As a young conservative, you get warned about a lot. They warn you to guard your mind because all those people “out there” are committed to getting you to believe in false gods and idols. They warn you about the evils and injustices committed by those “out there.” Guard yourself. Be strong. Stay committed to the faith. They say all this. Yet there is a harder challenge about which they never tell you.
They never tell you about this more insidious challenge. They never tell you about the interpersonal challenges. They tell you homosexuals are evil sinners. They never tell you that you will one day have a LGBT roommate that is a “better” person to be around than many of the people with whom you attend church. They tell you that Muslims are evil people bent on world domination. They never tell you that one day you will be in the hospital and none of your Christian friends, much less your pastor, will come; but that the Muslim family in the next room will become your lifeline to sanity. They tell you liberals are wishy-washy smucks who are lazy and entitled poor folks who want nothing but to pad their cushy government subsidized rooms with big screens. They don’t tell you that when your car breaks down in the “wrong” side of town, that poor family will show you the kind of hospitality that the rich, good folks who speed by didn’t.
They never tell you that you will fall in love with your liberal friends. That they will occupy a prominent place in your heart. That you will love the freedom of sharing dinner with someone will doesn’t judge you for drink choices. That you will love the freedom of being around people who allow you to be you, no judgments. They don’t prepare you for the joy of staying up into the late hours smoking cigars and talking about R-rated movies and punk bands.
Sure you might get the obligatory sermon about sin being enjoyable for a season. You get a lot of sermons. What you need are friends. What you need is room to explore. to grow. to change. to blossom. to make mistakes. to say the wrong thing. to do the wrong thing. to learn. to mature.
In the end you realize that life is not so much about either / or; it’s often about both / and. You can be a Muslim and a “good person.” You can love your LGBT roommate. But you never have to stop loving Jesus. In fact perhaps Jesus is there. Right there. Standing with you as the Muslim family keeps you sane. Standing with you in the pouring rain as a poor family gives you their only money to get enough gas to get home. Sitting with you when you hit the bar after work and laugh deep into the night. Perhaps Jesus gives us the freedom that we often don’t give ourselves or our peers.
You die a little the day you learn this. But perhaps this is a good death. You stop referring to yourself as a conservative. You don’t stop referring to yourself as God’s beloved child. And life goes on. No one dies. The world continues on its axis.