Thursday, March 24, 2016

Are All Religions Created Equal?

Yesterday, I read a blog post that one of my Facebook friends had shared/responded to.  To be fair, the person responding was not in favor of the theme of the blog post.  It was one of those rants that makes you unsure if you want to be sad or angry.  Or both.  I was tempted to post a comment, but the majority of the comments were in favor of this position and were denigrating "liberals" and mocking those that dared disagree.  I doubted my comments would have made a difference as the commenters were so sure of their righteousness.  I was going to let it go, but it was still on my mind this morning so I thought I would put my thoughts here instead.  The post is entitled "It’s Time To Stop Pretending All Religions Are Equal".

The author was ranting about this weeks' attacks in Brussels.  He states multiculturalism and diversity are not potential sources of strength, but drivers of division.  His basic position is that Christianity is the best religion out there and Islam is bad and evil.  He uses a lot of words to try to say so, but he's peddling the tired mantra that Christianity is the only non-violent religion and Islam is a religion of violence.  And he gives lots of "examples" to prove his point, or rather, try to disprove the points of those that disagree with him.  Just a taste of a quote:  "In fact, aside from Islam, the only other truly violent religion in existence is liberalism."  And this little nugget:  "Obscure nut jobs like the Westboro Baptists are not Christian fundamentalists. They are apostates. They’ve fabricated their own fundamentals and sprinkled a little Jesus on top of the fake religion they made up."  Because, you know, that can't happen with Muslim factions either.

The thing that makes me most sad about this silly article is that the author completely misses the point of being a Christian and Christianity.  Are all religions created equal?  I don't know.  But this I do know.  Jesus first and foremost taught us to love.  Unconditionally.  Especially those that hate you.  As a matter of fact, go OUT OF YOUR WAY to love those that hate you.

Today is Holy Thursday.  A tradition in the Catholic Church is for the priest and deacon to wash the feet of others.  Just a little history as background for what Jesus did when He gave us this tradition.  At the Last Supper, Jesus washed the feet of his disciples.  Washing of feet was the task of the lowliest of servants.  It would have been scandalous in the extreme for a great teacher and leader to debase himself to that level.  Yet, not only did Jesus do that, He said it was an example for all.  Because Jesus did not come to be served but to serve.  THAT to me is what Christianity and being a Catholic is all about.  Loving and serving others.

THAT is how you witness the faith.  THAT is how you attract others to the truth and message of Christianity.  Going on about how yours is the only true faith will not win you over with anyone other than those that already agree with you.  Also, I've said on many occasions that I believe all religions lead back to God.  We are all created in God's image and have a longing for the spiritual.  For a desire to know God.  We don't all do it in the same way.  I believe the Catholic way is the correct one.  But one thing the Church teaches is that God and His mercy are so big, so wide, so beyond our understanding, that even those that are not Christian can still go to heaven and be one with God.  It's the yearning and searching for God in whatever imperfect human way we manage that matters.

Do some distort God's message for their own agendas?  Of course they do.  Muslims do it.  Christians have done it for centuries and still do it.  I'm sure there are plenty of examples in other religions of doing terrible things for "the glory of god(s)".  Does that mean some religions are better than others?  Hell if I know.  But one thing I do know, people like the author of that blog post are part of the problem that make others hate members of a religious group, not part of the solution.

I pray for all of the families of those affected by the terrorist activities in Brussels and all over the world.  May they find peace and strength in the midst of tragedy.  May we all follow Jesus' example of love and service to make our world a better place.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

I Wanna Rock

So this may be a surprising admission.  I will begin by saying that I've been doing music ministry for quite some time and have been playing an instrument since the 4th grade.  That means I've been playing music for about 41 years now.  I've played in rock bands, folk groups, contemporary christian groups, and wrote and recorded music.  Music and playing guitar are part of who I am.  I believe it is a gift from God and it is my responsibility to give it back in whatever way I can.

And I may be getting tired of it.  Mind you, I'm not tired of playing the guitar.  I still love doing so.  I'm getting tired of all of the other stuff that goes with it, especially trying to run a group.  Of the three groups I work with right now, I'm de-facto in charge of two of them.  I play with the choir at our church.  That's an ideal situation since I show up on Sunday morning, warm up with the group for 45 minutes, play Mass, and go home.  No fuss, no muss.  Music is always easy and usually something I already know.

The other two groups are my christian band that plays Mass once a month and my cover band.  Getting everyone together to rehearse, coming up with set lists, dealing with even the little bit of drama that comes up is tiring.  And with my beginning deaconate formation, I'm not sure I want the hassle or have the time.  Short term, I'm sticking with everything.  Monthly masses with my Christian group ends in June.  I suspect I won't be doing it again in the fall.  I'm not sure what I'm going to do about the rock band.  However, I suspect I'm going to give that up by the end of the summer as well.

And, honestly, I'm not really broken up about that.  Being in a band can be a love/hate relationship for me.  On the one hand, it's fun and I get to play songs that I like.  On the other hand, I'm not really doing what I'd want as a musician.  Most of the music I really enjoy and listen to these days wouldn't work for a cover band.  And I definitely don't have the time for a band doing originals.  So I'm in this limbo as a musician.  It's a minor issue, to be sure, but we musician types are funny that way.  We like to be able to be creative as well as entertaining.

So what does the future hold?  No idea.  I still see music as one of my ministries.  I'm hoping I can somehow incorporate it into whatever my deaconate ministry will be.  But the ministry is not really mine, but God's.  I need to follow the path that He's set out for me.  And that may include what I would like to do, and it may not.  But I'm committed to doing the work God wants me to do.  So stay tuned.