One of the wall posters which first grabs attention in the AA meeting room is, “LIVE & LET LIVE”.
“Great sentiment, but so impractical.”
However, it was soon discovered that this simple thought was one of the keystones to a contented and successful sobriety. We, a roomful of recovering alcoholics, had one mission. It was our desire to stop drinking and to share our experience, strength, and hope with any who wanted to listen. We lived by the creed of “attraction rather than promotion”.
Years after my first AA meeting, I again fell into the chaos of fundamentalism believing I needed more spiritual growth and thinking the local independent church could encourage that growth. Again I swooned in the mindset of absolutes. This way is absolutely godly, that way is not. No need for me to think or discern because it’s all laid out in black or white and the inerrant, infallible book of scriptures is direct discourse from God himself. Just trust your preacher and elders to give the straight scoop on all things spiritual.
My day of reckoning within that fellowship came when I was asked to go door to door with a few of the “brothers” to distribute tracts and bring lost souls to Jesus Christ. What could be more commendable than saving the lost and dying?
“Live and let live. Attraction rather than promotion.” The words swirled through my head as I excused myself from this proselytizing endeavor and shortly thereafter from the brotherhood of self-righteousness.
In spite of what we would like to believe and what we profess in faith, we simply do not know. Nobody has returned from death to verify heaven or hell. God could be exactly what the fundamentalists proclaim or God could be an ancient space alien who populated the earth with creatures similar to himself. Or, God could be an eternal void following death. Kudos to those who can faithfully thump their theology with absolute certainty while remembering that theology is nothing more than religious philosophy frequently formulated for political power and financial gain.
Life was lived contentedly by the wisdom of “live and let live” for many years of blissful sobriety until the elections of 2016. Then that element of hypocrisy which had been encountered decades ago become painfully visible again when numerous fundamental evangelicals lined up behind a man who displayed none of their self-proclaimed ideology. That segment of evangelical Christianity appears to be dissatisfied with an equal slice of the American pie which celebrates the entirety of America’s diversity. It has become evident that they want the whole pie. Legislated morality has reappeared from the days of Jerry Falwell’s ‘moral majority’ with a vengeance.
America is often defined as an experiment most aptly described by Emma Lazarus:
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
These ‘tired, poor, homeless, and huddled masses’ whom she welcomes are not only those who yearn to be here, but also Americans who follow the beat of a different drummer in philosophy, lifestyle, and creed. We are here to stay and we shall breathe free in the face of a stifling, increasing, fundamentalist presence.