I recently had the pleasure of meeting two loyal blog readers who are both self-declared evangelical Christians (ambiguous terms I know).
Although we overlapped in agreement on many “life” topics, we didn’t seem to overlap on the polarizing social issues which dominate American politics. This made the conversation fascinating.
As we chatted I was asking myself questions such as, Why wouldn’t you let a woman have an abortion if she wanted to? What’s so bad about pre-marital sex? Why would I want to consider myself a “sinner” the moment I pop out of the womb? Why wouldn’t you let gays marry? Is it really that bad to have a divorce? How can you possibly, rationally convince yourself that you know the single Truth when, had you been raised by atheist or buddhist parents, you might well believe in some other truth?
All questions with obvious answers to me. I realized in this conversation that I had never really argued in support of my stances on the above issues with anyone who saw the answers equally obvious — and exactly opposite. It was an awesome, perspective-broadening experience. And it made me think about my general principles when it comes to these issues.
I hold the following basic beliefs:
1. I support anyone’s right to believe in anything they want (with only a few constraints). Moreover, the social issues above are hardly deal breakers for me. That is, I would never not be friends with someone because they see the matters of abortion or god or marriage differently than me.
2. I believe that religion does more good than bad in the world. (Although John Derbyshire of the National Review says in an interesting Q&A about how he lost his faith that he no longer believes this.)
3. I encourage everyone to sample from the smorgasbord of religious and spiritual options to find your center “pole”. Life gets crazy sometimes — we all need something to swing around. Check out all the wisdom traditions.
4. I find “evangelical” behavior terrifying — trying to inform or persuade others about your religious views without invitation. In other words, if I ask you about your faith, tell me. If I don’t ask, feel free to tell me what you are, but don’t go a step further. You do not have the right to impose your religious belief on me — even if you think it’s in my best interest.
It is a massively complicated, infinitely interesting topic. To make up for huge gaps in my knowledge I will spend time in college wrestling with the theology. In the meantime, maybe I should read C.S. Lewis, since every hard-core Christian (without exception – must be part of the playbook) has recommend him to me.
“But Ben,” you might be asking yourself, “What are you? You still haven’t told us!” Well, since you asked, I would call myself “Spiritual but not religious”. What does this mean? I have no idea. But I intend to spend my whole life searching for the answer! (And hopefully changing my mind several times along the way.)