Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Religion and responsibility

I have a gripe. It's about a certain kind of attitude that seems to inhabit quite a few religious people I run into, usually in a non-direct way. My experience is with a certain "brand" or "flavor" of Christians here in Kentucky but this type of smug, self-righteous attitude occurs in any religious group all over the world. My story is here, Kentucky, with some - not all- local Christians.

Anyway, it has to do, specifically, with using one's religion to justify bad behavior or absolve oneself from any responsibility to practice good behavior. Example: a friend posts a "status update' on a popular social networking site that says in effect, "I wish the world was in perfect harmony! Or even semi-harmony!." I had to agree. I often feel like current public discourse (TV, politics, movies) centers around conflict, fear and aggression. It saddens me and I wish we could even take a small break and simply agree to disagree and enjoy a little of life on this planet instead of throwing more gasoline on the fire, perpetuating the contest of the extremes. So I added that I, too, could go for some semi-harmony. Then some of her Christian friends chimed in with what I felt were excuses for not being kind to your fellow human being. Things like, "Keep wishing!' and "We'll have harmony when we're all dead and some of us are in heaven." [emphasis mine] More Christian friends continued the "when we're in heaven we'll have harmony" theme with, "one day the lord will call his people home" and "we will have it one day in heaven!!"

And I thought, why wait until then to practice some harmony? How shortsighted to use religion to absolve yourself from doing better towards your fellow human being? What kind of childish, selfish justification do you need to keep being a prick to people you're threatened by, people who aren't like you? Rather than sit back and say, "Oh well! When I die, I'll get some harmony. I'll be kind to others – others like me – but not others I don't associate with," why not spread a little good will, patience and tolerance today? Right now. Right here. In your own community. It's so easy to pick apart the littlest thing and criticize and judge. And it's so easy to be kind to people "just like you." But, to reference the religion Christians profess to practice, how about being kind to those you don't like so much, ya know, loving thy enemy? How about showing some love and kindness to them? Not self-righteous, patronizing pity but a real smile, a "thank you" and "Have a good day." And mean it. It won't kill you.

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