I still follow a few evangelical Christian sites/people on social media. Why? Well, for the same reason I follow some Catholics, Hindus, Pagans, etc.: I enjoy hearing things from other people’s perspectives. I certainly don’t agree with everything I see, but I understand that only listening to the people you agree with is dangerous. You can’t get the big picture from one view point. And, without the big picture, it is easy to slip into “me and mine are the only ones who matter” ideology. Religious fundamentalists tend to promote/exist in this way of thinking, which is why they are often referred to as cultists. I personally refer to such existence as living in a bubble.
I spent the first 21 years of my life living in one bubble or another – attending church and the school run by the church, working at a religious summer camp, living on-campus at a religious college. Bubbles promote circular reasoning and shun new, outside-the-bubble influences; a lot of really silly (or terrible) things continue unchecked in this sort of atmosphere. The most disturbing aspect of bubble ideology is thinking that you are the only one/ones who are right and know the truth. Many Baptists I’ve known believe they have a monopoly on true joy (joy is supposedly different than happiness, because joy only come from knowing Jesus). I held that belief as well, until I got outside the bubble and met very happy/joyful people who were not Christians. Anyway.
Today I read a post written by an evangelical Christian who was so thrilled that she had been able to witness to a Hindu man on a plane. She and the man had a nice conversation discussing the differences between their faiths and then the man asked her to pray for him. The Christian lady was so very excited over this fact because, to her, it clearly meant he was considering converting. I don’t know exactly what was said during their conversation, or why the man asked her to pray for him, but I do know this situation looks very different from another perspective. Hindus, in my limited experience, are very wonderful people who are happy to discuss their beliefs with you. They aren’t out to make converts or change the world – they just want to live good lives and be good people. Also, people of many faiths are very comfortable asking someone of another faith to pray for them. Many people hold interfaith beliefs or are at least able to accept the views of others without judgment. Most fundamentalists won’t attend the religious services of another faith, let alone ask a non-Christian to pray for them. Because of this rigidness, the fundamentalists I’ve known have always assumed any non-Christians who asked for prayer were either wanting to convert or knew that they should convert.
When I left Christianity I struggled with how to handle it when Christian friends and family told me they were praying for me. Initially, it felt like an insult because they were praying for me because they thought I was going to Hell. Now, they usually say they’ll pray for me because I’m sick or going through a period of stress. That kind of prayer doesn’t phase me anymore. Instead, I’m thankful for their prayers and believe they will do some good because the divine isn’t confined to anyone’s religious parameters.
The old illustration of six blind men and an elephant was the subject of much criticism by my Baptist college professors. Looking at it now, though, I find it to be an excellent tool for teaching that truth need not be so exclusionary, particularly religious truth.
“A group of blind men (or men in the dark) touch an elephant to learn what it is like. Each one feels a different part, but only one part, such as the side or the tusk. They then compare notes and learn that they are in complete disagreement…. In some versions, they stop talking, start listening and collaborate to “see” the full elephant. When a sighted man walks by and sees the entire elephant all at once, they also learn they are blind. While one’s subjective experience is true, it may not be the totality of truth. If the sighted man was deaf, he would not hear the elephant bellow.” ~ Wikipedia