Although I sometimes mention something about my personal religious beliefs and I often get “preachy” about civic responsibilities, this may be my first attempt to use my column to deliver a sermon.
There has been so much anti-Muslim venom spewed in the media and particularly through electronic communications, that I am tempted to ask: “If you know so well what Muslims think and hope to do, can you articulate that clearly about your own Christian beliefs, desires, hopes?”
During recent days, in the midst of some rather frightening e-mails and television comments, I have, thankfully, read several articles and columns that reaffirm some of my own understandings.
There was, for example, a columnist who reminded us to “beware the individual who is sure he knows the truth,” especially about things that are vast and complicated; perhaps we are actually “passing off our own convictions as God’s will.”
In fact, many feel that we are commanded to do so.
Another article, this one in a denominational publication, lamented the fact that so many avowed Christians rant and rave against various forces, including Muslims and homosexuals and abortionists, who they say are conspiring to destroy our faith.
“Why is it,” this writer asks, “that a faith defined by mercy, grace, love, and justice leads to such hurtful, hateful, unkind, and unjust behavior?”
We are, one may argue, entitled to some righteous indignation. But if we read our New Testaments, we are forced to admit that we are admonished to love the unlovable and to do such outlandish things as love your enemies, sell all you have and give to the poor, forgive as you wish to be forgiven.
There are many religions in this world; I believe that most of them stem from a longing of humans to be in relationship with ultimate truth and goodness, with eternity and omnipotence. Because I was born, reared, and continue to live in a Protestant Christian culture, that is where my beliefs are grounded.
Do I understand the basic creeds of all (or any) of the dozens of other religions of the world? Indeed not. I do, however, think that it is important for me to understand and uphold my own beliefs, but that does not require me to deny completely the validity of all the others.
God, by whatever name the Ultimate/Almighty may be called, is much larger that my finite mind can comprehend, much less define.
I began this column with a challenge about articulating one’s own beliefs, and now I flounder in an attempt to do exactly that. This much I do know: I cringe at the hate, criticism, denouncing, blaming, name-calling, and generally negative atmosphere that seems to prevail in today’s society. Where are the cooler heads and warmer hearts?
Perhaps those of us who proclaim to be Christian can more openly exhibit those “fruits of the Spirit” outlined in Galatians 5: Peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility and self-control.
Will anybody say “Amen?”
Helen Taylor's column appears periodically in the Dawson Community News.