As the fallout continues from a 15-minute movie demeaning Islam and the Prophet Muhammad, I am most disappointed in the lack of respect and acceptance we have of others. We do not have to believe the teachings of another's faith tradition in order to respect and honor that belief.
Most of us grew up having stories read or told to us. Some early favorites were Maurice Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are,” Dr. Seuss’ “Green Eggs and Ham” or Jesus’ miracles as found in the gospels. What fun it was to be a child when story time came around. We would sit cross-legged on the floor or at our desks and be all ears as our teachers took us on magical adventures to different worlds.
A good story can capture our attention for hours if not days. While it’s not everyone’s literary choice, “Fifty Shades of Grey” has captured the attention of millions of women with e-readers. Literary critics are still trying to figure out why this book is so popular among women. Obviously, there are a few things about women’s sexuality that have gone unnoticed and unspoken.
I still love stories today. While I enjoy reading a good story, I consider it an honor to listen to others tell their stories. Friends and colleagues do not have to open up and share their joys, challenges and beliefs. It takes courage. Yet, in that vulnerability, we find strength to be our authentic selves.
I recall as a youngster listening at family gatherings to the elders talk about their histories and experiences. I heard stories of segregation, farming and fishing tales of the big one that got away. While my early years were different from those of my elders, I respected and appreciated their victories and challenges. My experiences were not better or worse, they were just different. As a society, we have gotten away from honoring differences among us.
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As the fallout continues from a 15-minute movie demeaning Islam and the Prophet Muhammad, I am most disappointed in the lack of respect and acceptance we have of others. We do not have to believe the teachings of another’s faith tradition in order to respect and honor that belief.
It is troubling when we brand our beliefs as the only true faith and our experiences as the only acceptable norm. Turmoil is bound to surface when we render other religions and experiences as deviant. Being hateful, violent or demeaning are not effective tools for Christian evangelism or for promotion of any other world religion. Demonizing an entire group of people because their religious, social or cultural experiences are different is just plain wrong.
I realize that as this world moves at warp speed, there is a real desire to hold on to something that is permanent and eternal. Let me suggest we hold fast to God’s love and grace. Praying for patience, wisdom and understanding will keep us grounded when judgment and fear rear their ugly heads.
Do we really think God wants us to be violent and mean-spirited? The acronym of WWJD (what would Jesus do?) may help us with this one. Jesus is real clear about what to do about your enemies, people you just do not like, and those who get on your nerves. Love and pray for them. Killing, judging or demeaning them is not what Jesus would do.
One of the reasons the gospels are so compelling is that they are great stories that hold powerful truths. Jesus healed social outcasts, challenged oppressive religious authority, instructed his followers to put God as their first priority, and to treat others as we would like to be treated.
Our world will become more pluralistic, not less so, as time marches on. All our stories and life experiences are authentic, different and priceless. It is important to tell our stories and to listen to others. For the sake of survival, we must accept others, show more kindness and embrace differences.
The Rev. Patricia L. Hunter is an associate in ministry at Mount Zion Baptist Church and senior benefits consultant for American Baptist Churches in the USA. Readers may send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.