Today I spent an hour with a trans person. I am not sure whether they were transitioning, or intersex. No matter.
They were learning a new job, and I was the “guinea pig”. So we sat together for a while, and I watched them work. They were tentative, as to be expected, but I caught a few subtle glances, and I realised I was being watched, not just by them but by their supervisor, who was coaching them as they learned on the job. I guess, thinking back, that the learning might have been more than the skills for the job – it may, perhaps, also have been about how an openly trans person would be received. They got things done, and off we both went to our next project.
On the bus into town, I was thinking about this brief encounter. It changed me. I live in a world that used to be black and white but is increasingly grey as previously hidden or suppressed voices are finding their courage and their place. There are pockets of black and white, right and wrong, but they are less pervasive. This, I think, is a good thing. Very few things are worthy of absolutes.
But, that said, some things are. So this was a moment for me, of reality confronting ideas. Let me explain – and this is not a post about trans people. it is a post about truth. And love. I am not a philosopher, not even close. Every time I am tempted to think I am a disciplined thinker along comes someone light years ahead of me to remind me that I am not.
Christians, especially our dear religious caricatures in the U.S.A., and the odd cult here in NZ, trade in absolutes. It’s right, or it’s wrong. More usually, I’M right and YOU are wrong. In a nutshell, this is why a faith built on love, kindness, and sacrifice, is so despised. Even some denominations, self-praising their magnanimity, will find, underneath their facade of tolerance, an intolerance of those unlike them. An intolerance of intolerance, if you will.
I am a Christian. Not just any Christian, either. I’m one of those “sola scripture” ones, you know, the ones that really, really believe the Bible even if it makes them unpopular. The ones that reject other influences on their faith as far as possible (no-one is perfect, neither me nor those other influences, so why muddy the waters?) – things like tradition, and the writings of others (especially where those writings are clearly not in line with scripture, no matter how well threaded together the arguments are)
No apology, that is just how it is for me.
What does this have to do with our chance meeting this morning? Well, quite a bit. I was thinking about our two worlds, and how they are “supposed” to clash. My “religious bigotry” vs their gender fluidity. My black and white, vs their grey. And yet there was no clash. No fear of what was different. No judging. No questions. No offense.
Except I am not a religious bigot, as far as I know. My faith is not founded on “I’m right, and you are wrong”. Not terrified of different. Not uncomfortable, even, in the presence of different. I want to offer you something if your experiences have taught you that that is how it is likely to be. To all my many non-Christian readers, I want to offer you this.
Believing the Bible, completely, and accepting it as the truth for all life and living, does not make a person unkind, or exclusive, or unloving. Or intolerant, or judgemental, or biased. Or a bigot, a racist or a chauvinist.
Really REALLY believing the Bible, guides us towards kindness, gentleness, inclusivity, and love. Towards, hope, and well-wishing, and interest, and curiosity. Not idle, gossipy curiosity, but humble, teachable curiosity. Not like a “magnanimous” person dispensing “niceness” from a self-proclaimed pedestal of righteousness, either, but like a servant, a friend, a student, a co-exister.
A fellow traveller on life’s sometimes very rocky road, with its valleys of evil and death, disappointment and hurt. And mountain tops of joy. Sometimes we can’t read the map either. And if our faith makes us anything but humble, selfless and kind co-travellers, we are doing it wrong.
Feel free to hold us all to account. And feel free to quote me. 🙂