How to be bigoted

Someone once accused me of bigotry.

It wasn’t someone I knew. A friend had posted a question on Facebook. She asked whether it was a good idea for people of different religions to marry. I responded that while I would never condemn someone for doing so, it seemed to be not ideal. For those who find a specific expression of faith central to their lives, companionship with another who does not share that same faith can be difficult. Another way to put it is that either that person will start drifting away from their faith or will start drifting away from their spouse.

This other commentator responded by decrying my bigoted response. He said that while people of different political views may find marriage difficult, since the various religions are ultimately not that different, an interfaith relationship is viable. Any misgivings of such unions can only be animated by simple bigotry. I explained that I would not condemn anyone for marrying someone of another faith, but that it did not strike me as wise. We left it at that.

I do wonder what he was trying to do by calling me a bigot. Was he trying to get me to change my mind? I certainly don’t think it was an effective approach to accomplish that goal. That sort of shaming technique isn’t particularly useful, especially with complete strangers.

But for my own part, I needed to decide how I would respond. I confess that I was somewhat cheesed off with his comment. But I’ve learned that it’s important to listen to what the other says. If I’m too busy feeling offended, I’m not listening. If I’m too busy trying to defend myself, I’m not listening. Rather than focus on my own angry heart, I needed to focus on his words and what he was trying to communicate.

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