Thank goodness the fourth of July is over, at least for another year. There haven’t been any fireworks booming, banging, and hissing for a few nights, and the cats have returned to their usual selves. I feel sorry for them when they get upset – which is infrequently. I can’t explain why the noise is temporary and why we set fireworks on particular events. Heaven, help me; sometimes, I can’t figure that out either.
I can’t say that this July 4th was a particularly joyous one. With all the political jiggery going on, the day we celebrate having rights we won by defeating the British seems like a mockery. Come to think of it, many of our religious liberties are being dictated to us by people who disagree with us on what religion is and which one is the most correct.
I notice that rights are being determined by theo-political groups who pride themselves on being firm believers in their version of the “true religion.” Many of these groups take pride in demanding freedom of religion for their beliefs, yet, they do not wish to allow it for any other group who disagrees. I find it strange that some groups are very much anti-abortion because, to them, abortion is murder. Yet, the same groups are often very vocal about their right to own assault military assault weapons. Some religious groups believe that life begins at conception, even though the embryo is non-viable on its own at that stage. In contrast, others believe life begins at the first breath outside the womb. Who’s right? And who has the right to demand their position is the only true and correct one?
I am a Christian by choice and Episcopalian by conviction. I don’t believe my church has all the answers to every question, but it teaches me that faith in God’s grace and Jesus’s teachings are paramount. I believe in diversity because I’ve been taught that all people are children of God, whether or not they use that name or understand God the same way I do or even look the same way I do. I don’t think God will be upset with me because I love the history, traditions, and struggles the church has gone through and continues to work through to this day.
I find beauty and strength in other faiths as well as my own. To me, Buddhist Zen gardens and meditations are like contemplative and centering prayer in my own tradition. Jewish history and traditions are among the cornerstones of my own Christianity, and we use the writings found in the Tanakh in our own Bibles. The Five Pillars of Islam are like our Ten Commandments, basic rules for living which include worshipping God and caring for others. Native Americans revere creation, the lives and traditions of their ancestors, and strive to walk in beauty throughout their lives. My own Christianity is expanded and enriched by acknowledging the gifts other faiths bring to the table. Maybe I’m wrong, but it’s what my faith and my heart tell me.
I don’t want everybody in the universe to be Episcopalian (although it would be lovely if we all sang out of the same hymnbooks!). Neither do I want everybody to be Roman Catholic, Muslim, Jewish, Native American, Hindu, Animist, Evangelical, or any other single belief system.
Imagine the crown jewels of Great Britain. Wouldn’t they be boring if they were all diamonds or all pearls? What if every tree were the same size, shape, and shade of green? What if all rocks were the same size or composed of the same mineral? Wouldn’t it be boring if every day were sunny with no rain or snow for a change? What about if everyone had to wear the same color of clothes, say sky blue pink, as my Mama would say? Even if everyone spoke the same language, like English, we still would have misunderstandings because we don’t all understand life the same way and have our own interpretation of what a specific word means (not to mention idioms and spellings).
I know we have many problems to overcome, and in my heart, I despair at many of the decisions made these days. Even when there were only two people in the Garden of Eden, they still didn’t agree on everything. But maybe if we all paid attention to basics like being kind to one another, treating others with respect, and honoring the earth and all it gives us, things would be better?
I hope next time the Fourth of July rolls around, things will be better, brighter, and more geared toward equality and justice, as the Founding Fathers hoped. Meanwhile, I’ll continue to pray, try to respect others the way I would like to be respected, and work to help others feel safe, equal, and accepted. And may next year be quieter so that the animals aren’t frightened and lost because humans have to make a lot of noise that sounds like war to celebrate freedom and peace.