Diversity, Prejudice and Acceptance: how do you roll?

In my youngest and most formative years, I grew up a minority. I also lived in a string of apartments, a trailer house and a tiny home that was broken into despite the three German Shepherds guarding it and the ten foot high fence surrounding it. I did not have the typical white-washed childhood that many of my current community members have.

I grew up in a world of socio-economic, religious and cultural diversity. At one point, I was one of two white kids in my class. I played with anyone who was nice and steered clear of the meanies. Not because of their skin color or ethnic background, but because of their behavior.

Every day, I am thankful for my real-world education in Human Acceptance 101. On the flip side, I am saddened that my children will not experience the same abundant diversity that I did.

My predominantly conservative little town was recently made famous for two reasons: having a couple apply for the first same-sex marriage license in the state and for having a very public and adverse reaction to this application. While different opinions are great, the way we go about expressing them can be extremely destructive.

I was taught to respect others. I was taught to accept others. I was taught to express my views with open-mindedness and to always remember that everyone is entitled to his/her opinion. I was never taught to hate or to partake in fear-mongering. Prejudice was a dirty word in my home.

Funny, since my parents did this despite their lack of religious conviction. Of the six members of my childhood family, only two of us attend church and openly express our faith. Only three are baptized and confirmed. Two simply don’t believe in God. When I listen to the religious hatred that people use to justify their persecution of gays and lesbians, I can understand why my siblings don’t want to be associated with a church body that uses God’s love to hurt not heal.

This saddens me, though it does not rock my spirituality. You see, I have a strong faith. My love for God was hard-worn. I didn’t grow up in a church, but rather was drawn to it because of the promise God made: Whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.

Wow, WHOEVER believes. That’s powerful. That’s amazing. It was utterly unimaginable that He would love a child like me so much He would look past my sins and open His arms to my eternal redemption. But He does. He even promised to love everyone without providing a clause to exclude some believers and not others. In case you’re unfamiliar with His promise, look it up. John 3:16.

My faith in God is not dampened by His judgment–that is between me and Him. My faith in others, however, suffers greatly when the very sinners that God promised to save use His words to condemn those different from them. Personally, I feel this detracts from the message Christians wish to spread to the world. It turns people away from a faith we want them to embrace.

The only way that using God’s words against anyone for any reason is acceptable is if the individual using such words is sinless. I am not. I have broken many a commandment in my day. Sure I’ve never killed anyone, but I have gossiped. Same thing in God’s eyes. Neither have I robbed a bank, though I once took a small bowl from Perkins to provide water for my puppy. Thief either way.*

We are all sinners. We have all fallen short of God’s glory. We do so every day. Amen.

But that isn’t my only concern with this heated issue. I also get squirmy when people use the whole “breaking up traditional marriage” thing as a defense against allowing everyone in the world to openly love who they love. Why? Because there is no traditional family anymore.

None.

I work in the family law business. I provide custody evaluations. I help divorcing or separated parents figure out custody and parenting time arrangements. My job would be unnecessary if the traditional family wasn’t in jeopardy. And trust me, the reasons behind the divorces, separations and one night stands have nothing to do with whether a gay couple got married or not. Every single case I’ve worked in the past five years has been composed of two heterosexuals.

These families are broken by abuse, adultery, chemical dependency, crime and poverty. Currently, an estimated 65% of children live in mixed families. That is terrifying and in much greater need of attention than whether or not two women can lovingly live together.

One night stands between homosexuals do not result in unwanted pregnancies. In fact, babies adopted into homosexual families are hard-won. They are wanted and planned for, and often fought for despite extreme opposition. This isn’t the case for all babies. Cohabitation and casual relationships are becoming normalized by society to the point where over 40% of all babies are born to unmarried women, a number expected to skyrocket by 2016. (http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/unmarry.htm)

This, more than gay marriage, threatens the integrity of the traditional family, as does the rate of adverse childhood experiences. According to a 2009 study by the CDC, 59.4% of adults questioned reported having at least one adverse childhood experience including divorce, abuse (physical, sexual and/or verbal) and mental illness in the home. That’s a lot of suffering that has nothing to do with homosexuality.

I realize that some people reading this will agree with me and others will not. That’s okay. I accept and encourage different world views. After all, every one of us comes to a situation with vastly different life experiences and belief systems. Likewise, I am not asking anyone to change their opinion on this issue. Rather, I simply ask that everyone (those in favor of and those opposed to any hot-button topic) examines how they deal with ideas that challenge their beliefs.

Know that even if you are vehemently against same-sex marriage or enthusiastically for it, I don’t judge you personally. I only judge your behavior. There is room in this world to respect and accept others who differ from us in myriad of ways.

I was lucky to grow up among diversity. I love that we are all different. I hate television and haven’t turned one on in years. My Dear Hubby uses it to relax. He golfs: I don’t. My eldest loves spaghetti: my youngest does not. One neighbor is a vet tech while another is a retired PE teacher. My pastor is single, I’m married and some of my best friends have been divorced. My brother dislikes kids even as I would have a hundred of my own.

If we were all the same, life would be very boring and not worth living. If we continue to hate, there will never be peace–not within ourselves, our homes or our communities.

How do you deal with opposition in your life? Do you use reason or emotion to debate? How do you separate your beliefs and fears from the facts?

Curious minds want to know.

*The statute of limitations is long up on this infraction, though the memory of my theft still haunts me.

**I welcome any and all respectful comments. Those who attack will be deleted without apology.

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10 responses to “Diversity, Prejudice and Acceptance: how do you roll?

  1. Wonderful post! I loved reading this. It’s amazing how far a little bit of logical reasoning, empathy, and research can go–it can mean the difference between intolerance and compassion.

  2. Lori Carstensen

    Great article. I, too, grew up in a very poor and diverse neighborhood where the acceptance was just that, acceptance. I never really had judgement for or against another person, except as you stated, regarding behavior. I knew what was right and wrong, thankfully, at a young age. Acceptance was right, bad behavior was going to keep me in that neighborhood my whole life. I also LEARNED to struggle and to accept that struggle. This is something my children have not learned and it creates in me a hope that, although this sounds beastly, that they DO have a need to struggle someday. Not just financially but in life’s lessons. Only then will they turn to their own convictions in a more pure and stronger way. So far, life has been good to them so they just ease along. Later, when they have to face a real life struggle, then and only then will they learn that acceptance or change is the behavior needed to move on with grace and dignity and that maybe, just maybe, the struggle was worth it all.

    • Thanks so much for sharing this perspective, Lori!

      Like you, I believe that our life experiences shape us into who we are and that adversity is an important piece to the puzzle of who we are to become. Struggle makes us stronger. It builds character. It can also teach us to appreciate the diversity around us in whatever shape it may come. It teaches compassion born of experience–something I hope my children will learn and use in their daily dealings with the people around them.

      Thanks again for sharing your two pennies!

  3. Jody — I don’t remember who said; “We all have a right to our own opinion, but we don’t have a right to our own facts.” When a woman caught in adultery to Jesus, Jesus said; “Let him with no sin cast the first stone.” all left convicted of their sinfulness — Jesus then reached out to this woman to pronounce God’s grace on her sin and told her to go and sin no more. Jesus did not express an acceptance of her sin, nor did He say go and sin again.

    You are correct – same sex marriage isn’t destroying the traditional family. Sin is destroying it. Sin of adultery, sin of promiscuity, the sin of deception, lies, of self-absorption, and a laundry list of destructive behaviors and the absence of so many healthy ones are destroying the family.

    Jesus shows us that we love the sinner, but hate the sin. Somehow, like Jesus, we need to love people without embracing those things that are forbidden by God. The Bible does teach that we are to admonish and encourage one another.

    Thank you for presenting your thoughts Jody.

    • My point exactly, Pastor Lee.

      Jesus forgave the sinner regardless of her sin. In the same way, we, too, should forgive. I have yet to see pickets and pronouncements made against gossipers. I do not see hatred and prejudice against the petty thief who steals time from the time clock or paper from her employer. I’ve heard many Christian people use the Lord’s name in vain on a very regular basis. Nobody kicks them out of church even as we know they continue gossiping, stealing and swearing. In fact, adulterers get their adultery forgiven and are allowed to remarry–in the church with the Pastor’s/Father’s blessing–thus showing that despite continuing their sins (intimate relations with a new partner not one’s spouse), God and the congregation forgave them. If I remember correctly, God’s punishment for adultery was death by stoning, not divorce and remarriage.

      We do not admonish those who sin the same way we do. However, we can be down right cruel to those who sin differently.

      I simply don’t understand our ability to pick and choose which sins to persecute. That’s God’s job. And using His word to justify our blatant prejudice is–in a word–abominable.

      We don’t have to embrace bad behavior to forgive–stealing, cheating, lying, murdering, adultery–we simply need to step outside ourselves–and into God’s love–and discontinue the hatred for what we don’t understand or partake in.

      Thanks for this wonderful and respectful debate.

  4. Great post! 🙂

    From a historical perspective, I am befuddled as to why same sex couples continue to be targeted as amoral. Homosexuality has been part of the human experience since civilization began. It is only fairly recently (in the context of a very large timeline) that same sex couples have endured so much prejudice.

    Religion has played a huge role in how homosexuality is viewed, but don’t we live in a country that values separation of church and state? Last time I checked, we were founded on the principles of choice and the freedom to pursue life, liberty, and happiness. For me, that means no person or group has the right to forsake those principles because they disagree with how someone chooses to live.

    Live and let live. 🙂

    • Well said.

      My issue is not even the same-sex marriage issue per se. Rather, it is truly the ghastly way we treat others–and the way we pick and choose information/Bible verses to justify our prejudices/fears. This time-honored tradition is responsible for so much hurt: past, present and future.

      It hurts my heart to think of the pain and suffering we put our family, friends and neighbors through when we are far from perfect ourselves.

  5. Lovely lovely post, well written xx

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