When I look out at the world, there are things that I assume to be true. Having a fairly high anthropology, I’m pretty convicted in the general goodness of humanity, but I also lament the fact that this innate goodness is rarely our dominant narrative as a society. When I look out at the world, I am not looking objectively, with absolute reason and rationality, I look out at the world as a complicated, complex being who has been shaped significantly by people, events, and deeply held beliefs. There have been moments in my life that have shaped what I believe to be true about the world and the world’s needs; there have been moments that have shaped how I see myself and the gifts God has given me to meet those needs in the world.
Like most folks, today brings back memories for me: I was 17, sitting in U.S. Economics, having just finished watching a video about the economic background of KFC (yes, the chicken place), and the video clicked off and the TV switched automatically to the news. I watched the second plane fly into the tower with 20 other 17-year-olds in Tennessee; most of us had never been to New York and none of us had faced any sort of tragedy to this national magnitude. I remember a lot of things about that day, but one of that stands out the most was hearing the fear-filled cry of hatred for “those people” (by which, I’m sure he meant all Muslims). I remember holding my own fear and denouncing this sort of racism and hatred as not only reactionary, but also foolish; in what might have been my first curse ever, I remember saying, “Just because you’re an ass, Chad, doesn’t mean all Christians are.” This was the most scathing and dramatic thing of which I could think; I was a pretty innocuous 17-year-old.
In that moment, I knew that because my faith mattered deeply to me, it was important for me to help others live out their faiths as well. That day may have started my love for interfaith dialogue and relationships, even though looking back, I doubt I even knew anyone who wasn’t Christian. This was such an influential moment not just in our collective social conscious, but it was also a significant moment that influenced my worldview.
There are other moments, of course. I remember the first time someone told me I had a kind soul, which shapes how I hold myself in regards to others who are in need.I still remember the day that I realized I was fully made in the image of God, which shapes how vital it is for me for all people to know this deep and good truth within their souls. The gracious hospitality showed to me by people of the Baha’i faith when I had lost my own faith and was trying to find my way in the darkness shapes how I engage with everyone who is in a time of darkness, with faith or without it. Seeing how unbalanced the structures within which we all live are biased towards whiteness shapes how I move in this world, what I notice, and then, later, what I may have missed because my privilege allowed me to be feign blindness.
Tomorrow, we’ll get a chance to discuss these influential moments that have shaped our worldview together; I’ll be at the DSU Starbucks at 7:00pm, Tuesday, September 12th. What has shaped what you believe about the world; who has formed the way you think about yourself when you consider what you have to offer to meet the needs of this world?