“How are you?” I asked
“I’m blessed,” she said.
“We’re all blessed,” I said.
“I am living by the word,” she said.
“Good,” I said.
“I am a kingdom child,” she said.
I didn’t say anymore.
This was the repartee that passed as a greeting between the grocery store cashier and me on a recent Saturday morning. I am sure she was sincere, but her greeting offended me nevertheless.
It was self-righteous.
It felt as though she was saying that she was a Christian and I was not, or that she was ‘born again’ and therefore truer to the faith than me if I was one. Inherent in her tone was the declaration that she was right, and all the world not in her kingdom was wrong.
I am a Christian, by which I mean that I am a believer in the message of unconditional love as represented in the words and life of Jesus Christ. My beliefs are more closely aligned with liberal theology. Many of the positions taken by Christian conservatives are diametrically opposed to my understanding of the practice of love. Since moving to Florida, where the conservative evangelical influence is more prevalent, I sometimes find myself embarrassed to identify as a Christian, and I find this distressing.
I also took offense for people of different faiths, including those of no faith, for whom such a greeting could have been disrespectful.
This encounter highlights the larger issue of how to communicate in ways that show respect for the other person’s cultural or philosophical differences.
I do not know the answer, though I believe it is there to be learned. Our failure to do so in the past was at the center of many of our conflicts, intertwined with issues of injustice, and our failure to do so now will be the cause of future contentions.
One difficulty is that fundamentalists usually believe that their understanding represents the only true expression of the divine. And no one is as right as he who believes he has God on his side.
For me the broad brush of the Spirit of love overrides the details of any legalistic rule. Faith can only be judged by how well it helps to create an environment that affirms the dignity of all. Deed is far more meaningful than word.
As we interact with each other it is well to remember our common prayer which is,
‘Thy kingdom come on earth,”
“my kingdom come.”