More than anything, religion is the single greatest barrier to a relationship. More than race. More than political viewpoint. More than Boston/New York rivalries. If you want to test or even destroy a relationship talk about religion. Many people won’t marry or date someone with different religious views. They don’t have close friends, or not more than a few, who don’t agree on at general religious views (god, Jesus, homosexuality, etc). Even within religious denominations there are barriers between groups with conservative versus liberal stances to doctrine. The widely held view of non-religious is that the purpose of religion is to indoctrinate those who currently do not believe the way you do. Are they wrong?
Think for a moment. Do you have a friend or relative whom you no longer see or interact with because religion has come between you? As your faith or theirs changed you slowly lost interest in spending time together. A new group that shared similar ideologies started taking up more time and now you can’t remember when the last time you “hung out” was. You can’t really point to a specific moment, but you kind of know why it ended.
It really makes me sad to think that something with the intent of making life better, has been something that has made so many relationships worse. Just from my own personal life I’ve witnessed it first hand.
- One side of my family has 10 siblings, all raised together in an active Christian family. For many reasons as they’ve grown up only a few are still active within the church. And the rest don’t discuss it and some even prefer not to associate with family functions because of the dominance of the religious matriarchy.
- Another side of my family grew up having lunch after church together every week. As the kids and grand kids grow up, one of the cousins comes out of the closet as gay. He soon quits coming to family functions altogether to avoid the awkwardness.
- Sitting with co-workers chatting at lunch. Everyone is religious, but from different belief systems and denominations. A simple discussion about families inadvertently drifts to beliefs about the afterlife and state of the dead. Feelings get hurt. The rest of the week conversations remain very superficial to avoid the tension.
I have a personal set of beliefs. I’m willing to share them. But I don’t believe that my beliefs should be held by someone else. My beliefs are personal. Developed over a lifetime of experiences, learning, and observation. They are growing and changing. I’m not willing to sit down with anyone and start debating religion anymore than I’m willing to debate politics. I value people and my relationships with them far more than I want to convince them of my personal doctrine.
Too many people want to have the conversation to tell you all about themselves and try to convince you why you should be like them. I don’t. I want to hear what you believe and why you believe it. I’m willing to answer questions about what I believe and why I believe it. I love to debate the merits of my belief system or yours. But it’s not personal. If we can’t walk away at the end of the discussion with the same relationship or better than when we started, I don’t wish to have the conversation.
I don’t know if this makes me a good Christian or a bad one. But I believe that Christianity is about relationships and I don’t want my religion to be a barrier to my relationships. I want the people I know to understand I love them, appreciate them, and accept them in spite of the differences in our opinions. Because I can impact more lives through positive relationships than I’ll ever do by beating them over the head with doctrine.