors.” And this complexity, when coupled with the complex instability of everyday life, provides an element of mystery to everyone’s personality, their way of life, and the decisions they make. It is nobody else’s place to take away that mystery, to declare it wrong, by claiming there is only One Answer.
BELIEF IN THE QUESTIONS
Belief should be instead (I believe) a never-ending series of questions: What is the story here? Does it look like anything in my own life? What can I learn from it? And what is the story now? Has it changed? Has it changed me? How can it open me up to infinite possibilities and love?
I have read, although there seems to be some disagreement on this, that the word Believe comes from the same root as Be Love. Even if the etymology is off, it can’t possibly be a bad thing to ask yourself when you express an opinion or express a Belief as Fact:
Am I Be-Loving in this Belief?
And so now with a more gracious heart, I can say (now that I’m less emotional), that I don’t assume you, Mr. and/or Mrs. SUV hold the particular beliefs I accused you of at the beginning of this post. I know full well that not all Christians feel this way, just as I know that not all political conservatives do either. I don’t know you, I don’t know your story, and so I can’t be Certain of anything about you. I choose today to believe that you too strive to Be-Love.