By Denae Jones –
While in Colorado, my husband and I decided on the spur of the moment to drive up the 14,000 foot elevation to the summit of Mount Evans. I’m always up for an adventure, and the views were gorgeous! However, I was a bundle of nerves as we were winding up the mountain. There was no cell service, no guardrails, and no wiggle room. It was a steep drop over the rocks. If anything at all went wrong, we were in trouble! At some point, I must have accidentally hit a button on my phone because we have a four minute video of the floor, and you can hear me telling my husband to slow down and him telling me he knows how to drive. (You can insert any number of emojis here) I never realized my sincere appreciation for guardrails until they weren’t there.
It got me thinking. We put ‘guardrails’ around most things in our lives. We’ve got security systems on our homes. Passwords on all of our devices. Alarms on our cars. Vaccinations against disease. Health, auto and life insurance in place. Financial plans to protect our assets. Wills to protect our estates. Don’t get me started on all of the safety procedures we have in place for kids now. Society makes us feel like we’re dropping the ball as a parent if we don’t send them outside in bubble wrap. We spend hours on homework and science projects and improving reading skills. We go to great lengths to make certain everyone is comfortable and secure, and that our legacy is nicely packaged for the next generation. That’s all fine and good, but I wonder… Are we working that hard to put guardrails around our faith? Are we doing the best we can to protect our sacred space and educate our youth before we hand that off to the next generation?
We live in a world where our religious freedoms are slowly being marginalized. What used to be the fabric of what our nation was founded on, is now being ‘relegated to an unimportant or powerless position within society.’ (The definition of ‘marginalized.’) The scale of equal rights is slowing tipping.
A friend told me a few years ago that her husband went to his family doctor because they decided her husband was going to get a vasectomy. His doctor politely told them that doing that particular procedure was against his religious beliefs, but he would be happy to refer him to another doctor who would take care of it. You know what they did? They respected their doctor’s right to his religious freedom and went to the doctor he referred them to. The patient’s rights were not taken away because they still got the procedure they wanted. The doctor’s rights were not taken away because he was able to uphold his religious beliefs. The doctor did not look down on them for doing the procedure, and the patient did not look down on the doctor for keeping his religious practices intact. Mutual respect.
Today, people would almost be eager to call the news, post on social media, and file lawsuits to say this doctor was discriminating. They would drag his name through the mud, slander his beliefs, call him names, and put him in danger of losing his practice. Nobody wins when that happens.
I can’t speak for everyone’s faith because I have always been a Christian. But I can speak for what I know for myself. In today’s society, we are increasingly looked down on for things that used to be common practice. We can’t pray in public, can’t even say the word ‘creation’ in science class, can’t say the Pledge of Allegiance in most schools, can’t use the word ‘God’ within the confines of our businesses and schools so as not to offend anyone, and can’t have the Ten Commandments or a cross in certain public places. Laws are being passed that try to force Christians to make theological shifts in order to pacify culture. (As you know, a myriad of these examples exist.)
I have to ask, is that still equal rights? It sure doesn’t feel like it. I’m not sure how taking away the rights of one group in order to give a right to someone else is okay? Think back to the doctor and patient. If someone doesn’t want to participate, couldn’t they just… not participate?
For example, if we went to visit the home of an Amish friend, would we bring all of our modern day technology and whine about not having any Wi-Fi? Of course not! We would admire the beauty of the life they live and respect their culture and beliefs. And they would still love us when we plug into our screens somewhere else. Both friends enjoy each other’s company without compromising each other’s values. Mutual respect.
Or, what if a couple wanted to get married next month and the pastor they spoke with required six months of marriage classes before he would conduct the ceremony? Should they picket in front of his church and file a lawsuit that forces him to perform marriage ceremonies on demand? Of course not. There are plenty of other ways they can still get married next month. They could talk with another pastor, justice of the peace, or internet certified friend about doing the ceremony instead. The rights of the couple are still met, and the beliefs of the pastor are not compromised. Mutual respect.
We can go to a bar mitzvah without being Jewish. We can attend a Pride parade without being gay. We can be in the same place a prayer is being said and not participate. We can attend a church of a different religion and respect their beliefs without forcing them to change in order to accommodate us. We can believe in a person without sharing all of their same views and opinions. Mutual respect.
So, how can we be sure guardrails for our faith and values are in place for the next generation? Well, for starters, we can show them how to respect all people. A person’s race, religion, sexuality, nationality, political views, social status, or profession big fat doesn’t matter. Doesn’t the Bible teach that we are all sinners, yet all loved in God’s eyes? (The answer is yes.) Not just some of us. All of us. Are we practicing what we preach? All people aren’t going to believe the same things. Let’s respect them anyway. In fact, I challenge us to go beyond just respect. Let’s love them. Perhaps then, it would encourage the same to come back around. Christianity shouldn’t be a noun. It should be a verb. The next generation needs to see it in action.
That said, we can respect other people without allowing our rights to be taken away under the guise of political correctness. If we continue to allow Christianity to be marginalized, there won’t be much left to stand up for. We can protect our sacred space and be kind at the same time. Really, we can.
Lastly, we should be certain the next generation knows what the Bible actually says. Nobody is going to have their faith grow into a deep conviction if they don’t make it their own. Is the Bible in our homes collecting dust, or being used as a living, breathing teaching tool? Let’s really read it. Understand it. And most importantly, live it. We don’t want a new generation of Christians rising up who believe what they learned in Sunday school only because we told them that’s what they should believe. That is a weak foundation. Instead, let’s give them such an awesome example of what it really means to be a Christian that they can’t wait to see the same thing grow in the generation that follows them.
This week I challenge us to be honest with ourselves. Have we done our part to serve the next generation well? Do we need to put any guardrails in place?
Have a blessed week, friends!