Respect the Choices of Others
Bill Mefford

Bill Mefford

Executive Director

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This past week my family and I flew down to Texas to celebrate Thanksgiving with my whole extended family. It was really wonderful. One thing I noticed on both the flight to and from Texas was the announcement flight attendants gave before taking off that masks were optional and that passengers were asked to respect the decisions of others whether they wore them or not.

I fully understand the reason for making such an announcement since so much emotion – in fact, too much emotion – has been associated with whether someone wears a mask or not. In the past few years I have been wearing a mask in places surrounded by maskless people and have had glares and even passive comments made about choosing to wear a mask. Like too much in our society right now, masks have been politicized when they should have simply been a means of protection from disease.

But the announcement to respect the choices others make stuck with me and got me to thinking; what if this announcement was given for other issues/choices people make that also have become unnecessarily politicized?

What if everyone simply respected the choice people make to love whoever they want to love? This seems fairly easy to do as someone falling in love with someone seems to be none of my business nor anyone else’s. I remember in 2004 when gay marriage was used by President George W. Bush as a way to mobilize his base, evangelical Christians. As a student at a conservative seminary I was more than a little surprised at how angry other evangelical Christians were at people of the same sex marrying one another. It was kind of weird.

I kept hearing how gay marriage was destroying massage for everyone even though seeing two men marry did absolutely nothing to impact my relationship with my wife, Marti. Gay marriage finally became legalized in 2015 and in the last seven years I have yet to see the institution of marriage failing in any way. My oldest son recently became engaged and I doubt neither he nor his fiance gave the slightest thought about the impact gay marriage might have on their relationship!

What if everyone respected the choices families make in supporting their gender non-conforming children? Once again, Christians who proclaim to be so pro-family are supremely confident that they know what is best for children who feel trapped in the gender identity that does not reflect who they really are. Families of gender non-conforming children deserve the same respect that families with gender-conforming children do. I would be incredibly offended if an organization like the Family Research Council – supposedly focused on protecting families – decided they knew what was best for me or my two sons. What if we just supported all families who love their children and help them make the wisest decisions they can?

Lastly, what if everyone respected the choices on curriculum that trained and educated teachers make every day in public schools? I live in Virginia and in the 2021 gubernatorial race, Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin repeatedly hammered the Democratic candidate on parents getting to decide what was being taught in public schools. He constantly asked in commercials if parents wanted to decide what their children were to be taught. I heard the commercials so many times I was yelling at my TV, “NO!” Parents should not get to decide what children are taught in public schools unless those parents have been educated and trained and have the necessary licensing to teach! I am quite sure no one wants me as a parent deciding what their children are taught in science or math class especially. No one would learn anything! Parental involvement is a must when it comes to educating our children, but parents deciding what is being taught is utterly ridiculous, unless they have been trained. Let’s allow our teachers to teach and just be grateful for their amazing service!

There are so many more decisions – women having bodily autonomy stands out especially, but one thing we can see from the few I have listed is that there is one group that has decided that they know more than the rest of us and refuse to abide by basic civil respect for the choices we make every day. The opposite of mutual respect isn’t disinterest; the opposite is repressive control. As soon as fundamentalist Christians drop their need to control the lives of others and instead choose to love and support and respect the decisions that others make, the sooner we will have a civil and respectful society.

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