The following post was written by Nathan Albert, Director of Pastoral Care at The Marin Foundation.
For one summer, I worked as a chaplain at Rush University Medical Center. Specifically, I was the chaplain for the Pediatrics and Pediatrics Intensive Care Unit, however I also covered the entire hospital on my 24-hour shifts. I was forced to deal with death, a lot of it actually. In the span of a matter of months, I witnessed more deaths than most people will in two or three lifetimes. I saw a lot of grief and pain. And so, in that time, the hospital became a place where people died. It was my experience.
Over the summer, I was in the hospital due to blood clots and a pulmonary embolism. It was a terrifying time for me and opened my eyes to my own mortality. My time in the hospital and the countless doctor visits after made me quite anxious. I realized that being in the hospital to get better was not a comfort to me because my experience was from my chaplaincy. My mom, in all her loving wisdom, told me that being in the hospital was the best place for me, it was a place of healing. But those words fell on deaf ears since my previous experience told me that the hospital was a place of death.
My perspective needed to change. My experiences influenced my decisions. Both my perspective and my experiences were true. Both enabled me to know certain truths. But relying on one more than the other made my perspective skewed. And yet, the hospital did not kill me, it made me better. My mom, as always, was right. It was a place of healing.
And so I think about the feud between the Christian community and the LGBT community. How skewed are our perspectives? I think we are both guilty of letting stereotypes, negative experiences, or uneducated assumptions skew our feelings. I am not, of course, negating people’s experiences, especially painful and hurtful ones. I am, however, asking how do our perspectives need to change? I recently saw a video of the Dalai Lama speaking to Stanford University on the need for constructive dialogue in resolving conflict. He argued that compassion and respect for the other needs to extend beyond creeds or beliefs. I think I agree.
I recently read a scholar’s book where he pointed out how often the disciples following Jesus had to change their minds. They were set on a particular doctrine, creed or aspect of the Law and then Jesus did or said something that forced them to change their perspective. They experienced numerous events that changed their perspective. Did they stop believing? No. But did their change in perspective cause them to live out those beliefs in incredibly different and healing ways? Absolutely.
So, how do our perspectives need to change? How does our perspective of the “other” need to change? Whom do we need to better understand?
Does our perspective on faith and sexuality need to change? Does our understanding of grace need to change?
Do we allow ourselves the option to change our perspective or does our fear or phobia of the other trump that?
I strongly believe some of our perspectives need to change, and quickly at that. Too often I see many of us, mostly myself, thinking a certain perspective is death rather than a chance for health.
If a difference in my perspective can bring health, then I’m willing to try and change it.
I’m all for health; my health and the health of others.