Poetry and Polemics: The Choice Debate
When I was a kid, we went to church.......a lot. I don't mean we went once on a Sunday. I mean we went two or three times on the weekend and several times throughout the week. It was like eating too much ice cream. You got to dreading it instead of enjoying it. But this is how I learned the importance of balance and what happens when elements in life are not balanced. It's Yin Yang.....black and white symmetrically complementing each other to form the circular, eternal whole. It's the symbol for healthy life, an eternal harmonious marriage, and a better humanity. When there is something wrong, it means the balance is off.
I learned about Yin and Yang in college. And I learned about parables in church. Parables were my favorite. I would wait for the gospel reading and hope it was going to be a parable. If you aren't familiar with the term, parables are stories that teach lessons, and the lessons I learned from them were life lasting. Parables taught me things like the importance of compassion and unity and working together. Parables taught me how to work hard. Parables taught me the wisdom of looking at life through the eyes of a child, and the value of each person. Parables taught me that even those who might seem like enemies to society, if given the opportunity, can contribute. And sometimes, the one who looks like an enemy is really an ally.
And then, there were the Easter readings. On Good Friday, we all had to read parts from the death of Christ. In our ultra-conservative Catholic parish, the priest took the part of Christ and the congregation was the crowd reading, "Crucify him, crucify him." I wouldn't read that part. I wasn't going to crucify the gentle man who had taught me to love others, be kind to your enemies, and defend women and children. My parents asked me why and chastised me for not taking part. I tried to explain, but it didn't come out right. So from then on, I just mouthed the words. And I apologized to Jesus on the inside.
It took me a long time to figure out that sinners don't have to be damned and that good people don't have to BE Jesus. It took me even longer to figure out that the good people in the stories were the balanced ones, the ones who listened and learned. Not all of them had to be martyrs. Some of them just wrote down gospels.
Outside of philosophical discussion, where there is an assumed respect for open inquiry, I don't like to discuss my religious beliefs. I don't want to fight about religion, who is "right" and who is "wrong," who we think is "saved" and who is not. Jesus didn't fight--he talked. Gandhi didn't fight--he talked. Martin Luther King Jr. didn't fight--he spoke and he wrote. We shouldn't have to beat our beliefs into people to make them understand and accept. If we maintain balance....empathy and logic....then we have done what the great peacemakers and idealists have done. And nobody has to die.
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