Saturday, July 30, 2005

Won’t You Be My Neighbor
Religious Diversity and Tolerance in America

We respectfully ask that you read the entire post before commenting the first time, but for your convenience we have put a jump to the comments section right here, so that you can easily find them.

I was raised Italian Roman Catholic. It was these values and beliefs that shaped the early portion of my life. It was what I knew and it was all I knew, as a long time ago I remember being taught by the nuns:

“Don’t ever date or get serious with anyone who is not a Catholic. It could never last.”
“Do not attend a church that is not Catholic because it is a sin.”

Yet, I remember well the Romany Gypsies that lived up the street from us in Southern California. Their ways, beliefs and very bohemian life style was something that I appreciated even as a small child.

I was about 11 when I first stepped foot into another church. The first was the Baptist church in our small town, where I had been invited to attend Vacation Bible School with a friend. I remember thinking, how wonderful it was to be able to play games and color and create things and not be doing what was “normal” to my religious way. The next one was a Pentecostal church called “The Lighthouse”. These too were very welcoming.. UNTIL they learned that I was Catholic, at which point I was pointed directly to the book of Revelations (Apocalypse to me, it was!) and was told that I belonged to a Church that was going to send me straight to hell. It scared me so bad I didn’t sleep that night wondering how, when or why I had warranted such a punishment. At that moment, the nun’s advice didn’t seem like such a bad thing anymore.

Later in life, I traveled throughout the country doing Youth Ministry for the Catholic Charismatic Renewal and then later took a job as the Office Manager and Youth Minister for the Renewal in New Mexico. It fit, like a comfy slipper UNTIL the day I divorced my first husband and for all practical purposes it appeared that the Church that I served no longer had much use for me unless I was willing to remain unmarried for the rest of my life. This began what I would consider my “spiritual education phase”, in which I came to study and get to know many spiritualities and belief systems.

It was in my spiritual walk as it is now, that I have found a great wisdom and solace and balance that my life needed, though it resembles not –anything that had ever been my path or teachings prior. In this spiritual walk, I have encountered many who have taunted, criticized, shunned and otherwise been hurtful in many ways. I have also met some of the most brilliant minded persons as well—persons that I would not have otherwise have had the good fortune to meet, had I not been willing to open my mind and heart to those that believed outside of the “Big Three”. Some of the most wonderful people that I have known are: Buddhists, Wiccans, Pagans, Atheists and even a few CoS members as well!

Thus the point of this topic for the Balance of Power: Can we not get along, though we believe differently in this Nation? Must we constantly banter, pick, squabble and condemn others to a hell (that many don’t believe in, anyways) and if so—what do we GAIN personally from such carryings-on?

Does the fact that Pagans do not believe in nor worship Jesus mean that they cannot freely wear their pentacles in full view in their workplace or school? In many cases…it is exactly what it means! They are accused of myriad things that are simply untruths and forced to remain in what is commonly called “The Broom closet”.

Must all followers of Islam now bear the stigma of a few bad eggs and now become open game to anyone who would ridicule, misjudge or look at them warily due to 9/11? Must their children be forced to file suit in court because they choose to wear the head covering that is traditional and part of their religion because the schools find it “distasteful or distracting”?

Must Jews be made to have their holy days of Channukah overshadowed by Nativity Scenes and Christmas Trees on public property and in public schools?

But it is not only the “other religions” but also Christianity is today, suffering staggering blows in the nations’ courts and taunts of those that are not Christian to remove all traces of the Lord’s Prayer or the Sermon on the Mount?

What do we really gain, by attacking one another’s Spirituality? I submit that we must begin to open our minds and become knowledgeable first in what others believe and why and second in how we might accommodate and be peaceful neighbors in the United States in the 21st Century. We must cease to point fingers and begin to close our mouths if we will remain closed minded.

While many of the Nation’s Forefathers were Christian not all were. They found a way to get along peaceably while not brow-beating others. Their way was Freedom of Religion for all. If we will allow the Ten Commandments in the classrooms, we must be also willing to give equal time to others belief systems. If we cannot find a compromise then we have no business establishing the preeminence of one while disallowing the others. What would be our issue with the sayings of Jesus on a wall, as well as the sayings of the Buddha, or Mohammed, or the Dalai Lama? Are we that easily threatened by the possibility that the Heaven’s might embrace us all and that there might actually be room in this Nation for all?

So let’s talk about being neighbors, about being open-minded and see if we can put our thoughts and hearts to work on a problem that needs solving in our Nation today.

Nariel - Ancient Eyes for Current Times


Growing up in a broken home I went to a Southern Baptist Church one weekend, and a pentacostal Church of God on the other. I hated going to Church. It was boring to me as a kid. But I didn't have a choice in the matter.

In my teen years I studied the Bible, especially the book of Revelations deeply and dilagently. I was probably more well versed and knowlegably as the average adult at 13.

It became a passion to study the deep questions of life. I found it fascinating to study all the religions I could get my hands on. I've studied mysticism, Buddism, Hinduism, Satanism, Wiccansim, etc. What I found most interesting was not what they differed on, but on the basic principles they all shared.

So, you don't have to worry about religious tolerance from me. I could be defined as agnostic, because while I believe in God, I don't label he/her. I believe there is a God, but I also know it is beyond human understanding. I know how I was forced to go to Church and how I'm sure some little Buddhist boy is being treated in a similar fashion. So, we grow up with our values instilled, and for many religions told if we believe any other way we will burn in hell. I can't imagine that personally. I can't imagine an all loving, all forgiving God to burn someone who lived a good life as a Buddhist, from day one having those morals instilled and told it is the ONLY way to the truth. Then again, I'm open to all kinds of possibilities, I'm even open to the idea of reincarnation, which doesn't contradict anything in the Bible.

I am a Christian, saved by the grace of God too. I believe that Jesus was a man that was one with God. I believe he sacrificed his human life and shed his blood to save the soul of mankind.

I also believe that our founding fathers intended for us to worship as we saw fit. And I also believe in evil. I see it every day. And one of the evil intolerances we face today are those far left groups and individuals that want to supress our freedom of religion, especially if it is Christian. I believe in tolerance, but only to a degree. I will not tolerate a religion that imposes on MY rights or the rights of others. If there is a religion that promotes killing, I will not tolerate those teachings. If there is a religion that tolerates rape, I will not tolerate it. And if there is a religion such as secular humanism, that wants to supress mine and your rights to worship where and when we feel like it, be it school, work, or whatever....I will not tolerate that evil either.

Jay - Stop the ACLU


If all those on the Left believed as Patricia does, there would be far less to blog about over at Liberty Just in Case. I firmly agree with much of her post.

Sadly, since 1947, when Hugo Black unearthed an obscure letter from Thomas Jefferson to a group of Baptists, the Supreme Court has not. As Justice Renquist said in his dissent to Sante Fe School District v Doe, the Court "bristles with hostility to all things religious in public life."

This hostility has flowed from the highest court in the land to all sections of our society. In fact, it appears the one group it is politically correct to attack and lampoon in this culture are Christians. But the hostility to religion affects all faiths, including, according to Patricia, Pagans.

This hostility must come to an end where it started, at the Supreme Court. The horrendous decisions made by this Court, with the aid of The American Civil Liberties Union, must be stopped. The only sure way to stop it is to encourage President Bush to nominate strict constructionists to the Court, and for Republicans, and the few remaining Conservative Democrats, to support these nominations.

I have great concerns on both counts. I worry that President Bush will follow in his Father's footsteps, nominating a supposed conservative who becomes one of the most liberal justices on the court. In effect, nominating another Souter. The reams of documents released on John Roberts have gone a long away toward relieving my fears, but the fears remain. And for a conservative, the concerns about liberal Republicans like Snow, Chaffee, and the rest is always there. Just because Republicans control Congress does not mean Conservatives do.

Ronald Reagan said it best:
The Constitution was never meant to prevent people from praying; its declared purpose was to protect their freedom to pray.
This freedom remains under attack, no matter who or what you pray to. And the attacks begin in the lofty halls of The Supreme Court.

Mark - Liberty Just In Case
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