Pardon me for not digging way back into the archives for no reason other than shotty organization. Had I been putting a bit more thought into this blog and what it would become to me I would have spent more time. But I remember a post I wrote about three or four years ago about how I grew up or didn’t grow up with religion. Because of my parents divorce I had many adults in my life and neighbors who shared with me their faith. And what may have seemed like a jumbled up mess of spirituality to me it made sense.
I grew up with great knowledge, experience and respect for multiple religions. I never hated one over another and realized there was one over arching theme in religion and that was the belief in and striving for something bigger and better. In my adulthood and even parenthood I struggle with highly organized church, not because I don’t believe but the times I have placed myself into the socialness of the churches I attended I struggled.
I understand fellowship is a huge part of organized religion and I understand its value to the church and creating and being in groups with others who believe the way you do and to raise the next generation of the same. That description is beautiful, but sometimes it doesn’t happen that way. I could take it so much further than this, but it isn’t my place to solve those sorts of problems. I have to find a way to be spiritual and a follower of God and I know that I have a very strong faith. I know where my heart lies.
But I think that upbringing and the way I see religion left me a deficit when it comes to acts of terrorism in the name of a God or the prophet Mohammad or whatever deity’s name you place there. I don’t understand targeting someone who doesn’t believe or think the way you do or disparaging them for their thoughts. Especially to the point where you are willing to kill others or yourself in name of.
In my middle and high school career I grew up literally hundreds of yards from the North American Meeting Center for Muslims. In my classes I sat next to and were friends many Muslims. I also sat next to people who practiced Christianity, Judaism and I myself went to a non-denominational church. I saw great beauty in their faiths and I loved how their faith only served to enhance my own. I became more tolerant of the differences that existed between us. Never once did I feel angry because they didn’t believe the way I did or didn’t see my faith the way I did.
But then I wonder if I am an idiot? If you are truly spiritual and faithful to your God are you or should you be willing to die? Does that make me less faithful? Does that make me less spiritual. I know what society sometimes says. I have actually heard it and had people pray for me because I don’t practice religion the way they do. I get that and even understand it. It is the next step where you take life in your hands and determine their right to it.
What happened in Paris this week broke my heart. People wondered why because I have no connection or reason. The only think I can offer is I have always felt tied to France because it is my dream to go there and speak and be immersed in the culture. It is a culture I have loved and tried to understand since I was a young child. The french fascinate me. Quite a few years ago as I was taking my last french class my teacher was from France and her love of her people and culture always enamored me. She felt so tied and patriotic toward a nation that she was thousands upon thousands of miles away from.
One day she made us read this french news article in class about a Muslim girl who was forced in her french school to take off her ha-jab (goes by various names, but I am talking about the Muslim headpiece for females) and she was devastated. The article spoke of great unrest. There were few times in her class I felt her praise America over her native country, but that day she made a comment that came back to me this week. She talked her countries lack of acceptance of the Muslim culture and people and predicted that eventually it would cause serious unrest.
But when watching what unfolded the first day and then the third day I felt so very sad for a lot of different reasons. Was it about religion? There is video that exists that shows the perpetrators shouting religious epitaphs. Or was it because they grew up as french citizens and were so isolated and not accepted they felt they had no option? I will never understand why and I suppose that is because I am not a terrorist. But that is my one biggest struggle with religion or using it to justify actions. But then what do I know?
All I know is that yesterday as I sat watching the news and my oldest and I talked about it I began to cry and said, “I will never understand why people kill in the name of God. I have tried, but I just can’t. Please just love everyone.” Maybe it is my time as a teacher or maybe it is just my personality, but I have always raised my girls to know and understand that we must always love the unlovable. I told them if someone is mean to them, befriend them. They probably need a friend. That doesn’t mean you don’t stick up for yourself or you let others walk all over you. It does mean some people just need love and acceptance for who they are and seek it out in odd ways.
I may be clueless when it comes to religion. But I do believe I am religious and spiritual. My message and His word will be spread by my actions. My goal is to raise children who do the same.
(photo credit: Grace Shines on Etsy)