Wednesday, May 25, 2005

And then people wonder why other religions hate ours. . .

Usually, religion would be a topic I would stay away from. It is one of those things I learned that one does not speak of in polite company. More importantly, I stay out of it because I really happen to believe in the Freedom of Religion part of the Constitution, that little detail of the First Amendment, you know, the one that says, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." I may not be a legal expert nor do I pretend to be, but part of that I am sure is the freedom not to worship at all or to worship something other than the Judeo-Christian tradition. And yes, I know this country was founded by those who believe in the Judeo-Christian tradition, but for the most part those people were Deists, and in a way, very far from the fundamentalists we see today trying to reshape the country into the a theocracy of their liking.

So, why am I getting into this? Well, it is the story of this pastor in North Carolina who has a sign in front of his church advocating that the Koran be flushed. You can find the story here. He is totally unapologetic about it, and he stands by his decision. According to the article, "' "My creed is the Bible, which tells me I am supposed to stand up and defend my faith," said the Rev. Creighton Lovelace, pastor of the 55-member Danieltown Baptist Church in Forest City. "I don't hate Muslims, I just hate their false doctrines.'" Now, I think it is a good thing if your faith moves you to stand up and defend it. I don't think however it means you get to disrespect someone else's beliefs and still call yourself an American. I am sure if the situation were reversed, and some mosque in the Middle East had a sign saying the Bible should be flushed, the outrage from Christians would be heard around the world. And before anyone sends me some negative comment, I am not advocating that anyone's sacred book be flushed (or burned or anything else for that matter). So, why the intolerance on the part of that Baptist pastor, a minister of Jesus?

When it comes to religion, and here I am going on a limb, I am far from perfect. I am not very religious for one. I was raised within one of the Christian traditions, but I have pretty much abandoned it. But what always remains with me is something I learned when I was a young boy. When I was a young boy, I was a Boy Scout. I made it all the way to be an Eagle Scout, and those out there who have made it, know that you take that with you the rest of your life. One of the things I learned as a Boy Scout was to respect the religious beliefs and traditions of other people. One of the rules in the Scout Law is that a Scout is Reverent. So, when we were called to prayer or silent reflection, it was always done with the note that "each could pray in the manner most convenient to them." This meant you could pray to God, Jesus, Allah, Buddha, Confucius, the elders, ancestors, nature or not at all. This also meant that we knew people had different religious and spiritual paths, so we had to respect them. After all, respect was something we believed in as well. Being reverent included respecting the beliefs of others. This is what I grew up on, and even though I may be a bit more sceptical as an adult, I still live by those ideals. So when I see someone so blatantly disrespect another tradition, and then justify it using his faith, it simply upsets me. But more than upset, it makes it clear to me why people in the Middle East and Muslims in general may have a bad or negative opinion of Christians. The good pastor is not exactly helping ecumenical relations.

At the end of the day, each person has their faith (or lack thereof). There are many different paths. Who is to say your path is better or more worthy than his or hers? Sure, you could say your good book tells you so, but his or her good book tells him or her so as well. One of the things that make this country great is that we all have the freedom to read and abide by whichever good book we chose, or none at all. When a minister decides his book is better and that someone else's needs to be flushed, not only is it disrespectful, it threatens that basic freedom people enjoy in this country; it threatens the ideals this country was founded on. Rather than get all rhetorical and political, I like to remember that little quote from the George Burns film Oh God!. It's the part where John Denver's character asks God, played by George Burns, if Jesus was his son. His answer I think is a classic. He told him that Jesus was his son, that Buddha was his son, that Moses was his son, that Mohammed was his son, that Krishna was his son, and so on. I think readers get the idea by now. Imagine then all the different paths that lead to truth or heaven, or whatever you wish to call it. I can't think of a better reason to have respect for other beliefs. At the end of the day, they are all the children of God, however He/She is named.

Then again, we may all be going to hell anyhow because every religion pretty much says that if you don't belong to their religion, you are going to hell. Since you can't belong to all religions, it means we are all going to hell. This is all explained in the answer to the question is hell exothermic or endothermic? At any rate, I just think that pastor is just giving a bad example.

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