Recently I have been thinking back to the late 1990’s when I was attending college at Marshall University, in Huntington, West Virginia. Clearly I remember my mom giving me an impromptu briefing on the bible belt in West Virginia; religious fundamentalists who believe in the literal accuracy of the bible. My mother told me to claim that I haven’t given it much thought if I was ever asked about my religious beliefs or affiliation. What I never could have anticipated was the extreme cultural differences I would soon face in college since I had never known anything other than the very open-minded, anything-goes attitude I came to know having lived my entire life in New York.
It soon became clear to me that using the excuse I haven’t given it much thought was the absolute wrong thing to say to anyone who asked about my religious affairs.
The 90’s were a time where homosexuality was still considered to be the ultimate sin among many of those I knew in college, and sadly, the closed-minded far outnumbered those of us who were perhaps more worldly, educated, and accepting of others. I may never forget the night my friend at the time had the door to his dormitory room broken down and his belongings ransacked and destroyed. The university police were called, and there were multiple witnesses. Everyone who was in the dormitory at that time knew who was responsible, yet because my friend was openly gay, the university police refused to file any report and my friend had to borrow money from his close circle of friends to pay for damages to the university building. He even lost his academic scholarship over the incident once the administration heard that he was rumored to have been gay.
It soon became clear to me that even in modern day society, religious obsession still exists and at times can turn into a dangerous situation if it gets out of control. After the university police refused to help my friend who was clearly a victim of a hate crime due to his rumored sexual orientation, I no longer felt safe simply because I was considered to be a damn Yankee since I was from New York.
Marvin J. Ashton once said, “charity is accepting someone’s differences, weaknesses, and shortcomings.” I learned many important lessons in college, but perhaps the most important lessons I learned were charity and acceptance, and to be both intrigued and amused by differences. I often hope that those who are seemingly over enthralled with their own religion find the strength needed to overcome the intolerant teachings that are sadly becoming all to common with modern religions.
This world would be a much happier and better place if we all practiced a little humility and treated one another with the respect and admiration that we all so dearly deserve.