Recently in my (far too) regular visits to Facebook I stumbled across a cartoon that made me smile so I forwarded it along to others without thinking too much about it at the time.
“Don´t be absurd! Nobody made us! We evolved by chance from snowflakes!”, says one snowman to the other.
“Sorry, but all I get from this is support for creationism, especially as it comes from the page of very right wing conservative people. How do you see it?”, responded one of my oldest friends.
“The notion that the world was created in only seven days is very difficult to accept.
But when one considers the complexity and design of each and every snowflake evolution seems rather crude to be responsible for such beauty that goes unnoticed by so many so often.
In a way I see women the same as snowflakes.
I know that rationally each woman is a mere result of genetics, but when I view the remarkable splendour of each individual woman I can’t help but ponder divine possibilities.
As for the source of the cartoon one can hold an idea in one’s head without adopting the entirety of it or its origins.
I can remark on how much quicker an Autobahn makes cross-country travel without actually liking Autobahns or embracing Nazis the originators of them.”
This small online discussion has really got me thinking.
For much of my formative years I was preached to by devout Baptist Bible-thumping believers in my foster family.
I am reminded of a Biblical passage:
Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him:
“We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, wrote:
Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
And Nathanael said unto him:
“Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?”
Philip saith unto him:
“Come and see.”
(The Holy Bible, King James Version, John 1:45-46)
Location/origin factors heavily into our assumptions and judgments about people.
Imagine you are told about a group of people: one person grew up in Appalachia, another in Manhattan in New York City, another in south Alabama, another in Texas, another in Wisconsin, and another from rural Nevada.
In all likelihood you have already come up with some concept of who these people are based on their location of origin and raising.
Yes, there will be times when those assumptions will prove false, yet how much more often do they prove true?
Or at least something within what they say that might resonate a seed of truth.
It is easy to fall prey to snap judgments about people based upon many factors, including geography and history and the culture inherent in them, but these judgments fail to consider the context by which these people lived or that what they believe offers them some sort of structure by which they understand the world.
It remains true that stereotypes exist for a reason, but not everyone fits the stereotype.
Though many positive ideas can be generated from theology, religion generally functions on faith rather than facts.
Fundamentalist Christians would have us believe unquestionably in Creation in seven days, Noah´s Ark, God speaking through burning bushes, plagues deliberately targeting nations, a political execution and resurrection freeing all mankind from their sins, the ability to speak in tongues and many other ideas difficult to prove historically or scientifically.
I am writing neither to belittle beliefs nor to steady the Ark.
But what the snowman cartoon and the reaction to it shows me is that there is an tendency within many of us to quickly categorize people and dismiss and discard ideas we disagree with.
As well we reject the potential of anything good originating from those we usually disagree with.
Generally, I disagree with much the conservative right has to say, but whether redemption is possible for this despicable group should not have us dismiss all that they say without at least momentary consideration of what value or validity, if any, their beliefs have.
Take, for example, the question of displaced Syrians seeking refuge from their war-torn homeland.
“There are now some 60 million displaced people around the world, more than at any time since World War II.
The Syrian crisis alone, which has created the largest refugee shock of the era, has displaced some ten million people, around four million of them across international borders.”
(Foreign Affairs, November/December 2015)
So, while I, on almost automatic principle, reject the fear-mongering and xenophobia many conservative Americans have towards Syrian refugees, one cannot deny the need to consider the ability to handle so many people seeking sanctuary and what dangers, if any, exist in doing so.
Pigeonholing people is easier, less time-consuming, than expending time and energy trying to understand them.
But in defining what it is we believe in, we must remind ourselves that humans are complex beings capable of both wisdom and folly with the potential for both good and bad.
Considering objectively what others believe, taking from these beliefs what works for our lives and using our understanding of their points-of-view to learn how to handle them will go a long way to bridging the chasms between us, to healing the wounds that divide us.
Perhaps some good snowflakes might be seen in the blizzard blowing in from Nazareth.
Come and see.