Have you ever received a post on Facebook where the person writes a long post bemoaning something and then asks you to say a word about how you met, or a word of significance, and then requires you to share or post it on your own timeline. Sometimes these are linked to prayers or good fortune.
When we get these, there is always that point where we feel manipulated. I think they’re appealing to our herd mentality as they appeal for specific action. As a result I never share any of these to my own timeline, but I do let the person know I read their post.
Deeply religious people are kind of like this. I met this guy and we engaged in a brief dialogue. He was using the tribal language that is common in religion and because I was wearing an AC/DC Highway to Hell shirt I think he assumed I was one of those people. I don’t remember his question, but I remember how it made me feel, it was just like the Facebook ploys.
I told him I’d pray for his situation. He paused and looked at me and asked if I was a Christian. I said yes, but perhaps not in the common sense. Immediately, the conversation went into another direction. He wanted to know if I believed the bible. I answered, “I’ve read it nearly 50 times and studied it in its original languages, so I must believe something about it, but do I believe every english word on every page? No.”
Those with fundamental mindsets don’t quite know what to do with me. I’ve traveled a long road of faith so they usually give up trying to convert me, but because I’m both more conservative and more liberal than they assumed, they struggle to pin me down. I’m not dogmatic and I’m very inclusive of other faith systems which causes some to want to debate me, which is code for reject or dismiss me.
And thus the heart of the problem. Be it Facebook or religion, the moment we become rigid, certain and inflexible, is the moment when we develop a plan for everyone else and the world becomes us versus them. Once the lens of otherness overtakes us, unity is only possible if another shares our distinctive convictions. Otherness comes from binary (either/or) thinking.
The cure is always humility. While I’m not the guy who tried to convert me, I’m not other than him either. I too used to try and convert people. I’m not other than the skeptic. I’m not other than the fundy, the flunky, the doubter or the devout. Neither are you. Humility comes from ternary (both/and/other) thinking.
In the end we are all converts. We’re all incrementally converted to the Truth via lifelong processes and many diverse experiences. In fact, the Truth is the only thing that transforms any of us. Only a pursuit of the Truth can free us from binary thinking and nothing is as spiritual as humility.