Would you believe it?

As the Presidential campaign continues this week with the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, it’s becoming clearer to me that neither the Republican Party or the Democrat Party have been all that good at inclusiveness.

Sure the Republicans brought out the Hispanic delegates last week in an attempt to seem more open in much the same way that this week the Democrats began their convention hailing the soldiers that have given up their lives to defend their country.

But in the end what does it mean to be inclusive?

There is a view, not entirely unfair, that Liberals are welcoming to everyone, except to Conservatives. There is a major problem here in that you cannot be inclusive if there are some groups of people that you are not willing to accept. Since many groups are based around a certain belief, you cannot be inclusive of certain groups if you are not ready to show respect to the right to hold those beliefs, however different or at odds they are with yours.

This can be seen in many debates, especially ones that dominate US Presidential elections such as abortion and gay rights.

Recently those who are pro choice and those who believe that the right to marriage should be open to everyone, regardless of their sexuality (and not that they are always the same person) have been seen as being inclusive. However much of their actions have pointed otherwise.

When someone rolls up in their car to a Chick-fil-A drive through, as happened recently and begins to berate the waitress at the window, over her company’s stance on same sex marriage, this is not being inclusive. Even if the right to marriage which they are upholding does seem inclusive, their actions certainly don’t demonstrate that. If a waitress then responds with kindness, patience and dignity, that is showing openness to someone. The waitress’s beliefs on same sex marriage may not be the same as her CEO’s, but she certainly showed inclusiveness to someone who assumed that they were.

Which begs the question. Which is more important to how welcoming we are? What we believe or how we behave?

We can say we are inclusive because we believe in same sex marriage but when we don’t accept that someone who disagrees is allowed to believe differently, we are actually not inclusive.

This has been our problem forever. Not just Christians but everyone. We say one thing while we act in complete opposition to what we say. We are more slap their cheek, than turn the other cheek.

People are affected by how we treat them, rather than what we believe about them. It’s when beliefs turn into actions that a problem may arise. But we’re often afraid of what we don’t know. That is perhaps why many are scared of gay people. Simply because they are foreign to them and they don’t know any. That is why there has been a war between Loyalists and Republicans in Northern Ireland.

If we put aside religion or sexuality and just hung out with someone different from us for a while we could very well be surprised at how similar we are. We might realize that we have the same daily struggles or dreams.

When a debate is focused on the beliefs we hold, and when we attribute those beliefs to a person, we lose out. We lose out because when there are beliefs that we disagree with, it is often because we are afraid of them. Then we see a person simply as the beliefs they hold rather than a person who likes to have a drink, has a family they would die protecting or loves to be creative, just like you.

If we’re afraid of those beliefs we ultimately become afraid of the person and begin to attack them.

And this true of everyone. From Conservative, Evangelical Christians to Liberals to emergents to atheists.

When two sides believe completely opposite things, but aren’t willing to listen to the other they are both equally ignorant. It’s just their stance that differs. We don’t all have to agree. That would be bad. But we do all have to accept that everyone has the right to believe what they choose.

How do we begin? There is one action that can allow us all to change, and it’s very simple.

We listen.

As a Christian I would love to see a time when we don’t judge someone just because of their beliefs. I am going to start with changing myself. If I can’t accept the different views that some Christians have to mine I can’t whine when they won’t listen to mine.

This morning the Royal Black Institution issued an apology to St. Patrick’s Church in Belfast after playing music during a parade which passed the Church. Two organizations with opposing views on faith and God.

It’s a start. An example we could all do with following.

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