This post is based on John 4:8
Yesterday, my 16-year-old asked for a Biblical clarification. She struggles with the whole church/faith thing, but she respects it and believes that it is every person’s right to believe and practice what they believe. She has been raised to understand that our reality is not everyone’s reality and therefore each of us has a different but just as valuable path to God. Because of our baptism, hers and mine, ours is through the divinity of Jesus. But she knows that there is much more to God’s reality. Our faith is vital to us. My faith is everything to me. Because I am so bound and convicted in my own, I allow others the space to be bound and convicted in their own understanding that God is great, diverse and unlimited despite my desire to confine God.
But let me share the backdrop so that you can see the basis for her worldview.
She lives in an affluent, high achieving suburb that borders on a struggling, ethnically diverse city. Our parish has some of the wealthiest families in the area as well as some of the poorest and as a mission parish, we serve refugees, the homeless and indigent. Her first hand experience of seeing both sides of life enables an understanding that we don’t all have to be the same for us to be equal. She knows that no matter what your situation, we are all just people doing what we do and for the most part, the best we can do. So when she saw a post on Instagram that was spewing hate about Islam and accusing its holy book, the Quran, of only inciting violence she was a little taken aback because she is aware that the Bible (our Holy Book) is filled with violent scenes as well (she wanted to make sure she was remembering it right and thus the clarification).
I write this post on Good Friday, the day that a Jewish man is murdered because he is speaking God’s truth, in obedience to his Father, to all people.
Violence and a desire to follow our own agenda is part of the human condition. We are all guilty of it. Islamic terrorists are like Christian terrorists in that they are manipulating Scripture to their own twisted end. Today’s culture as well as history in general is rife with people twisting God’s sacred word for their own purposes. (Ex: A moment in the Iowa caucus comes to mind when Ted Cruz said that there are people all around the state on their knees to ensure that he would win followed by “you’re gonna get your guns back!” This, I happened to catch while watching him on Periscope. I am pretty sure that praying that Cruz will win and make us a more heavily armed nation is just wee bit counter to the teachings of Jesus. After all, he healed Malchus’s ear after Peter cut it off with his sword during his arrest. But I digress.)
I think we can all agree where Jesus stands on violence. It’s just not his schtick.
As Catholics, we do not subscribe to a fundamental interpretation of Scripture and we do not disrespect a faith that begins with Abraham, because he is our father as well. My daughter knows this. She knows, precisely because of her faith, that this is completely off base. We, as Catholic Christians, are called by Jesus Christ to love our neighbors, it doesn’t qualify…unless your neighbor is this or that.
But I think this is the very heart of the problem. Some people think it is okay to dismiss the beliefs of others because they are not the same as theirs, even though they may have never really taken the time to really examine what they profess to believe. Some people just assume that they are right and others are wrong. We are all guilty of this on some level, but the 1.6 billion peaceful Muslims in the world should not have to suffer because of our ignorance. Just as Christians shouldn’t have to suffer because of theirs. Imagine a world where we were interested in what others believed because we were able to see that God is in all of it in some way. If we believe that God created everything, it only stands to reason that God intends everything for his glory. I cannot claim to know more than what God has shown me through my faith and through his people.
So, on this Holy Friday…which has been so good for all of us, maybe we could ask ourselves, “Do I allow God to come to me in all forms? Are my own beliefs so stringent that I cannot imagine God in anything other than what I am comfortable with?” Whatever the answer, ask God for the grace to understand that which you struggle with. God is so generous and will give you anything you desire, but you have to ask, you have to want it and you have to engage.