-Mahatma Gandhi, Indian Philosopher

Today, I see so many divisive posts, it angers me and also makes me wonder if I need to invest in assault weapons and the canned bean industry. During my US History classes I usually taught that 1968 might have the most divisive year since the end of the Civil War. Tet, Walter Cronkite telling us that the war was unwinnable, war protests, continued Civil Rights issues and the assassinations of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King were just a few of the reasons that I cited. Now I am not so sure that I could still say that. Any type of opinion is met with ridicule and name-calling from the other side – gay marriage, Black Lives Matter, the issue of the Confederate Battle Flag, our “entitlements,” illegal immigration. Now things that should never be an issue have become one. Case in point is religion. Christians versus Muslims; Christians versus Atheist; Christians versus gays; Christian conservatives against Christian liberals…do I see a trend here? At least, Christian conservatives are supporting the Jews in Israel, and perhaps, the Jewish presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.
I grew up Methodist, went to a Lutheran institution of higher learning, flirted with Episcopalians and Presbyterians and married three, that’s right, three Baptist women. While I find women to be a type of religious experience, that last admission is what keeps me out of the gay marriage debate along with any kind of statements about abortion and keeps me from agreeing to be a Deacon, which is a blessing. My tiptoeing through so many Protestant religions, not to mention three marriages, has also caused me, despite my public dunking into the Southern Baptist Church, to develop my own form of the Christian religion – one that I have mentioned before in other writings – The Evolutionary New Testament Church of Christ as “hallucinated” by Don. As of this moment, my newly-founded church has an enrollment of one.
I would characterize my Methodist upbringing as being very conservative. There weren’t a lot of amens coming from the Amen Corner and our music was very straight-laced. My wife would say it was “tight assed.” This description comes from a woman who went to church every time the doors were opened, sometimes when they weren’t , and as you might know, was instructed that dancing was against the tenets of God. I believe this prohibition developed because while Moses was up on a mountain talking to God, the Israelites were dancing naked around an idol. But didn’t David dance to celebrate the Ark’s arrival in Jerusalem? Was he naked like that Greek statue? Well, this taboo did lead to my favorite religious joke. Why don’t Baptists make love standing up? It looks too much like dancing!! “Cha-Ching!”
We, the members of my church, did have our moments of religious fervor, usually around revival time when we put our “high church stuffiness” away. I remember a particularly hot August evening before our church was air-conditioned. During a weeklong revival it was hotter than…you can fill that in. I remember hearing the roll of distant thunder as lightning flashed just above the visible horizon that I was watching from the opened window. The only air circulating came from the hand fans provided to us by Wolfe Funeral Home. They were working overtime and probably just spread the heat produced by our exertions. Our visiting minister brought me back from my thoughts as he finished the “hellfire and brimstone” portion of his sermon by slamming his hand onto his Bible and shouting, “If you think its hot tonight, JUST WAIT! Benediction Please!” His admonition drew a good number of amens and hallelujahs, along with a record altar call which may not have been due to his sermon but to the misty cool breeze of the building storm that suddenly cascaded through the windows.
As I limped out to attempt to complete my morning run before church, I could not get thoughts of divisiveness out of my mind. When I arrived back home and watched some of the news programming, the divisiveness became more entrenched in my mind. One should not watch “The Donald” on Meet the Press before church. I continued to ponder divisions as I sat in church, not paying attention to the sermon. For some reason, I thought of a former student who was the strangest mix of religions. He grew up as a Musdu or a Hinlim. Take your pick because I know he didn’t know which one. Mo’s parents (yes, short for Mohammed) migrated LEGALLY to the United States several years before Mo was born. They had grown up and met in an area between Pakistan and India called the princely states of Kashmir and Jammu which have been a bone of contention since the partition of Pakistan and India in 1948. The conflict erupted into a shooting war at times. The problem? First, the states are coveted by Pakistan, India and China but a major issue is…wait a minute…religion. Pakistan is largely Muslim and India is largely Hindu. In Kashmir there is a Muslim majority and in Jammu a Hindu majority. You can probably figure out who wants to be aligned with whom. If you put them together, the population is still largely Muslim. China doesn’t practice either religion and just wants the land. Into this mix “love would spring eternal” in the form of Mo’s Muslim father and Hindu mother and would not be denied. Love would conquer all but it would require a trip of several thousand miles and a huge change in culture. At least, they got away from the in-laws. Mo was a product of his parents and their progressive belief that he should grow up and decide for himself which religious path he would follow. Sometimes you get exactly what you weren’t expecting.
Should you want to interject another religion into this story, Mo looked like a short, round, brown Buddha. Oh no, I just had a vision of Mo as the Buddha sitting in a loincloth. While a product of his parent’s genes, he was his own man and a free thinker who had an extremely rebellious side. You see, Muslims eat no pork, while Hindus eat no beef. In order to display his disdain for his parents’ predominantly vegetarian diet, Mo would periodically stop off at The Clock for a bacon chili cheeseburger; take it home; and eat it in front of his mortified parents who were equally concerned about their son’s soul. According to the Quran, alcohol is forbidden but that didn’t stop Mo from throwing down a brew or five with his burger. Today, Mo has further complicated matters. He has married a Southern Baptist woman. I wonder if he has been publicly dunked and, if he has, my guess is that he still dances.
It concerns me terribly when I hear or see that “all Muslims are terrorists.” I keep wondering if I am missing something because I can’t hear that and not think about Hakeem, Mo’s father, and the few Muslim students that I have taught. None of them would turn out to be terrorists…would they? I despise how judgmental we have become as Christians. “Judge not, lest ye be judged!” Learned that at my grandmother’s knee. “To err is human, to forgive is divine.” In Don’s Evolutionary New Testament Church of Christ, it is not our place in life to judge. If you believe in God, you have been taught that judgement is His responsibility, not ours. Our responsibility is to help those who want to convert. We should not try to force our Christian values down the throats of non-believers. Today, however, I fear many Christians are doing just that!

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