Friday, September 17, 2010

The Politics of Religious Zealots

The office I work in has an array of religious beliefs and backgrounds. Yes, it is one of those weird offices where we talk religion, politics and gossip like crazy. We usually tend to respect each other’s beliefs and practices – well except when Yankee fanatic changed from Assembly of God to Seventh Day Adventist. Now don’t get me wrong I respect the Seventh Day faith – I dislike that it creates a Saturday workload for others of us. But other than that Yankee is very knowledgeable about all things Biblical – he is only a small bit zealous in his faith.

In our midst we have said Seventh Day Yankee, a reformed Baptist, an agnostic, a Jehovah Witness, and me the sliding Quaker. We have some very interesting conversations and when in life I hear a philosophy that baffles, confuses, or confronts me and I’m on ignorant ground or worse at a loss I bring my questions to work and get a forum of views, interpretations, and beliefs. It gives me food for thought and different views. All’s good.

I try very hard to not be judgmental, but of late I’ve noticed I’m losing the battle. I believe this started with editing Natalie’s books, I’ve learned so much about the history and abuses of the Mormon Church. But it’s not just Mormons. There are all the zealots in the world who believe their religion is the only religion. Bunk. Religion in theory is good, to follow the tenants of religion and faith is good, but man uses religion to rule, abuse, deride, divide and abuse. Religion should be good, cleansing, enlightening; man has made it oppressive and hateful. The majority of deity believing men (read mankind) believe in the same god, but the rules by which they believe is as dividing as color, gender, and sexuality based hatreds. The Seventh Day Yankee once called the JW brainwashed. Now there in truth is argument against both of them, but again it’s not being able to accept another’s beliefs and appreciate their dedication. Oh, and Seventh Day Yankee did apologize.

Of late the JW’s must be deep in their “It’s the end of days” seminars because that’s what I’ve heard a lot lately. Since the day I replied, “You think this is bad? You ain’t seen nothing yet” I just listen and don’t say much. Except the other day she made a comment about her son being in a mixed relationship and she hopes it doesn’t last. Wow, considering some of the turmoil in her extended family you would think she’d embrace her son’s girl (whom she likes) who likes her. But no she’s concerned there could be a mixed marriage. She likes this girl, but because she’s just a Christian and not a JW this can’t be. So I asked her, “You’d rather him be alone for all of his life, than fall in love with someone not in his religion?” That is exactly what she would prefer – I was dumb struck, no really I was. And worse she provided me with the best comeback possible, but I didn’t think of it for at least an hour. She married a non practicing Lutheran and that worked out just fine.

The Seventh Day Yankee is part of a group who is bringing Messiah’s Mansion to Florence. Messiah’s Mansion is a replica of the Mosaic Arc of the Covenant (carried through the mid-eastern desert by the Israelites) built by Biblical standards as mentioned in the Old Testament. Everything within the walls of the display are placed with specific purpose as used by the rabbis of the day. While this isn’t something that interests me, I can see where it would many people of varying faiths and beliefs. Some will find it spiritual, others will find it historical (I would find it boring) but apparent JW has a big problem with it religiously (one I’ve not been privileged, lucky me.) It’s raining in Florence, surprise, so of course they are now looking for some additional cover for certain areas in the park where they will greet people. I suggested to Seventh Day Yankee that he ask JW if they could borrow her canopy. He kind of seemed hesitant but took my advice.

I’m sorry, truly I am that I suggested it because this is what I heard.

SD Yankee: “You have a canopy don’t you? Would it be possible to use it down at the park so they don’t get wet at Messiah’s Mansion?”

JW: “If it wasn’t for a religious purpose you could, but I don’t want anyone thinking I support the display.”

Surely my jaw was gaping to the floor. I’ve yet to figure out what would be offensive to a Christian about the display, non-Christian it’s possible. I apologized to Seventh Day Yankee. But I’m still confused, baffled, and becoming more judgmental. I don’t like that.



Psamanthe said...

This is one of those issues that I've been pondering for years.. and I think it comes down to this: Most religions are absolute.. their way IS the RIGHT way and to make allowances for the views, beliefs, and practices of other religions is.... in a way, undermining to their own. Tolerance and/or understanding for other faiths, in some way, discredits or diminishes the value placed on your own.

Bullshit if you ask me... But how many people in this world truly take the time to learn about religions they don't practice? Very few. (Horribly sad in my book.)

Most people are raised not to question God and many feel that to question your religion is doing the same and if you investigate other religions, it might cause you to ask, "Why do we believe this over that?".

Most people are raised in a religion or faith so most are taught this from childhood. The sad truth is that Christianity and it's vast array of religions don't promote understanding and tolerance of people who believe differently.

Jen said...

Just when I'm ready to give up on all religion for all time as a devisive tool of oppression and disunity, I see a whole bunch of people of different religions coming up to support people of one religion in something important to them - in this case stopping that idiot in Florida from burning Qurans on 9-11. So, okay, humanity. You've bought yourself some grace. For a while at least.

PS. I answered your question in the Comments section over at my blog.

Cele said...

Psam - ditto

Jen - I agree with you. I'm a Quaker and as a Quaker I respect people's beliefs and most choices. I rejoiced when the Idiot in Florida was rebuked by the other Christians, Jewish, Muslims, and other non-demonimationals for his ignorance and arrogance. I don't give up on faith and belief, I have problem with religions and the zealots in front and behind them.

I loved when asked by the Muslim Imam, "What would Jesus do?" The Idiot in Florida, either couldn't or wouldn't answer."

Anonymous said...

I understand about giving up and becoming more judgmental. It's a struggle for me, and it's hard to acknowledge some points of view when they seem so obviously negative, counterproductive in human terms, or, let's face it, just plain stupid. But then I realize that's exactly the game -- polarize, divide and conquer. I just can't resist playing sometimes. I have to keep thinking of it as a game with no valid referee.

LynnBlossom said...

I'm still figuring out how to comment on Google.