Sunday, September 12, 2010

Being a person of faith in a Christian nation


Why does my faith challenge me so much?

Is it because crazy people like Terry Jones use Christianity as a shield to schedule things like a Quran burning? Is it because Christians feel it is their obligatory duty to evangelize people and often make assumptions about what people do and don’t believe and how they should and shouldn’t profess and demonstrate that belief? Is it because the financially better off Christians often seem to want to help the poor, but don’t want to live next to them or be a part of their every day lives? Is it because people who claim Christianity feel it is ok to make disparaging comments about people?

I guess if I were Muslim my faith might be challenged in the same way. I would wonder why the extremists have to kill and I would be angry at the ones who take the Quran and use it to abuse women. I suppose that every religious sect has sections of people who seem to distort and then justify their message.  I also guess I have to realize that we are all flawed.

Some recent events have caused me to think about what and how I believe.

Eat Pray Love (the book...not the movie) caused me to reflect on my own internal faith--what I believe when no one else is watching. Realizations: Faith is my own spiritual journey. When I focus on myself, it radiates out. Not through evangelism or piety, but in how I interact with others. Faith is internal that results in horizontal relationships with people and a vertical relationship with my God. My hope would be that my horizontal relationships and interactions with people would cause others to seek to create these as well…which would cause them to begin to find their own vertical relationship with God or, if they already have a relationship, they would reflect and continue to seek to improve. Eat Pray Love helped reinforce the conclusion I was already moving toward. It’s not about my evangelism. It’s about changing myself from the inside out.

This morning, I finished A Lesson Before Dying (by Ernest Gaines). Toward the end of the book, I found myself reading quicker, wanting to figure out what the “lesson” was going to be. Mr. Grant Wiggins seemed to have faith struggles much like my own. He had stopped going to church. The preacher, his aunt, and the other ladies in the community constantly raised their eyebrows and shook their head, yet never thought to seek an understanding of what he did believe. Their judgment didn’t make him desire to go to church, but reinforced his decision not to. The irony of this was that Mr. Wiggins had a better ability to create a horizontal relationship with other "unbelievers"...the ones the preacher and the church-goers desperately wanted to "save." 

Alternately, though the book reinforced my belief that “church people” can often be over-bearing to the point of turning people away from Christianity, it also challenged my thoughts of why we all need to be grounded in faith. Our faith is often not about us. Our faith is often conciliation. Sometimes we demonstrate our faith by doing conciliatory things for others...and sometimes that means portraying faith in a way that helps them feel comfortable.

In our world today, it also has other implications. Our conciliatory nature can be to accept and allow Muslims to build a mosque at ground zero...because conciliation doesn’t mean expecting others to make the compromise. It means that we (because of our faith) make the effort. It doesn't matter how others respond and whether they do something for us in return. Christianity...and many other faith about what we we respond to situations more so than church attendance. Church and prayer is what keeps us focused on how we're doing and what we still need to work on.

Faith reminds me of integrity…what I do and how I act when no one else is looking. Every day I have new things to work on.
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