I must start this post with a fair warning – writing from a prompt can definitely take on a life of its own when you set hands to keyboard. My first thought today was I was going to write a shorter post than last Tuesday. It’s about the same. Also, I don’t often write about my religious views, although I’d imagine you can probably figure them out from my writing. I think religion is personal and everyone should practice their beliefs in the way that satisfies their own spiritual needs.
I don’t mean to offend, but if you are easily offended in discussions about religion, I won’t be offended if you don’t read my post.
What is there too much of in the world???
There is too much hate disguised as holy.
Let me tell a story from school. I went to Catholic school for the first 4 years of grade school. I had a lovely woman who I adored for my first grade teacher and I’d decided that I wanted to be a nun when I grew up because I wanted to be as wonderful a person as Sister Ann. After making that decision before first grade was over, I decided at only 6 years old that there was no better time than the present to start studying what I needed to know to be a good nun.
That summer is where I took off the blindfold that I really needed to keep on for my chosen vocation. But I was almost seven. What did I know about career planning?
Since I was learning all about the way Catholics worship in school, I wanted to know more about other religions. If I was going to be a kind and gentle nun, I had to understand and respect everyone’s religion. I went to Summer Bible School at the Baptist church around the corner from home and at the Lutheran church with my Aunt Judy, where she taught my age group. I found out that the lessons about Jesus and loving people were pretty much the same as I learned in school. They sang more at the Baptist church and they did more crafts at the Lutheran church. Maybe that was because my Aunt is a crafter and she was teaching my class, but I remembered that I did more crafts at Bible School at the Lutheran church. Still the messages were the same and the Bible the same and the love shared was the same. In fact, the only thing I really knew as different in other religions is that they said the prayer we said a little later as the last line of “Our Father.”
And so, I went to Summer Bible school every summer in between school years at Catholic School. I was still planning to be a nun and was enjoying the friends I’d made at Bible School, getting more involved with the youth group’s “Terrific Tuesdays” field trips with the Baptist Church. I still remember the hymns and songs we sang on the bus and hayrides. I was having fun, but I knew I was also learning important things to make me a good nun.
Well, my awakening was in fourth grade religion class. I was 9 years old now and planning more than ever to answer God’s calling for me. One day, in about the middle of the school year, we were discussing line by line what one of the prayers we say in church means. We got to a line that Sister Mary Ann told us meant that ”there is only one church, the Catholic church.” I remember, so clear in my mind what I said, what she answered and my reply. I remember being mad.
I raised my hand and asked, “What about the people at other churches, like Baptist?”
“God will forgive them.”
I kinda realized that day that I had a better chance of hoisting the Stanley Cup as the first woman in the NHL, my backup plan if the nun thing didn’t work out, than I did of being a good Catholic nun. My Mom tried to explain that Sister was mistaken, that catholic with a small c, like it is in the prayer, mean all Christians, not just Catholic Christians. Well, then I asked about the friend on my bowling team who was Jewish. She did her best to try to answer my questions in a way that wouldn’t lead to more questions and an angrier child.
As an adult, I consider myself a Unitarian Universalist with a Christian belief foundation. I’ve studied many religions and have a reference selection of many holy books, although the white padded-cover book with the gold lined pages that I keep in the bedroom is a Bible.
I believe in tolerance as my first religious conviction because I refuse to believe, even for a moment, that God is so limited that he only shares himself with any particular one group of people and everyone else is wrong. It’s that Bible that says with God all things are possible, He is all things to all people. Am I really qualified to add “except” to the text?
But a lot of “leaders” do just that. I’m not talking about extremists who use religion when they apparently don’t believe it to get people to bomb buildings with the promise of “virgins in the afterlife” for killing Americans or “a place in Heaven” for killing doctors at a clinic that does abortions, although that’s extreme hate thinly disguised as holy. I’m talking about religious prejudice. The belief that one religion is more right than another to the point of considering the other religions wrong. Whether you believe that you need to “stay away” from someone because they believe differently or just that they’ll “be forgiven” for not being you, isn’t that prejudice? Just like we hear about “gateway drugs,” prejudice a gateway belief for hate and too many times that prejudice starts in a church.