Friends and relatives who try to influence me about politics, especially politics and religion, should know that we have basic differences in outlook.
I believe human beings are the same at the deepest levels of mind and soul. On the surface, we differ because of life experiences.
I was raised Christian and was encouraged to use my God-given mind to think for myself. They were raised to obey the rules of the Bible as interpreted by authority figures in their lives.
They, like I, have had at least one “epiphany” that supports their belief system.
Because I believe we are all God’s children, I have treated them in a respectful manner. I have not tried to change their beliefs.
God has given us free will, which we should also grant to each other.
But my experience with evangelical Christians has been the exact opposite.
They apparently feel it is their duty to “save” me and – most recently – convince me to agree with them politically.
For the record, after years of study, prayer and meditation, my belief system could be described as Mahayana Buddhism, which has room for the teachings of Jesus and other non-Buddhists.
They can’t scare me with their visions of eternal hellfire or any other narrow interpretation of the Judeo-Christian Bible. It is a collection of Jewish history, literature and myth.
I don’t allow any person to tell me it is the only vehicle of God’s word and then interpret it for me.
I believe we human beings are hard-wired to have epiphanies that bring us close to our creator, experiences beyond language.
Throughout history, religious leaders have tried to share that experience, each through the limitations of his particular cultural background.
I probably agree with them that our social fabric is unraveling and our culture needs to be changed. I also agree that we need to get back to core values from the past.
But evangelicals do not have a monopoly on values and morality. Nonbelievers, too, are capable of living decent, moral lives. I know quite a few who live righteous and honorable lives.
If you would use your God-given minds to examine the world’s great religions, you would find that basic teachings are the same. All have what we call the Golden Rule. (Speaking of which, how would anyone like it if I made it my business to convert them to Mahayana Buddhism?)
What is needed to change our culture is respectful discourse, not “spiritual” battles.
Recently I received an e-mail containing prayers to be said for John McCain and Sarah Palin, because, “Clearly, this is a SPIRITUAL battle in the heavenly places!” That may be their perception, but it certainly isn’t mine!
Evangelicals have turned this presidential election of 2008 into cultural warfare, and I no longer can stand by in respectful silence.
They are not respecting me or the Constitution of my beloved country by trying to turn it into their theocracy.
Their mind-set has way too much in common with the Taliban. What’s more, it is demeaning to less rigid Christians.
Lois Smith is a retired office worker living in Tucson.