Thanks to a friend, Amy, my friend Denise and I found out about a presentation called the Jim and Casper show that was brought to Abilene by Hardin Simmons University.
I had never heard of Jim and Casper before.
So who is Jim? He is a Seattle pastor that isn't fond of "religion". He is about practicing faith and love through Christ.
Who is Casper? He is an atheist who was sought after by Jim to travel to different congregations through out the States with Jim. With Casper's perceptions and thoughts as an atheist Jim was able to see church through the eyes of the "other." Other not being a bad connotation, but just someone other than a Christian who doesn't know the church speak, theological references,...
Their talk wasn't long. Maybe 30 minutes.
The main point of Jim's presentation, which was basically an informal conversation with Casper and the audience, was how valuable it is for everyone, but especially for Christians to learn to stay in the room with difference. Not that we need to agree with difference, but that there is value in just listening, conversation, finding commonness with another.
This staying in the room with difference could even be practiced in two short weeks when families from far and wide come together to celebrate Thanksgiving.
Here are some points I wrote down:
"We don't need the 'other' to be the enemy."
How to learn to stay in the room with difference-
Practicing Otherliness: -Being unusually interested in others. (Out-listen people)
Practice staying in the room with difference. (Don't break up with people)
Stop comparing my best with another's worst.
Some basics for us Christians to be aware of that could be a problem:
Certainty has replaced faith. To me this means that our firmness of belief can be used as something that can wound people. Jim spoke of being humane with other humans.
Fixed ideology can be destructive.
A fundamentalist is someone who is mad and mean, not helpful. (side note: a fundamentalist does not necessarily limit itself to Christianity, it could be an atheist or politician...who is mad, mean and not helpful. However, as Jesus followers we are called to not be mean, mad and we are commanded to be helpful)
A test for yourself in this is are you building people up or tearing them down while living out your faith.
I was blessed through this conversation.
The other for me is generally not the sinner (as I am one, like Paul I am one of the worst), the homosexual, the poor, the homeless. Maybe there was a time that the fear of the unknown brought fear into the equation, and in those times I saw that fear was my driving force so I would serve the population that seemed unknown to me. I knew that I needed to look into the eyes, hold hands, give hugs, speak words of kindness and life to those that I did not know. God did not change them, but me. The one that needed the change.
Satan uses our fear against us and against our witness for Christ.
For me the other is the fundamentalist, the proof texters, the one's who looks are filled with arrows if you don't believe the way they do. So my challenge is to stay in the room with the differences and find commonness in life with those that make me uncomfortable.
Jim asked Casper to share with us how we should go about trying to "save" the lost. Casper shared that it is much easier to believe in God than to believe in the Bible when you don't believe in either. So it is not helpful to throw verses at people. It is helpful to live life alongside others so through our love and kindness we could be a witness to what a life looks life when following Christ.
It is love that saves.
I know many years ago before I came to know Christ that scripture pelted at me had no effect. But I can surely tell you the names and still see the faces of those who loved me in my mess. Just loved me, mess and all. It was the love of Christ that drew me in, and He used the kindness of His followers to melt my frozen heart.
Here is a link to Jim and Casper's first book: http://www.amazon.com/Jim-Casper-Church-Conversation-Well-Meaning/dp/141435858X
Their second book is called "Saving Casper." I haven't read either but have ordered used copies from Amazon and I anticipate reading them both.
I pray that we can practice staying in the room with difference and that when others see us they see kindness, love and interest in their lives. They are the children of God as we are.