It's the People, Not the Labels That Really Matter

Reflections on a relationship that just shouldn't be (according to our culture).

This past Sunday I had a new and different experience. I went to a funeral, but that was not the part that was new and different.

Unfortunately, like many of you, I have been to numerous funerals in my life. However this one was different. Not because of my relationship with the deceased, because you see I had never had the honor of meeting this gentleman before his death from cancer.

No, it wasn't going to the funeral, or my connection to the deceased that was different. What was different was that when the funeral started I was the person standing behind the podium. This was the first time I had ever had the opportunity to have any role in a funeral, much less lead one. I thought it was a beautiful service, which I can say because it wasn't anything that I did to make it so. This man, Loyd Wood, had written everything he had wanted to be said at his funeral. My role was to read his words to his friends and family (which by the way was harder than you might think- it's not easy reading the personal words of a deceased man to his widow sitting in front of you).

What made it so special for me is because the family didn't just draw my name out of a hat, or pick me from a list. They called me and asked me to have a part in saying Goodbye to their loved one. I was shocked when I got the call. But more than that, I was honored. I used to work with Mr. Wood's daughter before she took another job and we had become pretty good friends. I would say that it's not terribly unusual, to be friends with someone you work with. What makes it unusual are the differences that separate us.

If you recall, I'm fairly conservative. In fact, I was introduced as an "ultra-Conservative, Bible-thumping, Baptist that makes a typical conservative look liberal" on Sunday after the service. And that's pretty spot on. I make no apologies for that, and I have no intentions on changing that anytime soon. So what provides the twist to this story is that my friend, who asked me to speak at her Daddy's funeral, is a homosexual.

Now that makes things significantly more interesting doesn't it?

To say that we have different views on things would be an understatement. After all, remember my reputation as an ultra-Conservative...

But we're friends.

It's a sort of odd relationship that we have. It's one that confounds some (many) of my friends (and probably hers too). It's confounding, puzzling, and even comical, but it works. You see, we are able to value each other without degrading each other. We both have strong views that won't be changing, but we can also see past that. No one has compromised any of their core beliefs to befriend the other. The only thing that has been comprised has been stereotypes.

The concept is possibly mind-boggling to you, even many of you, but I would say it is a clear Biblical concept. After all, look at Jesus. He hung out with all types of folks, including the "down and outs" of society. He even took quite a bit of heat from the religious elite for his relationships with others. But that didn't stop Him, it won't stop me, and it shouldn't stop you.

What if each one of us moved past the "label" that society has given us (or that we've taken upon ourselves), to befriend someone. Whether I (or you) are liberal, conservative, atheist, moderate, homosexual, Bible-thumper, Mormon, Gun-toter, pro-choice, pro-life, cat lover, vegan, Democrat, Republican, Flying Spaghetti Monster followers, we're all people.

Because we're all people, we're all valuable.

(Remember that word? It'll be a recurring theme in posts to come).

Sometimes we get all hung up on the label of a person, and forget that they're people. People that we should be loving, not shunning. No matter which side of an issue you are on we should be able to move past the labels at some point to befriend each other.

Because it's the people, not the labels, that really matter.

And people are valuable.

All of them.

Even when they are "different" than you.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Jason Brooks April 25, 2012 at 01:26 PM
Great post, Kris.
Grant April 25, 2012 at 01:44 PM
Welcome to Earth! Where we dont care about what other people might do in their bedrooms. Enjoy your stay :)
Kris Parker April 25, 2012 at 02:00 PM
Jason- Thank You! Grant- You frustrate me...
Grant April 25, 2012 at 02:37 PM
Yeah ...sorry about that Kris It's just that "the rest of us" have been accepting people as they are for a long time . It's not "mind boggling" at all to most of us , but we're glad to have you join the party
Ryan Smith (Editor) April 25, 2012 at 03:03 PM
Grant: I'm not so sure. I've known many social conservatives who would consider it "mind-boggling" to be close friends with a gay person. Conversely, I've had gay friends who would consider it "mind-boggling" to have a close friendship with a social conservative. I think Kris's message is one that is sadly lacking in too many Christian circles today, so I applaud him for reminding everyone that "love thy neighbor" wasn't a suggestion.
Kris Parker April 25, 2012 at 03:10 PM
Thanks Ryan. I think you're right that it is sadly lacking in many church circles. Grant- I'd have to disagree with you though, and argue its actually the opposite. In fact, you yourself certaibly don't have the reputation of one who is very accepting towards those who share my worldview. I'd say that those who have a Gospel centered worldview are much more loving towards everyone, even those who are significantly "different" than they are.
Grant April 25, 2012 at 03:51 PM
Kris , Many of my very best friends have a Christian "Gospel centered worldview" , I dont hold that against them . While I may disagree with their opinions and /or beliefs it doesnt preclude us from being friends . Unlike some of those friends I've never made it my concern what other people might do in their bedrooms because a) I dont care and B) it's none of my business . I just dont see it as "mind boggling" at all that you made friends with a co worker .. .
Jeffrey Allen April 25, 2012 at 11:39 PM
You just don't have anything to learn from anyone, do you? Amazing... Actually, If you'd open your mind a half a crack, at least long enough to read that article less flippantly, you might see it differently. I think the story is a good one, one that needs to be told. It's a story of true acceptance of the person amid the disagreement of the ideals. You really think you've got the market corned on that one? Really? With the things you say? Your take: "meh...I don't need to read that...I know everything there is to know about acceptance and tolerance. My bestest buddies are members of your stupid cult. Even though I consider them diseased and find their belief in made up campfire crap about invisible sky wizards, I'm so tolerant that I put up with them. It's OK for me to say hateful things, I get a special pass because I sleep in every Sunday. You have a lot to learn from me" Open your mind, man. A bigot who thinks he's not a bigot is still a bigot. A bigot who thinks his brand of bigotry is Okay? That's even worse.
Grant April 26, 2012 at 12:50 PM
Jeff, Thank you so much once again for your halfwitted and boring analysis of me .. again.. That was so special, really ... Havent you got disciples to make or something more important that following me around the internet taking shots at me ? Seriously dude...I appreciate the attention but I fear it's become an obsession with you . I read the article . I just dont find it "mind boggling" that Kris and Lori are friends. I'd find it mind boggling if one's superstitions prevented them from making friends with other people
Robert J. Nebel April 26, 2012 at 01:49 PM
Very nice blog post, Kris. Agreeing to disagree in a civil manner is a basic principle that society ought to embrace.
Ryan Smith (Editor) April 26, 2012 at 01:50 PM
Grant, you really aren't doing yourself any favors. Kris was explaining an experience that was important to him, and more importantly, calling attention to the fact that we tend to label those with whom we disagree in order to more easily dismiss them. Now, I disagree with some of Kris's positions. For instance, in my experience from attending various churches, those with a "Gospel worldview" are more likely to be insular and less likely to be accepting of differences. But that's only my experience, and I try to recognize that my own biases flavor my worldview and reserve final judgment until the evidence is in. You're dismissing Kris's experience out of hand, and whether you mean to or not, it's making you come across as smugly self-satisfied. Personally, I quickly dismiss the arguments of smugly self-satisfied religious folks. That may be a failing, but most people don't want to deal with smugness, regardless of the worth of the argument being made. So I imagine humble religious folks -- who are trying, like Kris, to say something important about how religion relates to the world outside the church -- have the right to dismiss the arguments of smugly self-satisfied secularists.
Ryan Smith (Editor) April 26, 2012 at 01:55 PM
But where would our society be if we didn't reduce other people to cartoons and take shots at them? ...Actually, we could probably spend all the extra free time on important things like science, aid to the disenfranchised and political cooperation.
Grant April 26, 2012 at 02:21 PM
Et tu Ryan? More analysis of me ? Really? I just dont think that Kris having a gay friend is any sort of a "big deal" or "mind boggling" or a " relationship that just shouldn't be (according to our culture)." Color me "smugly self satisfied" if you like . I have always made my friendships based solely on "the person" . I find it "mind boggling" that this comes as some sort of epiphany to anyone . I dont qualify my friendships based on what church people go to or what they do in their bedrooms and I remain smugly self satisfied that is the way it should be and it's good to see Kris in agreement , even if he finds it "mind boggling" to simply accept people for who they are .
Ryan Smith (Editor) April 26, 2012 at 02:34 PM
Grant, I meant you were coming across as smug and self-satisfied, rather than that you WERE smug and self-satisfied. However, upon further reflection, it's six of one, half a dozen of the other, and I shouldn't have used the phrase. I apologize.
Ryan Smith (Editor) April 26, 2012 at 02:37 PM
I can only plead, as I stated above, that one's own biases tend to cloud one's worldview. Since I don't know you and have only a couple of comments to go on, there is insufficient evidence for me to go rendering judgments on your personality. And I try my best to be part of the evidence-based community. Don't always succeed, but I'm a big fan of objective reality, so I keep on plugging away at it.
Jeffrey Allen April 26, 2012 at 06:45 PM
Those who lack objectivity aren't going to embrace it. I try to be objective as well, sometimes I fail at it like every one else but I suppose I'm one of those that dosen't cotton well to the smugness you speak of. Grant and I go back a ways, he's not really not a bad dude but I really can't stand the way he talks down to people. I make no apologies for standing firm when folks can't play nice with others. You don't have anything to apologize for, Ryan. That was well said and spot on. Gold star.
Grant April 26, 2012 at 08:40 PM
Jeff , Please point out my offense in this discussion that caused you to go off on yet another round of personal attacks against me ? Maybe you should try church or something to improve your attitude towards others?
Jeffrey Allen April 27, 2012 at 02:54 PM
A personal attack? Like where I called you half-witted? Oh, wait...
Grant April 27, 2012 at 04:43 PM
That was a compliment!
Grant April 27, 2012 at 04:44 PM
FWIW If you actually READ what I wrote "halfwitted" was applied to your analysis of me as opposed to you personally..But by all means take it as a compliment as you prefer.
Jeffrey Allen April 27, 2012 at 05:02 PM
That's not a compliment..."He's actually not a bad dude"....THAT's a compliment. Or was that the personal attack? Maybe it's opposite day in Grant/Bizzaro World? At a minimum, calling someone a half-wit is assigning a label no matter how you slice it. Maybe you should read this article again as it seems you might've missed that point.
L Wood April 27, 2012 at 05:13 PM
Being that my name is mentioned a few times in this, as well as my father's, I think I can jump into this conversation. Here's what I see (or read)...when you do not know a person who is ___________, then what you have to go on is what other people tell you or how __________ is portrayed by the media, television, religious leaders, teachers, etc. If, from your childhood, you are told that goldfish are poisonous, then you will probably believe that goldfish are poisonous until you learn for yourself that they are not. Those people who have not learned that goldfish are ok because they don't know any may find it completely crazy that you have a goldfish. And in this particular case, either Kris or myself could be the goldfish.
Kris Parker April 27, 2012 at 05:25 PM
I never thought of myself as a goldfish...I never could keep those things alive and well. Good point though, exactly on the lines I was going after.
Grant April 27, 2012 at 05:46 PM
So is calling someone a bigot... And again I didnt call YOU a halfwit chum, I commented on your unprovoked analysis of me .. To those with no wit at all half witted IS indeed a compliment , it's all a matter of perspective now isnt it?
Jeffrey Allen April 27, 2012 at 07:57 PM
I never called you a bigot. I made a general statement about bigotry in the same paragraph where I asked you to open you mind. It's a general statement that I stand behind but I'm not sure why you tried that shoe on...But hey, if it fits... I can play off technicalities and the stupid literalism game too, chum...
Jeffrey Allen April 27, 2012 at 08:07 PM
Well said! A story well worth reading, from both sides of the fishbowl. Or maybe it's that fishbowls don't even really have sides? Maybe it's that some fish just hang back...either out of fear, misunderstanding, or self-satisfied smugness. Probably a combination of all in most cases.
Mike Hipp April 28, 2012 at 12:24 AM
As a gay, vegan, progressively liberal atheist; some of my best friends have been and are people who have religiously centered world views. Also, some of the people who have been most toxic in my life have been people who have religiously centered world views. I find that I can get along with anybody that is not a strict fundamentalist. It's a general fact that most people, in a one on one situation, strive to be amenable.
Ryan Smith (Editor) April 28, 2012 at 04:24 AM
Mike, Good point. One of the best friends I've ever had, an old Army buddy, couldn't be further away from me on the political and social spectrum (although he occasionally surprises me on a case-by-case basis). When we get together, we get into huge political arguments, but they're arguments over a beer, with a lot of laughing and general good nature. You're right -- most people aren't insufferable jerks one-on-one. The Internet can make you forget that!
Grant April 28, 2012 at 01:26 PM
Vegan? Well that cuts it. No way I could even be remotely civil to a vegan ( because what YOU eat is somehow MY business ) Of course I'm joking. Someone's eating habits/lifestyle is no more a barrier to friendship to me than their sexual orientation or religious beliefs. Boggles the mind...
Grant April 28, 2012 at 01:28 PM
and yes Jeff....it seems you have "stupid" down pat...Well done Next time maybe you could read my posts before you get all personal


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