Hardly a day passes that newspaper articles don’t report religion-based violence that injures or kills people who disagree with those who committed the acts.
It’s barbaric and primitive, based in fear and intolerance.
The barbarity is not exclusive to backward areas, as might be surmised, but centered largely in urban areas, teeming with people whose differences are both visible and unseen, veiled in various kinds of spirituality and religious devotion, rivalries and obscure disputes.
When intolerance crosses lines that are wholly unjustified and make no sense except in the narrowest contexts, bloodshed often results.
Lesser kinds of intolerance leave different wounds: harsh attitudes, exclusions and prohibitions, and declarations of ritual impurity.
The Apostle Paul, writing to the Christians in Rome, cautions in the 14th chapter of that letter not to be to set on self-righteousness: “Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written, ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.’ So then, each of us will be accountable to God.” (New Revised Standard Version)
Paul lived and worked in urban societies across the ancient civilized world. His attitude toward a diversity of religious beliefs and practices based on those beliefs is insightful.
His non-judgmental personal attitude, remember, was a conversion from his former life as a persecutor and ritual executioner in the name of faith, as he formerly understood it.
Because Christians have killed one another (and many of other faiths) by the millions through the centuries in the name of religiously political correctness, it’s important to understand that differences aren’t grounds for destroying other people – physically, emotionally or by character assassination.
Henri Nouwen, who was a Catholic priest, writer and humanitarian, wrote in “Bread for the Journey” that “one of the hardest spiritual tasks is to live without prejudices. Sometimes we aren’t even aware of how deeply rooted our prejudices are.
“We may think that we relate to people who are different from us in color, religion, sexual orientation, or lifestyle as equals, but in concrete circumstances our spontaneous thoughts, uncensored words, and knee-jerk reactions often reveal that our prejudices are still there.”
Nothing can be harder to overcame than rejecting that part of ourselves.
“Only when we fully claim that God loves us in an unconditional way and look at ‘those other persons’ as equally loved can we begin to discover that the great variety in humanity is an expression of the immense richness of God’s heart,” Nouwen writes.
Only then, he says, “will the need to prejudge people gradually disappear.”
And he offers that idea a kind of exclamation point in quoting Jesus: “Do not judge, and you will not be judged.” (Matthew 7:1)
NEMS Daily Journal