“Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.” – Buddha
My father is one of the best men I know. He is loyal and honest and those are two qualities that you rarely find in a human. My dad is both these things, he has more qualities deserving of praise, of course, but these two I respect the most.
I remember rummaging through his drawers one day as a kid and stumbling upon a letter he had received a few weeks prior and I read it. Childlike curiosity, I suppose. Nonetheless, it was interesting. The letter was written to him from a prison inmate that he was in contact with on a regular basis, I discovered. This particular inmate had stabbed a man to death in our church parking lot and my father found the body. To my knowledge only a handful of the regular readers know my dad but he gets very weak at the knees when he sees blood and there was a lot of it (understandably so).
He went inside the church and called the police, which is impressive because I have watched him pass out giving blood, so this was a big deal. The assailant was apprehended and arrested. Two years later the inmate wrote my father telling of his salvation and life changing events in prison. And, of course, my dad continued to write him for the ten years he was incarcerated.
This is the kind of man my father is. I don’t know a lot of people who would remain pen pals with someone who killed a man in the parking lot of his workplace, but my dad did. Being a pastor since he was seventeen he has a soft spot for the hurting. And yes, everyone is hurting, even the killers.
My father and I have our differences but this is one thing that always stuck with me. How to have such compassion for people no matter what. I’ve always wondered how to do that. I know I’m not a very compassionate person and, for the most part, I just don’t care about the problems of others. It’s harsh, but I think it’s the most real way to look at things. For me, anyway. And that last sentence is the biggest point I think I’m trying to get across. “For me, anyway.”
To each his own, yes? Are there people who cannot accept this way of life? Could just anyone do something like my father did, in good faith, and love someone who did something as atrocious as to stab someone to death? No. There are few people on this earth that could do that. And that is what I love about my dad. He can. What is it that gives him that kind of strength? I think it is living a life believing in something. It doesn’t matter if someone else believes it’s true or not, if you do, it can give you amazing strength to do things that few others can.
I am not cut out of the same cloth as my father. I don’t believe in the same God as him. Actually, I’m not even sure that there is a God. I was raised for the better part of eighteen years as a Christian and I’ve realized that you have to find your own way. Becoming a good man (or woman, I use man as a general term for the human race so please, feminists, don’t jump on my case.) is not something that happens over night. I expected it to. I’ve realized that I can’t do things like him because I will never be him. Instead, I take my search elsewhere.
I think it is foolish to take one book and call it supreme law. Not only do I believe it is foolish, I believe it is dangerous. My father is a rare case. He is able to, for the most part, differentiate between metaphor and literal and that is the most difficult thing to do with “holy texts”. If you can’t do that, you have no place in religion and any belief system would be better off without you. I know that’s harsh, but look around you! On the “christian” side we have Westboro Baptist Church that pickets U.S. soldiers funerals and writes hymns about God “smiting the homosexual” and “destroying the unbeliever”. On the Muslim side we have car bombs. Now, not all Christians are homophobic bigots and not all Muslims are willing to blow themselves up in the name of Allah but, do you see where I’m coming from? The majority of Christians that attend church on a regular basis are not going to hold up signs saying “God hates fags!” but how many of them are willing to be compassionate to a girl who got an abortion because she didn’t know any other way? Instead, they subconsciously shun her until she has no one to help her through this physical and psychological ordeal.
I have a friend that claimed to be a homosexual for years and now is “praising” God and has his family back because he supposedly renounced his homosexual nature. As if being straight or gay were something you could change. If a straight person were shunned by a almost entirely gay community: his parents, friends, place of worship. Nearly everyone that he knew turned on him, wouldn’t the easiest thing to do be to hide it? I think so. I know everyone has secrets but everyone has someone they can come to with anything that’s on their mind and they will be listened to. But, most churches stifle who you are. It requires a certain degree of perfection, as do all churches, and it kills you on the inside. You become a miserable person. Is this what we really want out of a religious sect? Not happy, good people. But pseudo people. Liars on a grand scale. I believe that a majority of religious people, because they only accept one book as true, are liars. They lie to themselves and to everyone around them. They don’t talk about despising their co-worker who got a promotion and they didn’t because if you hate someone is the same as killing them. Well, I’ve hated a lot of people and none of them are dead. Maybe I’m doing it wrong.
Why can’t we accept things as they are and not have to shade them with platitudes? Why do we all fear what we don’t understand and, often times, try to suffocate it. Why can’t we find something that benefits everyone instead of just looking for what makes you comfortable. I know that when I walk into a church, and it doesn’t happen very often, I feel more uncomfortable than if I were in a crack house stepping over people with needles hanging out of their arms. If a god does exist, he certainly doesn’t dwell in any church I’ve ever seen.