Sunday Sermon

It's been a long while since I posted a Sunday Sermon. I got out of the habit last March, and it never realy seemed like the right time to begin again. It seemed to me that the sermons had gotten stale, so I stopped. I know now why priests and pastors rely so heavily on the calendar for topics - it's not easy to come up with something relevant and pithy every week. Sometimes, I wish the Flock had an agreed-upon calendar - to simply look up the date and be referred to the relevant scripture for each Sunday of the year would make sermons much easier to generate.

Instead, the Flock is a diverse group, and not everyone is at the same place spiritually. In fact, not everyone who reads this blog even believes in the spirit... so where does an honest shepherd like myself look for inspiration? I decided to go back to the very beginning of this - back to my ordination.

On Saturday, February 21st, 2004, I agreed to "pomote the freedom of religion and do that which is right." That's all the Universal Life Church requires of you for ordination. They go on to say, "it is up to the individual to determine what is right as long as it does not infringe on the rights of others and is within the law. That is as close to the Golden Rule as one can come." When I really pondered that vow tonight, I realized that I've not kept it very well. We'll examine the first half - promoting freedom of religion - today, and perhaps I'll talk about doing that which is right next week.

As a scholar of religions, it is my job to study and try to understand all religions. Perhaps one could even say that what I am really studying is the religious impulse - the human tendency to seek out the Divine. Naturally, my own likes and dislikes have colored that study, and I tend to be more kindly disposed toward Eastern modes of thought. When I am presenting ideas that come from the Buddhist, Hindu, or Taoist traditions, I tend to be gentle and respectful of them, while Christian, Jewish, or Islamic concepts usually receive pretty harsh treatment from me. Looking back over the posts on this blog, I feel I've been particularly harsh to the alphabet soup crowd (JW, LDS, SDA), but Roman Catholics and Evangelicals have felt my pen's caustic sting as well.

As a scholar, this is just simple bias, something to be watched for and edited out of academic writing - but as the shepherd of the Flock, it is a violation of my vow. I should be making this a safe and welcoming place for all faiths, not just my chosen favorites. The religious freedom that I have promoted has really been only freedom for those who agreed with me, those who were comfortable making light of the faiths spawned of Abraham.

It may seem obvious to say this, but tolerance is not about learning to like every faith out there - it's about tolerating them. Think about the way we use that word - we tolerate the noise of small children, we tolerate our parents or spouses nagging us, we tolerate our neighbors playing their music too loud, we tolerate aches and pains after we work out. We put up with these things in order to get along in our homes, in our families, in our lives, and in our neighborhoods.

I think this blog, this virtual neighborhood, needs to get along better. I'm not saying we all need to join in a group hug with Fred Phelps, Osama bin Laden, and Peter Gilmore, but we can accept that they exist, and that they have reasons to believe and promulgate the faiths they embrace.

Before anyone thinks that this means the Ministry is going to become a wussified mutual appreciation society, let me clarify - I'll still be dishing out the fire and brimstone where it is warranted, but I plan to do so in a more respectful way. I encourage you all to try it too.

When you hear of the latest pronouncment on god's wrath by Pat Robertson, or when a new tape is released by Osama talking about how it's god's will that Americans die, instead of rolling your eyes and thinking, "fucking fundies...", take a minute to put yourself in their shoes. Ask yourself if your version of the divine leads you to beliefs that are viewed as odd or dangerous by others. In other words, seek out similarities rather than differences. Once you have established common ground with the other (even if all you can find in common with them is that you are both air-breathers), it is more likely that any criticism you may have of their faith will be rational, and presented in a respectful way.

As for me, I'll try to practice what I just preached. And beginning today, there will be regular preaching again - every Sunday.

Go in Peace.


Clayton said...

Don't forget, you don't have to believe in God to be a fundie. I'm gonna blog about belief now.

Mark Travis said...

Well said, Linus... I don't want to toot my own horn, and I'm sure not a perfect adherent to this belief, but I have been appreciative and respectful of all religions since I can remember.

It is a part of my belief structure, and in many ways I too have become angered at those who are so ignorant, so pompous to think that their way is the only way.

I demand more than just tolerance of myself, I strive towards understanding, maybe not acceptance, but understanding and a basic knowledge of such people and beliefs before I criticize.

Either way, Thanks for the post.


Levi said...

I'm an idjit. Respect is for pussies. When our robot masters descend, catholic jokes will be the new blue collar comedy!

His Sinfulness said...

I worry about you, Levi.

Dr. Smith said...

Treat em all equally thats what I've been sayin for years. only in my world view I despise all religions equally. And then of course I have a mutual hatred for my atheist brethrin. And of course who can forget those fucking fence sitter agnostics. Does that make me a bad inquisitor? Hmmm. You deleted one, I'm gonna have to hear what the poor sap said to make you wanna put the DEL down on a motha.

His Sinfulness said...

That post was deleted by the poster, not me...

Levi said...

It was I who deleted my own post--I couldn't live with the improper grammar that I had unleashed on the internet.

His Sinfulness said...

Thanks for the self-policing, Levi.

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