“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
I recently heard this Mark Twain quote and was struck by the truth and timeliness of it. It is not lost on me that I have had the privilege of traveling to a number of countries and that many people would love to travel; however, many do not have the means or time. I think the sentiment of Twain’s quote is that when we experience different places and cultures, our perspectives change and our worldview broadens. I distinctively remember the first time I saw abject poverty — it changed my life forever. I remember the time I slept outside in a cardboard box with my youth group in order to gain a better understanding of homelessness. Not that I could possibly have complete understanding, but it created more empathy and compassion within me.
As I look at our current political climate (or cultural climate for that matter), I see a severe lack of empathy and understanding. By now, we are all aware of the divisive nature of social media and how quick we are to vilify other people without any understanding of who they are or what their story may be. As a Christian, I have been appalled and disheartened by the lack of grace and love for those who may not ascribe to one’s own religious beliefs, political ideology, gender identity, sexual orientation, etc. How can we be so arrogant to think our Western theology is the be all end all? That somehow we have the corner market on Truth? These are just a few of the questions I’ve asked myself when I’ve traveled. As a girl who was raised in the deep South with very conservative views about my role as a “Christian woman,” I have had to wrestle with my own core beliefs about God and religion. I don’t pretend to have it figured out, nor should I. The complexity of faith isn’t something to be mastered, but rather a continual searching for something deeper. Something that challenges us to our core.
So what’s the point of this rant? Travel. Travel outside your fixed mindset — your own personal belief system. To my fellow Christians, your faith will not unravel if you ask the hard questions. If anything, my questioning has only made it stronger.
Travel to the place in your city or town where people do not look like you. Travel outside your city or state. And if possible, travel outside your country. Travel until your worldview is broadened and your heart is softened. And when you think you’ve got it figured out, travel again.