Something that used to bother the living daylights out of me was when religious people (Christians, I mean) would assume a position of speaking for all of us.
It irked me to no end that our local school board would start their meetings with a Christian prayer. Damn, even our Democratic party meetings and some of our city meetings started with a Christian prayer. I found it so arrogant. Aggressive, really.
I’m all in for getting centered, grounded, and clearing our heads to prepare for the matters ahead. I’m not okay with assumptions that we all believe—or should believe—the same spiritual way. It’s like the missionaries who forced a dominance-centered version of Christianity on “savages” the world over, including right where I’m living in eastern North Carolina, and likely where you’re living, too.
In spite of everything I think and believe, Christian prayers before non-Christian (or religious)-related meetings have not ceased.
But my anger has let up.
I’ve changed my viewpoint a little.
I’ve smoothed some sharp edges
In the beautifully peaceful spirit of “live and let live,” I’m making space for people to just be… even if I don’t think the same way or believe the same way they do. Even if I think they’re wrong.
I still don’t want to start not-specifically-Christian gatherings with a Christian prayer. A prayer, maybe, because prayer can be all manner of things to all manner of humans, but I just don’t want to start these meetings with the type of prayer that assumes the authority of one belief.
I prefer a prayer that welcomes everyone’s style of being a soul in a body.
So back to live and let live.
I’ve developed what feels to me like a loving, gentle, peaceful way of abiding alongside things like these prayers I believe are ill-placed.
It’s a way of smoothing the sharp edges that words can leave behind.
I listen and adjust
Rather than judging the person speaking the prayer, and judging those in agreement with the prayer and that type of prayer in general, I lovingly accept the intention behind the prayer. This requires that I also loving assume the best intentions behind the prayer.
I don’t read into the prayer and the pray-er or the others praying. (Judgment is a type of separation—it’s a way we divide and isolate from each other.)
I don’t project my opinion of their beliefs or of their agenda, or even my observations and opinions about their behavior.
I simply take the words as best I can into the loving and peaceful places inside my soul, and run them through a sort of processor inside me that makes them work for me.
I listen for what’s okay for me, and as for the words that aren’t, I either gently set those aside entirely (no need for violence), or I tweak them in my mind and heart, and adjust them to suit me.
It’s true that I don’t see eye to eye with some Christians. Maybe even a lot of Christians, conservative and liberal alike.
But no longer choose to dwell on what we don’t have in common over what we do have in common. Isn’t that kind of the point of love?
And maybe we have some serious differences, but when it comes down to it, if we saw each other on the side of the road needing help, we’d pull over and help.
This is where we unite.
This is what love really is
And this choice of what to focus on is all it takes for me to stop mentally arguing with a public prayer that I, in my educated little brain, think should not be used in whatever setting because of whatever reasons, you know the rest.
This choosing what to dwell on is what it takes for me to transcend the words I may not like and listen for the intention, for the soul behind and beyond the words. Indeed, the soul that transcends the brain.
And it takes giving someone the benefit of the doubt to be open to their heart and soul being just as genuinely loving as I believe mine is.
Religion is so full of semantics and baggage and power dynamics that just the mere subject of religion can often cloud our heart’s real longings.
It’s our brain, not our heart, that isolates and judges and excludes.
Our heart just wants to eat a meal with someone, to laugh at things together, to be friends with people. That’s why we can get along with people at work, say, even when we don’t agree with their views or religion or whatever else. Or at least we have the capacity to do this unless our brain commences to judging and therefore creating separation.
It’s a lot more soothing and peaceful to me—and in turn for the atmosphere and vibration I create around myself—when I just let people be. I don’t have to fix them or fix what they do that I don’t like. I can’t fix any of that anyway, so why have I ever tried?
By taking those prayers, those words that my smarty-pants brain has previously interpreted as an affront and made into grounds for conflict, and turning myself around a bit to assume a loving intent behind those words, I’m making space for peace rather than blocking the way.
What I’m also saying is that just because I’m not in favor of Christian prayers in not-specifically-Christian spaces, that doesn’t put me on “the other side.” I’m not waving signs to protest something here. I’m not signing up for someone’s agenda just because we may share a few thoughts.
Live and let live = respect = love
The thing with “live and let live” is that it’s just another expression for respect. And genuine respect is way of being loving.
If I expect someone to respect me, I must have equal respect for them. Otherwise it’s a relationship based in power, not respect, and certainly not love or peace.
By listening for loving intent I find more loving intent.
We always, without fail, experience more of what we think about and talk about and look for. So my way of creating something out of what used to be a conflict is to look for love in a place where I’m pretty sure it’s present.
Call me simple-minded for assuming loving intent behind a Christian preacher’s prayer at the opening of a municipal meeting in my town, starting out with “Heavenly Father…,” but my ability to accept people—to live and let live, to release judgment, is stronger this way.
Besides, I don’t think I’m simple-minded, because I deeply long for the same respect from others that I’m learning to offer up. And no telling how many people I’ve offended because my words didn’t make it to someone’s soul due to the way I put them together.
Language is limited.
Love is not. Peace is not. Gentleness and kindness and respect are not.
We do the best we can with language.
And when we use our heart to listen, it fills in what our ears miss.