“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
They say you should never discuss politics or religion. After the past couple of years in American politics, you would have to be completely deaf, dumb and blind not to have been pulled into a conversation involving at least one of the above. It can be a tricky business navigating the waters of different opinions and traditions. But if we believe that we are in fact one human race, it is incumbent upon us to try to find commonality, instead of division.
I was brought up in a Christian household. So was the man I married. He took a different direction at an early age, when he was exposed to science, Agricultural Science, not the ‘science’ of the Jamaican obeah worker! One of his siblings, a baby boy, died soon after birth, of ‘lockjaw’, tetanus. His father, a wise man in many ways, followed the Bible, but also had a healthy respect for the ‘science’ worker, and when the child took sick he followed the instructions of the local obeahman. It involved white fowls and such, and initially the baby’s condition improved, but soon after he died. It was some years later, when my husband was learning about the toxins that live on unclean, rusty tools, tetanus, that he put two and two together. His baby brother was delivered by a local midwife (Mother), who had experience and skills, but no way to sterilize the tool she used to cut the umbilical cord. Not only was his brother’s death preventable, it was treatable with antibiotics. From that day on he challenged everything he read in the Bible and was happy to engage in heated discussion with anyone who professed faith over science.
I heard an interesting story the other day. The lady who told it was raised as an Orthodox Jew. She happened to be adopted, and knew it, but knew nothing of her birth mother. Which became a problem when it was time for her to be married. The Orthodox Jews who were interested in marrying her needed to know more about her birth mother, Judaism is inherited through the maternal lineage. Since she was unable to tell them anything, nothing progressed. Until one man persisted. They had a whirlwind courtship and got married. The marriage had challenges (he was controlling, had a bad temper, and possibly worse was hinted at) but the family grew, they had children and moved from New York to Israel. As the marriage grew worse, he verbally and emotionally abused her, demeaned her, called her fat and unattractive. She started to venture out, and gradually became involved in getting fit. Being an Orthodox woman, this meant she could only go to all female classes. Part of the religious tradition mandates only allowing females and your husband to see your natural hair, or see you in revealing outfits.
In time she began to emerge, to love the way she felt and looked. During this time she needed to find out more about her own birth mother. When the news came, horrors, her birth mother was not Jewish. Which was appalling for her and her family, since that meant that despite living a life completely following all of the Jewish rules and traditions, neither she nor her children were Jewish. In order to correct this, the local rabbis agreed that she could undergo conversion by participating in the Jewish mikvah, a ritual bathing. This she agreed to. What shocked her, as she entered the bath, covered in a sheet, not wearing her usual wig, was that three of the rabbis were there to witness the bath. They even ordered her to bend her head so that they could look at her hair. The story teller expressed her feeling of loathing and shame as, for the first time in her married life, she did the one thing that was forbidden in the Orthodox tradition, which was to expose herself and her hair to men other than her husband.
Although she successfully converted, the act had broken her faith, everything that had meant anything to her. Eventually it led to her divorcing her husband (not easy for an Orthodox Jew). But what kept her going was her fitness classes. She had become an instructor, a Zumba teacher! She had discovered a love for her body and for her self through the physical act of movement, of dance, of celebration of being alive.
My father used to use the Bible to teach Religious Knowledge (aka Bible Knowledge). He used it as a textbook of history, of wars, of families, of geography, of economics, of literature, of poetry, of inspiration. He also made sure to caution the readers that man had played a large role in rewriting the scriptures, and had retrofitted history to the mores of the times. They say that history is written by those who won the day, so their version is often tainted and improved upon, to put it kindly.
We recently have heard a lot about the evangelicals who are willing to forgive the most heinous sins in some of their (and unfortunately our) leaders. They speak of a forgiving God, one who gives second chances, who loves the sinner, a sinner for whom there is always the possibility of redemption. But this premise should only be plausible if that same forgiveness is applied to all of these my brethren, and if it is accompanied by some kind of remorse and a willingness to change on the part of the sinner.
In Florida, a convicted felon who has served his time, completed probation and parole, can only regain his rights as a citizen to vote if he/she completes some tedious application which may take years to go through the bureaucracy and still not be approved. I am not sure how we can preach redemption and second chances for some individuals, and yet not the (predominantly) people of color who have fulfilled the requirements of a (mostly unjust) legal system. We can change this. This year on the ballot there will be a measure to redress this, but it will need 60% of the vote to pass. This is of personal interest to me, since one of my sons is affected by this law.
On this windy Friday morning, the anniversary of another son’s birth, I have decided to be reckless, to discuss both of the taboo topics. We need to be honest about the flaws in our society and our traditions, or else we will not be motivated to change them. For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. (Yes I can be Buddhist and quote the Bible also). Let us honor all of those things which make us different, while recognizing those things that connect us all. Have a wonderful weekend, Family!