“Those Christians”

We all have that *one* thing that rubs us the wrong way. You know, that one issue that a friend innocently brings up during a poker game that turns you into Mr. Hyde. Perhaps it’s something that embedded in your shadow, or perhaps it’s a cause you’ve silently taken the call to defend. Either way, you find yourself getting extremely defensive when that *one* thing is brought up.

Perhaps I have several such *one* things (just try engaging me in conversation that Walt Disney was anti-Semitic or whether Disney princesses are terrible role models. Go ahead. I dare you.). I think this is a side effect of being a PhD and a mythologist. This is one take-away I’ve gotten from spending the last several years reading Joseph Campbell: it’s impossible to look at people as anything but different versions of the same thing. Sure, I disagree with many other people’s opinions, but my line is whether those opinions are doing harm (physical, mental) to anyone. For example, I support Obama’s healthcare plan because it’s pathetic that people in this country can’t get the medical attention they need, and I disagree with multi-million dollar companies that claim that they will go bankrupt if they are required to provide healthcare to their employees. (but this is an issue for another day…)

So the *one* thing I’m going to touch on today is something I first observed at a Harry Potter conference a few years ago. In the same breath of asking for tolerance, a Potter peep spoke of hating “those Christians” for making her life difficult. Going to Pacifica, a similar conversation is heard on the sidewalks between classes: Why myth is so bereft in this country is because of “those Christians” (and the Enlightenment). “Those Christians” need to step aside and let a more natural mythology (often linked to the Pagan or New Age movements) develop. And I see similar criticisms frequently cross my Facebook feed.

How can anyone ask for tolerance while also being intolerant towards a particular group of people?

Blaming “those Christians” for everything wrong with the world is like blaming all of Islam for 9/11. Blaming the Bible for faulty faith is like blaming Catcher in the Rye for killing John Lennon.

There is a GIGANTIC difference between a religion and its followers. While there are many deplorable events in history that are done “in the name of religion,” the invocation of religion is a cover to justify the selfish act of conflict. Why, then, is it does it appear the be the MO of religious followers?

Joseph Campbell cites four functions of mythology: 1) a cosmology, a sense of where we came from and why we’re here; 2) a religion (as Bones has been saying lately, “We all need a mythology”); 3) social guidelines; 4) a psychological framework. When any of the four is threatened, we react strongly. We don’t like our sense of personhood, even if others see it as skewed, threatened. Because of the nature of humanity, we may react violently, or we may just weep in a corner. Get enough of us together, the mob mind might develop. Unite us behind a charismatic leader we are supposed to trust, say a Pope or a President, the mob mind will justify to itself that it’s okay to do heinous acts against The Other.

But it’s not–and to say that it is okay runs completely counter to most religious tenants. There are also centuries of documented corruption behind the core of all “religious” conflicts. The only way it seems we can overcome these religious issues is to take them off the table, which is why our Founding Fathers separated church and state, a novel idea at the time. However, because religion plays such an essential part in our identity, it’s difficult to leave those matters off the table.

This is one of those *one* things that has no simple resolution, other than perhaps we finally learn what that call for religious tolerance actually means. It doesn’t mean, “Like me for who I am, although I find you stupid.” It means, “I find you stupid, but I love you anyway, because I don’t know anything about you and shouldn’t judge you by the simple label of your religious values.” Tolerance doesn’t mean, “I’m okay with your religious some of the time, but not all the time.” It means, “Your religion works for me, but it doesn’t for me. And that’s okay.”

And you may not agree with my stance on this. And that’s okay.