Better Together

I made a New Year’s blog back in January, and one of my resolutions were to go to more interfaith events.

And when I say “interfaith,” I do not mean “inner-faith.” I have had difficulty explaining this before, but a lovely Anthropology and Religious Studies major explained it perfectly.

“Inner-faith” is when one talks about their religion, or talk about why they have no religion, and compare and contrast it with other religions as a way to show why, in their reasoning, is better than all of the other religions and the non-religions.

However, “Interfaith” refers to people of religious and non-religious individuals coming together to find common ground, while still agreeing to disagree; legitimately respecting one another. Wanting to know more about one another’s backgrounds, and how it helps them interact with one another in a healthy community.

I actually attended the Interfaith Youth Core Conference in Atlanta, Georgia back in late January. It is a conference for college students trying to bring interfaith community on their campuses. Therefore, this conference helped us learn how to be a part of the Better Together Campaign, an international interfaith movement all across universities.

It has made me understand so much more in terms of why religious and non-religious identity matters, especially in terms of social justice. Religion is a platform that leads us to talking about how the relates to race, sexuality, mental illness, disability, socioeconomic status, gender, and so, so much more.

I had the opportunity to learn more about why I, as a Christian, should be pursuing interfaith work. Especially with the amount of Christian privilege in this country and how Christianity has been used as a tool to harm others, when it shouldn’t. There are other examples with other faiths as well, but in America, specifically, Christianity has been, and still is, a big one.

Since then, my fellow peers, advisor, and I began the process of forming a Better Together organization at East Carolina University. And I am so excited and honored to being more involved in this movement.

A lot of my posts have been about my Christian faith, and very little have I mentioned other faiths.

“Write what you know” is the best and worst advice a writer can receive. What I said prior is an example of why.

Not that I will stop talking about my Christian faith, because how can I encourage others to talk about their own faith or non-faith if I can’t? Moreover, there are passages in Scripture for why this is another important facet of social justice and the pursuit of equality.

I honestly did not think that a New Year’s resolution would grow to have this much of an impact on me.

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“Just Smile”

More people should understand this: no one is required to smile. Just because you tell someone to smile, it doesn’t mean that they’ll want to or that they ought to.

Most of the time, when people are focused on something else, or feel down, that is the last thing they want to hear.

It’s true.

And it is especially true for women.

A woman isn’t feminine enough until she smiles in public, smiles on demand for how grateful she should be, and how optimistic she should be. Because we live in a patriarchal society, men are encouraged to be angry, not to express substantial emotion, and not to smile. Women must present rainbows and butterflies unless she isn’t strong or she isn’t respected for being honest with the world by not smiling.

Moreover, smiling tends to equate attractiveness. If women or men do not smile when told to, they are stuck up, or mean, or ugly.

It’s quite strange.

Western society praises individuality, yet it sets these high expectations that aren’t always possible to reach in human emotion. Telling someone to “just smile,” because of the mold you want them to be in, makes them feel guilty and even more alone.

Did you know that developed countries have higher rates of suicide because of the expectations that are too high for the culture? How can Americans reduce the stigma of mental health if we’re still perpetuating the need for a happy standard that can’t exist permanently?

Besides, if we are just happy all the time, we wouldn’t know what happiness is anymore.

There are good intentions behind it, but it isn’t as helpful as some think it is.