assuming is dangerous

kathyescobar church stuff, fundamentalism, rants 34 Comments

well i had some other thoughts mulling around in my mind that will come later this week but i couldn’t resist sharing a different one today after a few emails i received last night that got me all riled up.   i have friends all over the map when it comes to politics, religion, socioeconomics, age, you name it.  i love it, diversity is one of my favorite things, but i realized something yesterday that really bugged me–the assumption people make that since i am on their “email distribution list”  i must agree politically with them & appreciate their icky anti-obama emails.  i’ve gotten a few here and there over the past few weeks, but last night before i was hitting the hay two of them were in my inbox, and i think the double whammy just pushed me over the edge.  i usually hit delete but i decided to send back these replies:

hey ______, thanks for the email. i know there are lots of people against obama but i’m not one of them. i really don’t like emails like this that slam someone when we don’t know the whole story. i wouldn’t like them about john mccain, either, just saying thanks for taking me off any political email lists you send.  hope you are good, kathy

hey _____, i understand if you are against obama, but i am not really sure i appreciate the spirit of this email and the assumption that this is true.  i love to hear from you always but don’t want to get stuff related to anti-obama, it doesn’t feel good and i never, ever get anything kicking john mccain around like this. that wouldn’t feel too good either.  thanks, kathy

i am not sure if these responses were right or wrong, i am sure i could have worded them better in all kinds of ways & you can probably pick them apart. but, hey, it was midnight & i was just glad i didn’t hit delete this time.  these people are not close personal friends that i ever see or hang out with, so it’s not likely i will be sitting across the table having a conversation about it.  all’s i know is an automatic assumption is made that because i am a christian i must be voting for mccain & am not into obama.  (this came on the heels of being at a coffee shop yesterday next to the christian school my kids used to attend; i ran into a parent from the school & church who started talking about politics & religion and 100%-without-a-doubt assumed that i see things exactly like she did (she is a kind person, i am just pretty sure it never crossed her mind that i could possibly see things differently as a “christian”).

assuming is dangerous.  i think we do it all the time in weird ways and it would serve us well as christians, as people, to be very careful about it.  i am not just pointing the finger. i do it, too, but i am trying to become more aware of it because it can be hurtful, rude, insensitive, judgemental, and unloving. 

here are some of the things i have seen first-hand that we, as christians, make some dangerous assumptions about:

politics – enough said on that one.  every christian is not a republican and every democrat is not immoral, anti-military, anti-american. 

homosexuality – people sometimes assume that no one in a group or situation actually is or used to struggle with it.  some think that all christians must believe it’s the worst possible sin next to murder & one of our nation’s (& church’s) top priorities.  a few months ago someone with a very conservative faith experience was over for a visit with another friend.  in response to my comments about the big shifts in christianity currently underway he said: “the only problem is that so many churches have become so liberal that they actually embrace homosexuals.”  umm, yeah, not a good moment. especially when my dear friend who happens to be lesbian was in the next room doing her laundry at my house like she does every week.  i did my best to be kind & honest & understanding and didn’t completely freak out in the moment (although i was on the verge) because i know that is just a prevalent teaching in the church culture he comes from. (praise God jose was there, too, and sort of neutralized my potential craziness!). trust me, though, i lost it when he left & couldn’t stop crying for some reason and jose, my friend, and i processed it for a while afterward.  it rattled me more than i can say, i think because it somehow violated the safety of my house.  all because of some weird assumption that because i am a christian (and maybe a “pastor” on top of it) that i would certainly 100% agree with that statement.  it took no consideration that maybe he was talking about my child, my brother or sister, the person he just met, me, jose, you name it.  it is dangerous to assume.

mental illness & depression – in any given room, more people than we think probably struggle with it in some shape or form and are on meds for it.  just because we don’t doesn’t mean someone else doesn’t. 

abortion – well, i have been honest about this one, how horrible it feels when people start going off on the issue without any respect for the reality that a huge number of women (and men of course, too) have this in their experience.  it perpetuates the shame & ugliness & keeps people in hiding (for good reason, insensitive remarks give us good data that it’s not safe to share!)

struggles with porn, drugs, alcohol, food – same thing, i have been in moments where people go “well, ya know, those people who are addicted to pornography….”  again, you just never know who is in the throes of their struggle & what it does inside when people are talking about you with shame & judgement attached in the most insensitive of ways.

money – no doubt, we can never know what’s going on for a person related to money.  i know plenty of single mommies who are well put together & go to work every day and live below the poverty level.  i know other people who live in nice houses they are probably going to lose soon.  we just can’t assume we know where people are at on this one.  another thing that always bugs me in churches is when they charge for things and just assume people can pay.  yeah, to me $10 is no big deal but to another friend it is food for a few days.  i don’t have any problem asking, i just think we should be so careful about assuming that that just because we can, others can.

kids – sort of the same thing. those married with kids doing our thing need to understand & respect that there are people who can’t, never will, and what that might feel like.

bible knowledge & language & being into God – okay this is my last one, there are all kinds of people who don’t know stories of the bible or the language we christians toss around like it’s nothing.  i am in a community of straight shooters & someone from the refuge said something to me a while back that i will never forget:   “just so you know, i resent it when you go ‘well, you all know the story of david…’ and i am like ‘well, um, no i actually don’t’.  please don’t assume just because you know, i know.”   umm, yeah, i am with some really cool people who are willing to call a spade a spade!  at the same time, worship, sermons, oh all kinds of conversations assume that people are actually “into God, love him, like him, even.” that is so not so many people’s current experience & i think we need to try to take into account that all kinds of people “in and around church” are pissed off at God & are feeling guilty & confused about it.  i want to continue to develop sharper eyes & ears to what God platitudes must feel like for my friend who just lost a child or is beginning to be honest about sexual abuse or just filed bankruptcy. 

oh these are just the ones off the top of my head. i know there are so many more you can add. please know this: i don’t think we can be totally politically spiritually emotionally “correct” all the time, that would be way too exhausting.   i say stupid things all the time with no harm intended & constantly need grace, grace & more grace. 

but my point is that we need to be very careful about making assumptions & applying our experience to everyone else’s.  it is precarious ground & i just think we need to be aware of it, that’s all.  some of have heard the old adage:  “we all know what assuming does. it makes an ass out of u and me!”

yeah, assuming is dangerous.