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The Student News Site of Van Nuys High School

The Mirror

The Student News Site of Van Nuys High School

The Mirror

Rethinking Christian values

Joel Nam shares his understanding of Christianity and how its beliefs can benefit society by teaching us to exercise patience, compassion and empathy.
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Courtesy of SAVANNAH MENJIVAR
At its most fundamental level, religion is composed of beliefs that constitute values and standards necessary for the healthy functioning of society.

This article has not been written to convert anyone to Christianity. This is not an attempt to preach to readers from a higher moral ground. Everyone is entitled to having their own beliefs and opinions, and to choose to listen to or disregard others in a respectful manner. Now that it’s been established that I’m not a religious nut, cue the exposition.

Our context shall begin with some brief family history.

Going to church has always been a part of my life. My parents both come from Christian families, and my dad is a pastor. Due to various reasons, I resented religion intensely for most of my teenage years, only truly turning to Christianity in January 2024. 

It’s become evident that the teachings of Christianity hold incredible relevance to secular life. A great number of Christian values can and should be integrated into general society; I am confident that society will improve as a result.

On the surface, society encourages total inclusion and acceptance. Driven by this ideal, efforts have taken place to inspire positive change. Movements promoting disability awareness and inclusion, for example, are testament to this fact.

Yet, cancel culture, so unforgiving and deprived of understanding in nature, endures. Cancel culture opposes the call for compassion. The reality that a person’s entire life and career can crumble at the touch of controversy is tragic and has no place in the world I envision.

Unfortunately, cancel culture doesn’t only persist in the ranks of celebrities and politicians. Disguised as a normal concept, it’s infiltrated the lives of ordinary people, adults and children alike. It’s so integrated into our sense of ideals that it’s difficult for many to actively recognize it as harmful.

Consider the following scenario. Suppose a close friend of yours was suddenly exposed as a raging racist, or perhaps a misogynist. Maybe even both! Common sense tells us that the right thing to do is to react with disgust, to shame, scorn and cut off the former peer because they’re toxic and full of red flags you just couldn’t see before. Being a bad influence becomes their identity.

This entails denying them the empathy all people deserve. To promote understanding and inclusion under a set of conditions is contradictory. The moment someone falls short of the standard we hold as acceptable, we view them from a higher moral ground and react with indignation and outrage. We tragically succeed in turning a human being’s entire identity into something lesser in our eyes. 

Christianity is opposed to this toxic culture and calls for understanding and forgiveness with no strings attached. It goes against the modern notion of selective kindness, when common courtesy is only applicable to ideas or individuals who support your own beliefs or the public opinion.

Taking on a new perspective can be difficult. After all, we’ve grown to believe that forgiveness is second to justice. However, the Christian values of being patient and peaceable are applicable and appropriate in all interactions.

It’s easy to be hostile to opinions and ideas that contradict your own. Being argumentative is tempting, especially when we feel a belief we’re attached to is being threatened.

Online political debates are a breeding ground for interactions fueled by immediate judgment. Any post featuring either Joe Biden or Donald Trump in a positive or negative light is flooded with accusatory or dogmatic comments.

Reading through them is a surreal experience. MAGA fanatics question why the president is incapable of stringing coherent sentences together or appears to enjoy nibbling a child’s ear; Biden supporters retaliate with claims that Trump hates immigrants and clown on the sorry state of his hair. Of course, curses and foul language go hand in hand with these conflicts.

Even in regular conversations with friends and family, stubbornly arguing our side without consideration for the other is commonplace. Biases regularly fuel our thinking as conversations that started off tame go up in flames.

People especially enjoy scorning others behind their backs. It may not seem like a big deal, but constant repetition primes us to react without compassion when push comes to shove.

In any case, it’s clear that people today are quick to react without thinking. Patience disappears as fiery impulse takes the wheel. Too often, rational thought never even makes it into the car, left behind as the emotional vehicle speeds off to collide head on with another.

Patience and kindness make the road to mutual respect and understanding far less treacherous. Staying true to our own beliefs doesn’t necessitate beating others over the head with them, and certainly doesn’t exclude open-mindedness.

You don’t need to be a believer in Jesus Christ to be compassionate or forgiving. My inspiration to address these values and how society stands to benefit from them happens to be derived from my faith, but this is not a religious matter. Rather, it is a call for change and action so good can be spread in the world. 

I encourage you, dear reader, to practice mindfulness and unconditional empathy as you go about your days. Take time to reflect on past situations in which you wish you had reacted differently and look to apply a new approach. 

Remember that there is nothing to lose from trying. There is only something to be gained.

The abridged version of this article appeared in the Spring 2024 print edition. This is an uncut version.

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About the Contributor
Joel Nam
Joel Nam, Opinion Editor
From trekking through national parks in Washington to scouring pictures on the internet at home, pursuing all things aesthetic is my favorite way to realize my values and dreams. As a new voice at Van Nuys High School’s Journalism team, my aspiration is to appreciate the untold stories that surround us in our daily lives and share them with everyone else. In my spare time, I can be found searching for (through elaborate testing) the ideal sleeping position.
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