The Difference Between Helping and Hurting
Anyone who drive faster that I do has a death-wish. Anyone who drives slower than I do is a slow-poke. Aren't those statements true for most of us?
It also shows up when we think about spirituality. Anyone who believes something more fanciful than what I believe is superstitious; anyone who can't believe what I believe is shallow.
In our American culture we maintain a high value on respecting each other's beliefs. I think most of us feel this is a good thing. It's one of our core founding principles.
But what happens when one person's beliefs infringe on someone else's rights? What if your beliefs make it acceptable, or even necessary, to be hateful to me?
We see these problems emerging from many cultural perspectives. Should Muslim Americans be allowed to practice Sharia law? Should Catholic employers be allowed to deny reproductive health coverage to their employees? Should fortune-tellers be allowed to scare clients into paying money to escort the deceased into heaven because it is part of their religious heritage? Should Born-Again Christians be allowed to discriminate against people based on sexual orientation?
Perhaps the litmus is this. If your beliefs cause you to hurt other people maybe you need to re-examine your beliefs. Maybe spirituality, no matter the history or heritage, needs to be about healing rather than hurting.
Maybe if you believe your God wants you to kill, hurt, manipulate or suppress others you just might be wrong. Maybe your scripture has been poorly translated or poorly interpreted. Maybe your scripture is just a reflection of the time in which it was written.
Perhaps of greater importance than religious text and tradition are the brains and hearts Higher Power gave us. We each have the ability to discern what helps from what hurts. Isn't that what any true Higher Power would want us to do?
Religious traditions may include some practices that seem silly to those from other cultures. But practicing those traditions can have power and significance to the individual and to the community.
Honoring our traditions can be wise, sacred and meaningful. But we also have to remember that some traditions can be hurtful. Traditions such as slavery and mutilation don't serve us - and never did.
Perhaps it is time to relinquish the aspects of our traditions that hurt while honoring the aspects that heal. Perhaps there is a space where reason, kindness and spirituality can meet.