Not long ago...
…I was walking the hallways of a journalist convention held in Raleigh, North Carolina. The question for the conference was basically how do news organizations deal with the “Religion” section of the paper? Is there a new way of reporting on faith in the age of social media and new news media?
As I sauntered through the hallway with all the tables from every Christian College to the new Buddhist retreat center, I saw a large display of the nativity scene. Behind the table was a 40-something man. He was giving out bumper stickers that said, “This season – Choose Reason.” At the bottom of the sticker it had an endorsement from the American Atheist Association.
At first, I thought,
“I don’t want to get into a fight,
so I’ll just pass on by.”
But with every step I took, I felt guilty. I’ll just stop for a quick hello and see what comes of this conversation.
“Can you help me understand this idea?” I asked the gentlemen on the other side of the table. “Choose Reason? Are you implying that people who believe in the nativity scene are out of their minds?” I asked.
“I believe we live in a world that has long cowtowed to the Judeo-Christian historical narrative. We have a large portion of our country that doesn’t believe in any sort of mythical God in the sky. All we’re saying is, we want to be represented in the public square too.” He answered, with a little edge to his voice.
“Oh. I get it.” I said. I thought his eyes were going to pop out of his head.
“You get it?” he asked.
“Of course I get it. If you feel like you’ve been misrepresented, or you feel as though you don’t have a place in the conversation of society, economy, or politics; I can understand how you feel.” I tried to explain.
“Are you an atheist?” he whispered softly.
I laughed. “No. I believe in that mythical God you referred to.” And he smiled.
For the last few years, I’ve had an ongoing conversation with one of the leaders of the American Atheist Association that began right there in that hallway. As we were all trying to figure out how to report on faith in faith circles among the changing news arenas, my friend was trying to shout “WHAT ABOUT US WHO HAVE NO FAITH?” And no one was listening.
I know it seems like it was out of place at the time, but how incredible to take a moment and listen to someone who believes in an entirely different worldview. Like an ancient explorer on a treasure hunt, I was bound and determined to learn what made this man tick. I wanted to uncover the gold he was hiding in the confines of his own story, because that’s what a good mentor is all about.
Of course we have different core beliefs, and naturally would come to drastically different conclusions. But when we take a moment to acknowledge the human-ness inside of all people, we learn what it means to begin REAL relationships.
Think about it,
how boring would life be
if we only knew people who thought
the same beliefs as we believe?
Or what about those people whose entire social circle has exactly the same religious beliefs, political beliefs, and perhaps even the same economic status. I’ve often wondered what those dinner conversations are like?
“Yep.” One will say
“I agree.” Another will add
“You’re spot on with that comment.” And they all wind up in the same exact place they started.
Are you serious?
I’m always trying to help people see…there is a big wide world out there full of people who are interesting. The only thing we have to do to connect with them is take a few seconds to listen.
The LDG model of mentoring is an incredible on-ramp to creating relationships as we are about connecting to the core of all humans. Sure you can find faith tenets here and there, but in the end, we are all about helping people find out who they are and what they were created to be about in this wide and varied world.
Just because they decide they don’t want to believe how we want to believe doesn’t negate the fact they have real needs. They also have real emotions and real thoughts that we are all trying to understand in this big wide world.
Wouldn’t it be good
to be known as someone
who knew how to care deeply for people
no matter who they are,
where they come from,
or what core beliefs they hold?
Wouldn’t it be the greatest compliment in the world if the friends you surround yourself with identified you like my atheist friend often refers to me, “That Andy, I’ve never met any Christians like him.” And I always say “Thanks!”
I do this, not because I believe I’m different, but because I want to be known as a friend and mentor to all people I encounter, not simply someone who knows how to pander to my own crowd. There is a big world of people out there that needs to know we are also caring about how they think, feel, function, even if we do not see eye to eye.