First my disclaimers:
1. I consider myself a reasonably devout, greatly flawed, Christian.
2. I attend church regularly.
3. I have close friends, relatives, and chosen family of various faith communities: Christians, Jews, Buddhists - and atheists. I also know and enjoy the company of people who are Hindus and Muslims. I respect the beliefs of all these people.
4. I have friends, family, and chosen family who are various shades of color, and from Asian, African, European, and Central American backgrounds.
5. I also have friends, family, and chosen family who are considerably younger and considerably older than I am.
Having said that, let me get to the point:
I am truly tired of getting paranoid, forwarded emails that tout religion.
For some reason many of them start out with “The United States is a Christian Nation” or they demand that God and prayer be put back in public schools.
Let’s start with a short history lesson: Many of the people who came to the Americas to start a new life were indeed Christians. (Indeed, my Moser ancestors immigrated from Europe around 1750 so they could have religious freedom; they were Dunkards [not drunkards!].) But a lot of immigrants were convicts, who may or may not have practiced Christianity, and most of the slaves - who contributed immensely to the building of this nation - were Muslims or practiced what we consider today to be primitive religions.
This country was founded on ancient principles that date back to the Greeks. These were not religious principles. Indeed, the First Amendment to the Constitution (the same Constitution that many of the folks who forward the religious spam give lip service to) says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion ” and then goes on to give us free speech and and a free press.
President George Washington in his 1790 letter to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island, wrote:
May the Children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while every one shall sit under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.
Way back at the founding of this country our first president expressed the idea that each person could have his/ her own belief and, it’s worth reiterating: “there shall be none to make him afraid."
History lesson over. When, in a former life, I was a teacher, the idea of having prayers in my classroom (that weren’t uttered silently by panicked students taking tests) was a nightmare. Who would write a prayer that didn’t offend the non-Christians in the class? Which non-Christian would write one that wouldn’t offend the Christians? How would we include or dis-include those who did not believe? By the time a prayer that didn’t offend anyone was written, it would be so weasel-y as to offend everyone.
Let me address the other side of the coin, also. Just as I am inclined not to proselytize in favor of Christianity, I do not wish to be proselytized in favor of any other denomination or religion except the one I have chosen.
And I want to hear neither barbs or witticisms about my religious choices. I choose to believe. If people do not, that’s their choice. I may not understand it, but I continue to love them.
That doesn’t mean I can’t make jokes about my choices. Self-deprecation is a time-honored method of humor. (Why does it take two hands for an Episcopalian to water the lawn? One to hold the hose and the other to hold the martini glass.) I can tell jokes on myself, but don't tell them about my religion. And I won’t ridicule your beliefs.
We all believe and act in different ways. I try to appreciate and honor yours. But and it’s a big one - do not try to persuade me to accept your belief - or lack of - as my own.
As always, I welcome your comments below.