So I have been stewing on this a lot the past few days. No, make that weeks. No wait...months. Years? Anyway, its something I keep coming back to over and over again, and its something that I have realized I need to work through and get over.
So here it is... I live in constant dread of others opinions/judgments of me, especially those in the church potentially calling my faith into question over moral, ethical, and political stances that don't align with the "mainstream." Part of this fear is justified through past experiences.
When I was in Bible college, someone suggested that I be kicked off our ministry team since I don't speak in tongues, and in his mind, that is the true test of deep faith...or something like that. Luckily, in her wisdom, the leader of the team sided with me and put him in his place, but it hurt me. It put doubts in my mind about my own level of committment and faith in the Lord, and made me feel like an outsider in an environment that I believed should have been affirmed and uplifted in, not questioned, judged, and singled out in.
Then again at a previous church I used to attend, there were a few times I expressed different opinions or views (mainly on mental health issues, attachment parenting, and spanking), and was told all the reasons why my thinking was wrong. And it was even backed up with people "sharing" the Word with me to show me how wrong my views were. (As if I don't know what the Bible says. Sorry...but I found it rather condescending and insulting.)
So far, praise the Lord, I haven't felt anything but accepted and loved at the church I currently attend, but I'm not going to lie... There have been a few times when others have been nodding in agreement with the pastor's opinions on world events and political issues, and I have been (internally) shaking my head in disagreement. When it comes to the Word, we align. My pastor, and our church as a whole, is right on the money Biblically! But where issues begin to stray from the Word, there are many on which I differ from the majority...in any Christian church or circle.
Oftentimes, I have wanted to post political issues along with my thoughts on Facebook, or here within my own blog, but have stopped myself (especially on Facebook) for fear of what others, mainly those in the church, will think. I know its silly, but I don't want them to question my relationship with the Lord or consider removing me from ministry, or...whatever...based on my views. (Hey, like I said, its happened before.) I feel like when it comes to hardcore Republican Christians, when they find out I'm (gasp!) not a Republican, I am automatically labeled as "backslidden" or having relationship with God issues, based on my political views. And in talking with the majority of Christian Republicans, I feel like that pre-emptive labeling prevents them from any effort of wanting to hear me out. My stances on certain issues have real - and even Biblical! - reasoning behind them, yet few listen long enough to hear my reasons. I just get the label, and that's that. Case (unfortunately) closed.
In my own personal life, my views do align with Christianity. Shouldn't that be sufficient?! Just because I want to afford all Americans - and "neighbors" around the world - the freedom to make their own choices governing their own lives, even if I disagree in my personal life with their choices, doesn't make me less of a Christian. My political views have no bearing whatsoever on my salvation! I'm saved by GRACE, not by voting Republican! It doesn't mean I am less dedicated to the Lord or less educated as to what His Word says. But yet, that is how I am too often left feeling when I speak my mind. So most of the time, I don't, even when there is something I really feel passionately about speaking out about. Which is sad, because these are "my" people; the people who should love and accept me regardless. Not tell me how they think I am wrong, not preach to me about the Word I am already quite familiar with and follow wholeheartedly, but instead to try and listen, respect, and understand where I'm coming from.
So I am left with a big conclusion that even I don't totally like. If I am judged, I need to let those people go from my life. If I am not afforded the same respect that I give to others with differing opinions, then how can I really call that person a friend? If I am expected to bite my tongue or face having my faith put on the chopping block, then why would I want to associate with such narrow-minded people? And certainly if I am judged and my faith is called on the carpet based on things that have absolutely nothing having to do with my own personal relationship with the Lord, then why should I allow myself continued exposure to such toxic people?
My friend, Logan, put it most eloquently in a conversation I had with him yesterday:
"If someone doesn't like you because you have the brains and heart to feel the way you do and the backbone to say it, it seems that that's their problem, not yours."
I don't mean to rant, ramble, and share with the world (okay, or all of, like, 15 people who will read this blog) this wierd self-therapy, but I do feel like I should at least make my thoughts and feelings known, because I feel like its the first step in my quest to full self-acceptance and letting the past hurts and go. Trust me, its SCARY to be this open and vulnerable, but as "they" say, how can you move forward when you're stuck in the past? And as Dr. Phil says, "How can you change what you don't acknowledge?"