“Before and *After” is a blog series in which Brady takes a hot-topic subject, offers his previously-held Christian views, and counters with a his current post-religion perspective.
“Blessed are the peacemakers…”
The year was probably 2010. I was a very conservative Christian at the time in the middle of working on my BS in Biblical Studies. Being a millennial, I frequented the pseudo-news/entertainment website, BuzzFeed. I was often conflicted when on that site. I loved the Lord, but I also loved TV and entertainment. I’d sneak on to read up on TV shows, but occasionally, I’d find other material. “Forbidden Material.”
They posted an article on same-sex marriage, and I approached it with caution like a hiker peeking over a steep cliff. Growing up, we were trained to respond to every hot-button topic with an arsenal of rapid-fire answers, spewing responses so quickly that there was coincidentally no time for us to think on the subject ourselves. When I peeked over the cliff and saw the article on same-sex marriage, I felt a pull in my stomach. I knew despite my best efforts and prayers that I was attracted to men. I had an experiential empathy for “the gays”. That empathy was no match for the impulse that implored me to defend God. This liberal website lacked perspective from people like me.
Naturally, I commented about how marriage is only for a man and woman.
Later, I received a notification that someone responded. He was “a liberal,” and he graciously responded with a well-thought out counterpoint. It was respectful, unlike the answer “the liberals” would give in the Christian literature I read. Eventually, his answer grew more empathy in me and caused me to look at the issue outside of the influences I was used to.
Me now respects me then, but there weren’t many times when I’d hear viewpoints gracefully and empathetically explained that didn’t jive with my faith community. I want to provide that. I want to tell you what I would have said back in 2010 about a topic, and then I want to walk myself through how I believe on it now. He said/He says. Then and now.
For the first entry in this series, I want to address a phrase that I hear a lot when addressing problems within Evangelical Christianity, “Not all Christians!”. It seems no one can criticize the church without getting this counterpoint.
What I Would Have Said:
2010 Brady would have been a huge “Not all Christians!” fan. If someone were to criticize my faith, I would have been diligent to make sure they knew that not all of us were like that.
What I Say Now:
Here is my view on this up to a few months ago: Listen to the criticism and defend others before yourself.
Recently, a Facebook friend posted a video that claimed to successfully sum up the millennial generation. It was full of stereotypes and generalizations that annoyed me. I caught myself saying, “not all millennials!” Empathy took over, and I saw that the way I wanted to be treated was different than how I was treating others when I made generalizations.
Do I still express my criticisms? Yes, but I’m learning to do it fairly and with compassion to those that are part of a faith I disagree with. It is important to communicate in a way that doesn’t turn off your listeners, much like the gracious BuzzFeed commenter from years ago. Words matter, and if they get in the way of me making my point, I’m using them incorrectly. Instead of firing off generalizations that destroy all in my path, I’m learning to reframe my thoughts to be more effective and optimistic because surely not all Christians can fit into any one sweeping statement.
So maybe 2010 Brady and present-day Brady aren’t completely different?