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On Faith: An inherent worth

At the beginning of the summer, I took a long road trip. As I was driving along, I tuned into a radio station that was airing an interview with a journalist who won the Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on the Vietnam War.

It was a fascinating broadcast, but during the interview, the journalist made a comment that caught me by surprise, and if I'm honest, also irritated me.

He was describing how he came back to the states to interview the parents of a soldier. He said he had to drive to the Midwest, to a town in the middle of "nowhere." After he had said this, he interjected (almost as an afterthought) that he thinks most places like this town are really "nowhere" places.

In making the statement, he was strongly inferring that this town, and others like it, are really of no importance. I was surprised when the interviewer let that comment pass.

It is certainly not the first time I have heard an opinion like this and yet it always frustrates me to hear such a judgment, that there are places within our country (or world) that simply do not matter. I first encountered this view when I left my home in Massachusetts to go to college in South Dakota. While my family was supportive, there were many who could not fathom what value there would be for me to leave the region where I grew up.

Over the years of living in different places I've often found this prejudice. We may tend to think that this is a snobbish view of folks who live on a coast, when, in actuality, many of us hold this type of view.

We find it whenever we look at another community or group of people and believe that because of their region, history, ethnicity, etc. they simply do not measure up. We might not call the place where they live a "nowhere" place, but all too often, we regard their place and thus, by extension, the folks who live there, as "nowhere" people. This leads to the terrible conclusion that there are people who are nobody of importance.

As people of faith, we are called to stand against this distorted and dangerous perspective. We are to regard to each person as a bearer of God's image (Genesis 1:27) and, more significantly, each person as loved by the God, who is love eternal (Isaiah 43:1-4; I John 4:8-10).

Our scriptures and our Lord calls us to be a people, regardless of differing denominational perspectives, who recognize the inherent dignity of each person regardless of where they come from, what they have or have not achieved or done.

This is not an easy calling and it can be challenging, especially when folks act in ways that are contrary to God's design and to the commonweal of our communities. Yet the difficulty does not negate the call for how we are to regard and treat our neighbor, whether they live next door or around the globe. We are called to love them (Matthew 22:39).

As we look to a world that is currently in the embrace of judging others and dismissing the worth of people with whom they disagree or simply do not understand, I pray that we, who call our ourselves Christian, may live out a different way of life — the way that Jesus modeled.

We are called to tell the truth that each person, as loved by God, possesses a unique value and worth.

"On Faith" is a weekly column in the News-Chronicle written by area religious leaders.