The religion of an American female: At some point I informed my Mom that I did not believe in Jesus Christ and was sent off to religious ed. classes at school Presbyterian I believe . I attended Catholic service with my cousins, and Bible study in the summer. I also went to Methodist ? Sunday school for a while too. I remember the taste of the holy water mixed with play-doh on my fingers. Later I went to Lutheran services with my friend Kim, and eventually took first communion with my friend Amy at a Catholic church. Throughout my childhood I remember missionaries knocking on the door from time to time to tell us about the word of God, usually they were Jehovah’s Witness and the idea of not being able to celebrate birthdays or Christmas or to be able to dance pretty much was a big red X on that whole idea. Fundamentalists and Born Again Christians and Evangelicals were all looked down on with complete disdain. My grandmother went to Catholic services on Saturday night, but not before a Seagram’s Seven on the rocks, my grandfather usually fell asleep during the service. He wasn’t religious that way but he went with her anyway. On the way home we would practice his religion. The religion of the outdoors. We would drive around the steep hills of the valley and count the deer in the fields, sometimes we would see a hundred.
It strikes me that my family practiced an odd religion. When someone died we would plant a tree. We considered the body a vessel. We thought that the spirit moved on, but we didn’t know if there was a heaven or a hell. We were sad when someone died. We believed that if someone passed on animal messengers would tell of their presence. My dad is a cardinal. My Mom will one day be a Monarch butterfly. We believed in the dreams we had the foretold events, and sent messages from the beyond from our dead relatives. When my sister was in search of a boyfriend she prayed to my Dad’s spirit and asked for one. Her husband is so much like my Dad in many ways. She met him within one year of that prayer. When I am nervous or scared about a member of my family, I see a deer and I know everything will be okay. My daughter was violently ill from a medication after an operation I saw a doe and a fawn in the middle of the day, I knew she would be okay. On the morning of her graduation I went to the store to get some last minute items and on the way home I saw a doe and a fawn on the highway. I had to stop my car to let them pass. I knew it was an auspicious sign from my family. We believed that God could only be found in nature, and that nature was a place of healing. We believed in living close to the earth, in home grown food, in wholesome behavior, in humility.
As an adult I have become exposed to many other religions. In college I studied Hinduism and Buddhism. I bought a copy of the Koran which I read, but was so disgusted with its archaic and ignorant message about the role of women the religion got a big red X on it. I attended Evangelical services with a friend, but the whole arm waving and crying thing – I looked on it with disdain. Baptists knock on my door to tell me about a neighborhood Bible Study. Mormans stop us on the street and knock on the door on Christmas night to spread the word of their God. Jehovah’s knock on the door and leave their pamphlets in our mailboxes.
There are well over 50 languages spoken in some of the schools in our city. There are over 40 refugee children in my school, that is 10% of the population of the school. They speak many languages and practice a wide variety of religions. . Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Christians, Jews, atheists and agnostics. It makes me sad how silent the Muslim girls are, and how arrogant and rude the boys can be especially towards their female teachers. Their Dads treat us with disdain too. Some of those girls are bright and quick and intelligent, but their religion seems to seek to prevent them from shining. I believe all humans should live up to their greatest potential, I see Islamic belief as preventing the females from that. I accept it, I treat them all fairly but it does still make me sad. I wonder how much more the Islamic world could offer to humankind if they allowed that lost 50% of their population to shine. I see sometimes their brash and arrogant brothers shouting out the incorrect answer while the sister in her hijab whispers the right one in my ear. It shouldn’t be that way. It really shouldn’t.
I am a practicing Zen Buddhist and I do yoga as a meditative practice as well, there is a large and active Zen Center in my community. There is a Buddhist temple here too somewhere on the north side. There are also Native Americans who are part of the inter-religious counsel. This is after all their land, this valley once teemed with Haudenosaunee People. Now only .04% (I believe). There are synagogues and churches everywhere. There is even a Quaker meeting house about two miles from here. Amish and Mennonites sell their wares in our public market. There is a very large and active mosque less than a mile from my house.
Isn’t it funny how everyday Americans like myself, who are exposed to and accept people from all over the world are never heard in the news. Instead we hear about the loud mouthed and arrogant ignoramus who wants to do something asinine and stupid. We hear the Evangelicals and the Fundamentalists spewing hate. But we don’t see the ordinary people spreading love. We hear about and seemingly celebrate the tragedies, but we never once say from day to day all the good things that we are doing in cooperation with each other.
At some point we need to shush those loud mouths. We need to listen to the silence for a bit. We need to hear from those who do not speak, out of fear, out of shyness, out of suppression. We all know that God can only be heard when we are quiet. So why do we think God is speaking to us from those that do not know what silence is? Outrageous actions catch our attention, and rile our passions, make us spew bitter hatred, just as they are meant to.
Outrageous actions turn our faces away from God.