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Everybody Loves Him - Packbat's Journal
Tuesday, Mar. 29th, 2011
11:28 am
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Everybody Loves Him
I am not a Christian, but there are a number of things I admire in the theology of most Christian religions. One of these goes back to the titular Christ himself: his affection for all peoples. Heretics, sinners, those judged impure and those despised, all these were the people he chose to spend his time with, the people he was loyal to. Fred 'slacktivist' Clark spoke of this quite memorably in the essay "Clean shoes" - and for that matter, so did Richard Thompson in the song "God Loves A Drunk" - but there's another aspect of this that struck me quite powerfully. An inversion, if you will.

What we usually say is that Jesus loves everyone. What we usually say is that Jesus hung out with fishermen, tax collectors, lepers, prostitutes. We say that Jesus accepted all these people, people who the Pharisees, the cleanliness-obsessed, the self-righteous rejected. But the same goes the other way around. These people who would have nothing to do with self-righteous, cleanliness-obsessed Pharisees accepted Jesus. Prostitutes, lepers, tax collectors, fishermen would hang out with him. Everyone loved him.

To say he loves is to say a great deal - but to say he was loved, a great deal more. It is not difficult to be convinced that you love someone, that you care for them, that you want the best for them. To be convinced that others care about you and appreciate you - that they value you - is somewhat more challenging. If someone handed you a religious tract, would you believe they cared for you? If someone proselytized to you, unasked, on the street, are they offering you what you need? They believe so - but do you?

In contrast, if someone listened to your troubles, would you believe they cared for you? If someone offered their aid, unasked, on the street? Would it matter what they believed, if they offered you clothes when you were naked, drink when you thirsted, food when you hungered?

It seems like a thought worth considering.

Current Location: home\west_bedroom
Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative
Current Music: "Vincent Black Lightning" - Richard Thompson
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From:feech
Date:2011/03/29 1906 (UTC)
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Good thought.
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From:packbat
Date:2011/03/29 1918 (UTC)
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Thank you!
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From:roaminrob
Date:2011/03/31 0706 (UTC)
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If we can set aside our fears, our prejudices, our social- and self-conditioning, and spend our time with people that we wouldn't ordinarily look upon twice, it gradually becomes impossible to see them as anything other than whole people.

They stop being mechanics, plumbers, criminals, addicts, friends, family, enemies, liberals, conservatives, whites, blacks, racists -- all those labels fade away and you -- I -- end up finding something about most of them that I can truly appreciate, and relate to. If I'm not able to connect with someone, I usually figure it's because I didn't spend enough time with them.

When I'm able to do that, I usually find genuine appreciation from the other person. They stop feeling guarded, because I'm not there to judge them or change them or do anything to or with them. We get to become just two people sharing a moment in space.

Likewise, if someone proselytizes to me, I don't necessarily conclude that they're doing it because they love me, but I do genuinely appreciate it, because it gives us the opportunity to connect:

Not so long ago, I visited a new client with some technical trouble, and while there -- entirely of their own prompting -- the subject of my religion came up. They were devout, conservative Christians of some denomination or another, and I replied honestly that I was an atheist. That was troubling for them, and they insisted that I take a handful of Chick tracts with me (I did, and I even read them). Still, though, this wasn't something that divided us; I had the opportunity to get to know them a little better because of it, and they had the opportunity to get to know me. It was a connection, and even after the proselytizing and pleading and warnings, I genuinely wished them well.

We aren't, really, so different. Just people, that have grown up in different environments and made different choices.

I am gradually getting used to the idea that there is nothing truly despicable about most people, that the most despicable thing about people in general is that there seems to be this nameless void that divides us and prevents most of us from connecting with very many other people. It's a void that's full of fears and imaginings and beliefs and prejudices and the unknown, and most of all, it's so much easier to never really cross that void.

So, no: to me, it doesn't matter what another person believes, if we can connect and just be a couple of people in the world.
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From:packbat
Date:2011/03/31 1429 (UTC)
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I see what you mean, and it seems true to me, and important. I don't think it's a counterexample to what I was suggesting, even: you accepted the tracts because they wanted you to, not because you wanted the tracts independent of their desires - you did something for them, because you cared about them.
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From:roaminrob
Date:2011/04/03 0523 (UTC)
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Yeah, it wasn't intended as a counterexample; I was not (and still am not) convinced that someone that gives me religious tracts cares about me, because their motives are unclear. An elderly woman came to our door today to invite us to have dinner with her church to celebrate Jesus' death -- we've never met her before. Although she was pleasant enough, she didn't stick around for conversation, probably because she had many more doors to knock on.

Does she care about the people she's inviting? That's impossible to tell without getting to know her better, and unfortunately, I was distracted and didn't take the time.

I was especially commenting to your post though because you said:

> These people who would have nothing to do with self-righteous, cleanliness-obsessed Pharisees accepted Jesus. Prostitutes, lepers, tax collectors, fishermen would hang out with him. Everyone loved him.

...and I think that follows from his willingness to love them and approach them as though they were other people, even if they had other differences.

We've disagreed in the past about our respective approaches to atheism, and I thought this was relevant to those past conversations.

> you accepted the tracts because they wanted you to, not because you wanted the tracts independent of their desires - you did something for them, because you cared about them.

If I only accepted the tracts out of politeness -- because I superficially cared for them -- then why would I bother to read them? In a way, I did want the tracts, independent of their desires. I wanted to read them so that I would know what was actually in them, instead of what people told me was in them. If I knew what was in them, then I would learn something about their religious beliefs -- which would also help me to connect with these people the next time we met.

To bring the point home in hopefully not too much of a ham-handed way, if I could later have a conversation about their beliefs from a position of respect, instead of antagonism, and if in doing so -- metaphorically, "washing their feet" -- I could earn their respect, do you think they are more or less likely to give my beliefs more consideration?

It's impossible for only one person to connect to another person, without that other person also connecting back.

It's much harder to hate someone that you've connected with.
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