Civility in the 21st Century?
|October 11, 2003||Posted by Staff under The Progress Report|
Guest Essay “It’s About Intentions”
Civility in the 21st Century?
Can people coexist peacefully? Are young persons seeing enough role models who can tolerate and appreciate differences between people? Here is a viewpoint from a college student.
by Annie Spiro
Recently I have found myself in the company of those who care deeply about the environment, left-wing politics and generally making the world a better place.
But while I choose to associate myself with these people and agree with many of their viewpoints, it is not lost on me that other beliefs are just as valid as my own.
Here’s a perfect example: I am not Christian, but many of my best friends follow Jesus closely and passionately.
Some of these friends are dedicating their lives to this belief and serving others through them.
My friend Brad will enter training to become a minister when he finishes his psychology degree here at ISU. He does not smoke, swear or have sexual intercourse.
Brad has never had a drink in his life, has a good word to say about everyone and speaks to me as an equal even though to him I must represent a lamb outside the proverbial fold.
My friend Robb spent his summer volunteering up and down the East Coast. Every morning he rises with praise to God on his lips, and when he talks about the amazing works done by his fellow believers, he just glows.
Robb’s passion and devotion to his faith is incredible because it is so real and runs so deep.
He is an amazing person on his own, but I can’t help but think he is made a better person because he feels so passionately.
Whether they know it or not, Brad, Robb, my roommate Kim and everyone else are inspirations to me every day.
I have been asked, given my radically different beliefs as a pagan, how I can coexist so peacefully with such intense followers of a different faith from my own.
Sometimes carefully, and often with patience on both sides: I am constantly resisting their efforts to save me.
Occasionally I do get frustrated with these efforts to convert me, because it is easy to see them as nagging and almost pushy.
But when it comes down to it, I do understand and am grateful.
These people are trying to share the best part of their lives with me: the knowledge that when they die they will spend eternity with their Lord and Savior.
They love me, and believe that Jesus loves me, enough to talk to me about this.
Their intentions are pure and good. And I thank them for caring so much, even though I don’t agree with them.
Any belief that is backed by such genuinely good intentions should be welcomed and listened to, no matter how one personally feels.
It is politically correct to treat those who are different from oneself with tolerance and acceptance. When we politely sit through a presentation espousing thoughts we don’t agree with, we are being decent people.
I was proud of myself when I did not start yelling at the Pro-Lifers who came every year to my school in Wisconsin.
I felt a moment of pride when I smiled benignly as I passed the College Republicans at Festival ISU earlier this semester.
But I am coming to believe that just tolerating opinions that differ from my own is not enough. Just being decent is nothing to aspire to.
Conservative or Liberal, Buddhist or Muslim, we’re all people and we’re all trying to get others to agree with us because we genuinely believe in what we feel.
When we become part of a cause, any cause, we are working to make the world as good as we think it can be.
This base intention is what we should focus on no matter what the details of the cause are.
We should love the people behind the causes because they care enough to step up. We need to accept and even celebrate them, regardless of whether we agree with them.
Annie Spiro is a columnist and reporter at the Daily Vidette. This article appears with her permission.
Also see Senior Editor Fred Foldvary’s editorial on Religious Supremacists
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