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Healthy relationships, even when we disagree, strengthen our community

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Reverend Kelley Becker

This morning, as I write this column, I listen to the rain and look out the window at the leaves that have turned bright red and orange in recent days. The house is quiet, our foster dog is sleeping, and the house smells of pumpkin spice. I didn’t turn on the TV to watch the news or even read the news. I delay opening emails and avoid social media. It’s easy to feel joy in times like this.

I do know, however, that I’ll soon have to get out of this delicious break from the action and answer emails, check the news, check social media, and probably take the dog outside, even if it’s raining. And I recognize that at some point in all of this, I will feel the joy slipping away. It will be replaced by all kinds of feelings: frustration that there doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day, guilt that here I feel joyful, and so many loved ones haven’t felt joy. since a long time.

I don’t think I’m alone. As I have spoken to people in the church I serve, people in our community, and even family and friends who live elsewhere, it seems many of us are looking for joy. Last Sunday I talked about it in my sermon. I’ve shared with the congregation what I’ve read about joy, including a researcher who claims that round and spherical objects, like bubbles and balloons, tend to help us access joy. I love bubbles and balloons as much as the next person, and they make me smile, but I tend to think the joy is deeper than that.

Most of what I’ve read about joy indicates that this is true. In fact, although it may be formulated differently from one author to another, the idea is the same: to know joy, we must love and care for each other. It sounds so simple, but we know it’s not. Loving and caring is hard work. There are times, in fact, when loving and caring about people is awkward or worse, uncomfortable. And so, we decide to do what’s easy, which doesn’t force us out of our comfort zone or our echo chamber. Unfortunately, one of the things we sacrifice when we choose this path is joy.

I’ve seen the following example play with different details more times than I can count. A neighbor doesn’t like what another neighbor is doing. They don’t like their dog barking, or they don’t like their car parked on the street in front of their house, or the way they maintain their yard. Instead of knocking on the door of their neighbors, talking to them and offering to help, they call the city and report them for violating the code. Or they go on social media and lambast them, knowing that their neighbor will see it for themselves or someone will tell them. I don’t know if this helps you or not, but my rule of thumb is that if I’m not willing to tell the person about the problem, I can’t complain to others.

After:Rev. Kelley Becker: Public spaces are for all of us

A similar, more troubling example continues to play out in our community. A group of concerned residents presented the city council with a petition, accusing Oklahomans for Equality-Bartlesville of exposing “their children” to adult entertainment in the form of a drag queen show during the Pride celebration at Unity Square. The petition asks City Council to investigate whether a violation has occurred and, if not, asks City Council to consider changing our Community Standards for Public Spaces. A metaphorical knock on the door would have been more appropriate, especially since the people who have been the loudest call themselves Christians. Surely a more Christian response would have been to engage in conversation before escalating division in our community.

If these people had had a conversation with the management of OKEQ-Bartlesville, they would have discovered that what some of them had heard about what happened at the drag show was simply not true. Making wild accusations and demanding change without first asking questions and seeking to understand the other’s point of view are not ways to build community, reflect God’s ways, or cultivate the joy that comes from s love and care for each other.

After:Rev. Kelley Becker: Don’t be judgmental and try to disguise it as love

I have no illusions that conversations always lead to compromises, but they do lead to relationships, and respectful and healthy relationships, even when we disagree, strengthen our community. This demonization of each other must stop. We are all human beings trying to build lives that reflect our values ​​and priorities. These values ​​and priorities will not always align with our neighbours, so we must learn to respect each other. Your faith should affect how you live your life. It shouldn’t affect how others live their lives. The next time someone does something you don’t like, assess whether you’re ready to do the uncomfortable thing and have a conversation with them where you share your concerns and listen to theirs. If the answer is “No”, then forget it. Let your neighbor be what he was created to be and you be what you were created to be. There is room in this community for all of us, and we don’t need to be constantly at odds with each other. We are better together.