Friday, July 3, 2009

New Orleans

(SPOILER ALERT: This is the God Blog. Faith and God are among the most polarizing topics on the planet, and I count among my friends people who are on both ends of the spectrum. Some live very faith based lives, others, well, don't. But it is one of the very few things I take a moderate viewpoint on, so, in other words, I will likely offend just about everybody. So, why go there? Because I think people will be curious to know if my belief system changes in the face of great tragedy, and because I know there was a misconception about how I believe to begin with that I had wanted to dispel even before my daughter died. So, here goes - feel free to stop reading now.)

I think I could change my name to New Orleans. My levees are broken, and I am flooding. And, trust me, there is no FEMA for the wounded soul unless the person housing that soul goes out and looks for it. So, it might be natural to assume that I would turn my back on my Higher Power, but others may expect that I will instead turn toward it for comfort. Actually, it is probably too soon to say conclusively, but so far neither of those things have happened. My faith has not been shaken, but I have not changed how I follow my faith either. For one thing, I think if I were to ever doubt the existence of God (Higher Power, Allah, Yahweh, etc.) I would have chosen to do so in the face of the many horrific human events that have taken place through the centuries, many of them done in the name of God. The Inquisition, the Troubles in Ireland, racial cleansing in you name which third world country, the attempted eradication of the American Indian, and my particular hobby horse, the Holocaust. I could go on. Humans have a particular passion for being inhuman. One could legitimately ask why would a loving God allow such horrible things to happen? In the face of such widespread horror, my little corner of hurt is insignificant.

However, I haven't embraced formalized religion either, and that does stem from my reaction to all the many things I listed above. We have a magnet on our fridge that says, "It's not God, it's his fan club I have a problem with." That still holds true. Six million non-combatants went to their deaths in concentration camps during World War II, most of them simply because they were Jews. God did not do that, human beings did. Hitler didn't slam the oven doors all by himself. How did those soldiers go home at night and kiss their wives and children? By telling themselves that their faith was superior, that's how. And how is that different than the men who flew planes into buildings on 9/11 or set off bombs in crowded Israeli streets now? It's not. But, I see the same sort of prejudice seeping out of ordinary people who consider themselves to be God fearing every day, and that frightens me. Just yesterday, a friend told me the story of her wedding and how her husband's parents were opposed to the marriage. After telling how very ugly her in-laws acted initially, she commented that it was because of her religion. She said it casually with a little shrug. She's been married the better part of thirty years and everything is fine between them now, but the very fact that anyone could have doubted this wonderful, warm, caring woman because she practiced a different faith was a little shocking to me. But, I'm not sure why I'm surprised, I can tell dozens of tales like that. In my opinion, as long as we distrust one another because we follow a different faith, there will never be peace on earth. Now, having said all of that, do I think I can idly sit by while Muslim women are victimized by their male counterparts and say it's okay because they should be allowed to do it under their own brand of faith? No, I can't take a laissez-faire attitude on that one, but that's a whole other topic.

Bottom line for me is this, I believe in God, and in the general Christian view of God that I was brought up in. But, I don't believe that God resides only in the four walls of a church, and I certainly don't believe saying an action was taken in the name of God grants absolution for it. Or, at least I really, really hope it doesn't. I distrust organized religion for its tendency to discount other ways of believing as inferior to its own, and I sit on the sidelines thinking that maybe we should worry less about doctrine and more about just trying to do the right thing on a daily basis.

Shocking as some people who know me will find this, I pray. And I pray for stupid stuff, like, yes, the Steelers to win the Super Bowl. But, I kind of hope that God is more occupied with looking out after troops, the President, people like the girl Neda who was killed in Iran, than whether or not Big Ben takes the team down the field with 2:27 to go in the 4th quarter, so I tend to hope The Chief (Art Rooney, Sr. to those of you not living in Steeler Nation) is up there looking out for the team and for me in that regard, so I pray Ben will be successful and hope that's not too silly. But, I also pray for bigger goals, like trying to be a better person than I've been in the past, and, most certainly, I prayed the morning I found out I lost my oldest child. And, if you wonder how or why I believe in God at all, I will tell you I do because I think I got an answer that morning. Maybe it was just wishful thinking, but maybe wishful thinking is the foundation of anything good that arises of out sorrow. So, I will tell that tale tomorrow. Stay tuned.

1 comment: