Apparently, the P.E.A.C.E ride is no different than Hitler

 I’m including this whole conversation because it was a learning experience for me. It was a test, for me not to be judgemental, angry or close minded. To continue to be listen calmly even though I did not agree with almost ANYTHING this gentleman said. I walked away thinking, “what if that guy was God?” What if he was just testing me.

I had hoped to convey that people build you up by showing you were you are weak. Well, someone read this and sent me a good link, (thanks Parker) so I’m putting that right here, it’s a Pema Chodron video. 

I walked out of the store, having bought a banana. I’m in Circle, MT. I was there last year, waylaid for a couple of days and so I’m excited to go visit Paula at the Travelers Inn Motel.  A gentlemen and his family look at the scooter and start asking questions. I go for it and tell them all about the mission, give ’em the spiel. I think it always comes out sounding genuine, because I believe in it with all my heart. Approving nods and ah has are happening. Good. You just never know in certain areas.

They ask, how do you define Peace?

“Well, how I take care of myself, my community and the environment”
“It’s the ability to not always impress my idea of how something should be, but have the humility to accept what is best.
Non-judgement.  Finding alternatives besides anger, violence and judgement to resolve a disagreement. ”
Pause. I could go on.

Something comes up about pacifism. I say I’m peaceful, but that requires action. I say the word pacifism is perceived as non action, but it takes a rather big commitment to  achieve your goals through  non-violence and non-agression. In fact,  I think it’s harder, because, in policy, pacifism isn’t our customary modus operandi.

He says, “Ghandi…”

“Yes, Martin Luther King, yes. Ghandi said that the end is inherent in the means.”

He looks dubious.

“For instance, anger begets anger. War doesn’t bring peace, it brings submission.”

“Hitler defined Peace as submission.”

I think this is where the ball starts rolling. I might miss a couple of lines here, sorry Merit.

I don’t know what I said to that (what do you say to that?)  and it was obvious Merit had his own agenda and has probably used this angle numerous times in his spiel.

He asks if I think Hitler was wrong.

I think about it for a second. “Well, actually, I can understand that what Hitler wanted to protect is people. That’s what he thought he was doing. But killing others to protect his people was clearly wrong. I’m more focused on what he did, and how that mentality can be avoided in our future, than just saying Hitler was wrong.  Hitler was a suffering individual,  his ego cried for attention and power made him feel important.

“Is murder wrong?”

“Yes. Yes it is.”

“How do you know murder is wrong?”

That’s a damn good question. And quite frankly, I’m shocked that we are having this discussion. In front of me, but to Merit’s side, stands his son, perfectly stoic. Merit has the spotlight. I still don’t anticipate what lies ahead. It should have been clear to me that Merit does this often.

“My belief in a greater spirit.”

“A god?”

“I don’t call it a god. I don’t feel like I need to, hmmm, let me explain. I recognize that there is something definitely greater than myself. Knowing this makes me understand that other men/women are small also. If you can appreciate how small you really are, I think you develop an empathy that makes you less competitive, judgemental and violent. We compete to be bigger and more powerful. But we’re all really small.  I think what makes us big is when we work together, despite our differences.”

“So YOU believe murder is wrong.”

“Yes. ??”

“But, how do you KNOW?”

It’s really a life defining moment for me. In my head I see myself  thinking protection is the only justification for harming another person. Then it’s survival right? But in my heart I don’t agree with this. I’m confused now. My approach involves what is an idealistic world, and only faith in that can keep me working towards its creation. This means I have just as much faith as Merit does, although he might disagree, because his faith comes from a specific God and commandments.

“I know because we have hearts that allow us to care and minds that allow us to create a better solution. We have no reason to murder.”

“Then it’s based on what YOU believe, which is really no different than Hitler. He had a belief too.”

Oh this is cheap.

“So how do YOU know murder is wrong?”

“The Bible.”

“See, the thing I don’t understand is that if we are created by a God, he/she/it gave us a brain, right? Did God give us a brain to not exercise it? I think a God would ultimately hope that we don’t need commandments to be good, conscious beings. If God doesn’t want us using our noggins, why are there friggin psychedelics out there?” (I don’t say that part)

He carries on, I can’t remember all of it.

I comment that isn’t it beautiful that I have a grasp on universal truths and I don’t even go to church. I’m trying to find a common ground.

He implies that it’s egotistical of me, similar to Hitler, AGAIN, because I consider myself the governing body of my life.
I say that I have appreciation for all living things and that meditation is my form of prayer.
I say if, I am created in God’s image, then wouldn’t I inherently know the Golden Rules?

If I’m practicing them why would I have to go to church?

Then I ask him about homosexuality. I’m really interested to hear someone say they think it can be cured by God. I’ve heard this before on TV.

“Oh that’s a sin.”

He quotes the passage. I ask if there is more than one. He quotes those also.

I ask if he’s ever considered stoning his neighbor for working on a Sunday?
It’s cheap, I know.  Most Christians, Merit, included, don’t believe they are bound to the Old Testament other the 10 Commandments.

“Oh, that’s Old Testament.”
“So are some of the examples you are giving me and so are the Ten Commandments.”
(which is all SO confusing, because in one part of the Bible Jesus says, if someone hits you on the right cheek, turn other cheek to them also. And then Moses is saying an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth.)

He proceeds to tell me that homosexuality is a sin, that homosexuals can be forgiven, but it is clear that the Lord does not approve.

I’m wondering if it is a ethical sin, no one gets hurt afterall, except for messy breakups and love triangles. It might be a religious sin, like touching a pigskin (dammed football players) or touching a menstrating woman.

“Can God cure homosexuality?”

“Yes.”
He believes that when the homosexual honors God’s will, the act itself will cure those lustings.  He compares it to adultery.
“No where in nature is their homosexuality.”

Ha.  I took biology.
“Monkeys. Monkeys engage in homosexuality and orgies, actually.”

He shrugs it off. He says, “I can see bulls mount bulls, but they are animals, we are better than them.”

I want him to stop comparing adultery to homosexuality. “Adultery is different. You’ve made an oath to your wife through marriage. Aren’t homosexuals created in God’s image also?”

He says that humans are given choices and that we will struggle with sin. So, yes they are created in his image, but it is their challenge to overcome this curse.

I ask if he’s ever lusted for a man, or been in love with one.
He says No.
I tell him he’s fortunate that he hasn’t had to  experience the feeling of loving someone with all your heart only to think it is a sin.
I also mention that the Bible, from my shallow understanding doesn’t condemn loving monogamous homosexual relationships, the focus in the Bible is actually all the gang raping and lusting that’s happening.
And that he should be thankful that God didn’t say it was a sin to love women. Then I ask about the girl on girl action because I’m a little confused by the Bible’s terminology. Seriously, I think there is one reference to it, all the other language is men on men.

I’m being playful at this point, but it’s helping me handle the fact that I’ve just met myself a religious fanatic.

Merit tells me something to the jist of accepting God’s law or continuing to view myself as a cosmic accident.

He tells me, pointing to his dog, that made in God’s image, I am better than his dog, better than the chicken he ate for lunch (rubbing his belly) or the deer, cow, or pig he can run over in his car or shoot in the head.

I’m a little sickened by this.

“Actually, aren’t they God’s creatures too?”
I go onto to say that assuming these creatures are inferior to us has given us a dominion over land and cockiness that mostly leads to a rape of the land. I point out the problems with eating meat just because it’s our God given right. Like all the grain and water that goes into feeding a cow, all the land that grows the grain, and meanwhile people are starving.”

I say that our problem is we think we are better and more important than the land and its animals. I say, maybe we can think, Merit, but look at all the sin it leads us into, huh?

Perhaps those animals that you say are “raping, lusting, looting and pillaging,” (not lying) are actually more divine because they don’t go through the process of sin and choice that we experience.
Then I tell him that indirectly my dog taught me how to treat humans better. And he did, because one day I thought-“geez what if reincarnation is true, and I came back as the dog and he was my owner.”
Probably not gonna happen, but what IF?

Merit said he could tell the conversation was over, shook out his hand, and him and his son walked away. He must do this often, because i’ve never seen a family so patient. We talked for almost an hour and they just stood there. Before he walked away, he told me, “I’m ok, I’m gonna be fine.”

Thanks bud.

To soothe the intensity of this post, watch a funny video by Bill Hicks! Caution, a few F words, if you’re at work, turn down the volume!

12 Replies to “Apparently, the P.E.A.C.E ride is no different than Hitler”

  1. WOW! all i can say is WOW! i don’t think i would have had the patience to handle it like you did. “you did that beautifully, laura.” i think all your responses were appropriate, and i love how true to yourself and your vision you are. kudos, lady. keep your chin up.

  2. I worry about the young mind of his son. Hopefully, one day, he’ll think from his heart and not from his father’s mouth.

  3. In chess, there are certain well known classic moves, and the defenses against them are also well known. This kind of debate falls into the same category. When I meet a Christian who says they get their beliefs from the Bible, I ask:

    “Are you Catholic?”

    They can either say yes or no. If they say, “Yes”, I ask:

    “Are Protestants Christian?”

    But if, instead, they say “No”, they are Christian but not Catholic, I’ll ask “Are Catholics Christian?”

    It doesn’t matter if they are Catholic or Protestant, I just ask them if they think the other group is really Christian. My goal is to get them to admit that there are a lot of different interpretations of the Bible out there.

    They can either answer “Yes” or “No”.

    If they say “No” (meaning the other group is not Christian), then I ask where they get the authority to make that judgement – not the Bible, surely, since the other side reads the Bible too. They might, at that point, quote the Bible to prove that the other group is not really Christian – but for me this is just more evidence that different people can read the Bible different ways and come up with different interpretations.

    If they say “Yes” (meaning they recognize the other group as being a kind of Christian) then I ask, “If there is only one way to interpret the Bible, then why are there so many different Christian sects?”

    Among liberal Christian sects, the standard answer is “Humans are flawed creatures and even though there is only one God and the Bible is his truth, no intellect of mortal flesh is able to fully comprehend the truth of God.”

    Whenever I run into a fanatic like Merit, I try to back them into that intellectual corner. Because, either a Christian recognizes other sects as Christians, and therefore recognizes that there are a lot of ways to interpret the Bible, or they insist that their interpretation is the only true interpretation of the Bible, in which case, they are really too fanatic to talk to, but if I felt like playing along I’d ask “How do you know that?” which should stump them as much as “How do you know murder is wrong?” stumped you.

    Generally, most sane Christians will admit that there are a lot of ways to interpret the Bible, and therefore, once they’ve admited that, I suggest them to that there are multiple ways to interpret passages about sexuality, or gender roles, or the role of the state, the place of children, the authority of tradition, etc.

    There are hundreds of Christian sects in the world. They disagree with each other about everything. This fact, by itself, should raise doubt in a good Christian’s mind about the certainty of their own interpretation of the Bible.

  4. By the way, I just stumbled upon this assertion of 7 principles of a liberal Christian faith:

    http://thinkingreed.wordpress.com/2008/07/11/affirming-liberalism-and-conservatism/

    1.) Christians enjoy freedom from the absolute authority of any written text, including the Bible

    2.) The church should include different interpretations of the Christian faith

    3.) People should be free to dissent from any human authority, including the church

    4.) The search for truth is best served by critical discussion and inquiry

    5.) Faith is a relation of trust in a person more than an affirmation of propositional truths

    6.) Religious belief may need to be re-evaluated in light of new knowledge from other areas

    7.) The church exists to serve the world and contribute to the flourishing of all creation, both material and spiritual

  5. Hey, Alix,
    So, I was taking a break from reading my new book, “The Lucifer Effect, Understanding how Good People Turn Evil,” by Zimbardo, (you should check it out. It was a New York Times Bestseller) and I ran across the post card you gave me that 13th day of July. Do you remember? ha ha! ok, jk. 😉
    Looking at your blogs, I pondered, “Hmm, I wonder if I left enough of an impression to warrant a spot in her journal?” To my joyous surprise, I found more than a mere “spot!”
    I must admit it was rather exhilarating to relive our conversation. You actually did a pretty good job of recalling the details, and you didn’t even make me look like too much of a moron! 🙂
    I do like the “religious fanatic” part. (For those reading, Alix did accurately portrait me) I think the only thing that would have made it a little better is to add “semi-intelligent” religious fanatic. We wouldn’t want people to think that all religious fanatics are simply uneducated crazies.
    Anyway, since I’m here, perhaps I can fill in some of the blanks of our conversation, and perhaps, clarify a detail or two.
    Concerning whether God can “cure” homosexuality. Although I believe it is possible that God can change a homosexuals attraction to that of the opposite sex, I make no claim that this will always, or even mostly, be the case. It may be that a person who was a homosexual before becoming a Christian will continue to be attracted to those of the same sex. There is no sin in being attracted to someone of the same sex. The sin is when one physically acts upon those desires.
    People seem to want to make homosexuality out like it’s some special type of sexual sin. I don’t feel this is necessary, Alix, and that is why I kept comparing it to adultery. They are both sexual acts forbidden by God, and to be refused by exercising our self-control. My point, if you recall, was that I may have the desire to sleep with one or more women who are not my wife, yet just because I have this desire, and may really feel lovingly attracted to these other women, still does not make it right or acceptable.
    As for the Old Testament laws, I pointed out that the Old Testament was written to Jews under a theocracy. It does not pertain to Christians, although there are certain moral laws we can learn from.
    Concerning having God’s laws written on your heart, this is something I wholeheartedly agreed with you on, but also noted the need for “special revelation” (the Bible), since we have a sinful nature which tends to pick and choose pertaining to which laws we consider right. It is not surprising that we find laws we like as right, and laws we don’t like as wrong. For example, if I happen to be a person who cheats on my taxes, I would probably not consider this a sin, but rather figure I was doing the government a favor by not giving them too much of my money to waste on stupid wars, like the one in Iraq.
    In closing, I wish you would have remembered the good note we ended on, such as how I helped you get your scooter started. 🙂
    Take care,
    Merit

  6. In response to Lawrence, who said, “Whenever I run into a fanatic like Merit, I try to back them into that intellectual corner. Because, either a Christian recognizes other sects as Christians, and therefore recognizes that there are a lot of ways to interpret the Bible.”

    Yes, there are many ways to interpret the Bible. No disagreement with you there.
    Just as there are many ways to interpret The Great Gatsby. The fact is, no matter how many interpretations to The Great Gatsby there are, there is only one view that is correct; that of F. Scott’s.
    So how does one discover the “true meaning” of what Fitzgerald was saying? Obviously we use certain rules of interpretation. Rules of interpretation are important for understanding any piece of historical literature. Learning the context, culture, historical setting, and language is what we refer to as “exegesis.” Therefore, it is possible to be solidly convinced of one’s position concerning interpretation of scripture, assuming proper exegetical guidelines have been followed.

    As for Christians all disagreeing on everything, this statement is blatantly false. I propose that Christians agree on 95 percent of all theological issues.

    -Merit

  7. I overheard a conversation the other day and it got me thinking about religion in general. The portion of the conversation I heard had to do with organizing revival events and having instruction about defending. I concluded “defending” referred to defending whichever religion they were hoping to ‘revive’. And then it just seemed sad to me that folks feel they have to be in a position to ‘defend’. I wish we could all spend more time appreciating one another’s perspective, one another’s human and spiritual experiences, and less time judging and defending.

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