Monday, August 2, 2010

Author Anne Rice has recently announced that she is abandoning Christianity. Her reasons for doing this, apparently, are that she’s fed up with the narrow-minded, highly judgmental focus that is typical of denominations calling themselves “Christianity”—for example, the anti-gay rhetoric that is so common among Christian denominations. However, she has announced that she is maintaining her faith in Jesus and that one can accept Christ without being a “Christian.” So, in effect, it’s something of a semantic differentiation. However, I understand her point of view in this regard and, reinforcing her observations on narrow-minded, judgmental focus of Christian denominations, it seems that on virtually the same day that she announced this, it was reported by CNN that there is a Christian denomination in Florida that is going to make 9/11/2010 a special day for Qur’ān burning. They are vehemently anti-Islamic and, in one-fell-swoop condemn as evil and violent the 1.5 billion people who follow the Islamic faith.

Now there is one thing that I take from this: that these very judgmental positions on Islam and on gay people and on any number of other issues, really arise among people who do not have exposure to the groups of people who are being judged and condemned. For example, I can pretty much guarantee—without much research—that the Christian denomination that wants to have a Koran-burning day is located in a city (Gainesville, actually) which simply does not have a very large Islamic population. That the people who are members of that congregation do not have the good fortune work with or live in the same neighbourhood as people who are Islamic, because if they did they would find that Islamic people, like any group of people, represent all types including predominantly the humblest, kindest, and most friendly people one would ever want to meet. The luckiest part of living in a city like Toronto as I do is that meeting and working with people from other cultures, religions, and lifestyles is a way of life.

Now one can find all types in a population, and among the people of the world who call themselves Islamic, there are indeed terrorists and murderers and very unkind and cruel people. But Muslims certainly do not have the market cornered on unkind and cruel. We could go through a litany of Christian groups, so-called Christian groups, who fit those same descriptions. We could point to the conflict in Northern Ireland, with terrorists and murderers of both protestant and catholic persuasions. We could count the innate cruelty of the Christian denominations that constantly protest at soldier’s funerals in the United States. We could discuss at length the legions of Catholic priests who have abused children. Our list could go on and on. If we were to go back in history, we could record numerous slaughters and genocides that were committed by groups who called themselves “Christian”—claiming to act in the name of Christianity.

People who are terrorists, people who are cruel, people who are unkind can come from any religious affiliation or from atheists who have no religious affiliation; people who are kind, helpful, and smart and productive, and major contributors to society can also come from any group. The message of Jesus was one of undertaking a personal journey—a journey within. He was not primarily about forming a group or a denomination or a religion, so in that sense Anne Rice is absolutely correct in that you can be a follower of Jesus without being a member of a Christian denomination. However, I think what being a Christian can mean is joining with others who are similarly undergoing a personal spiritual journey. A key aspect of this should be respect for one’s fellow travelers, regardless of their religious affiliation or creed.

Saint Paul spoke of "The Way" -- synonymous with following the teachings of Jesus. It also stands for the personal journey we must travel in order to do so. A follower of Jesus must be prepared to take a stance against hatred and hypocrisy, just as Jesus espoused views that were disruptive of the status quo. We can pray in a closet, but when faced with bigoted views, we must stand up and get in The Way.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Velocity: rapidity or speed of motion; swiftness.

Positive: Measured or moving forward or in a direction of increase or progress.

Positive Velocity: moving forward, sometimes faster, sometimes slower. Even retrograde motion, as in the planets, is positive when viewed from an enlightened perspective. Hopefully this blog helps keep both of us moving forward. What's the destination? I'll let you know when I get there.