Saturday, April 13, 2013

Respecting the crickets


Silence. All I could hear was the crickets. The silence was palpable. 
For those not familiar with the idiomatic expression "crickets," well, it means that what was said was a conversation-stopper. There was silence after something said and all that could be heard was the sound of crickets.

Another way we say this is: "After she said that, it was so quiet you could hear a pin drop."

That's how it felt after my last blog entry on my interest in spirituality.

Hmm. How to take that, I thought. Don't think too much about it, I tell myself, yet I do. I can see on my blogger dashboard that people are clicking on the link. Different possibilities came to my mind:

People clicked but didn't read.
People read but didn't agree, like or care.
People agreed or were interested, but thought nothing more.
People just thought I was weird.

Yes, I am weird. Okay, I'm fine with that.

But mostly I imagined the silence was judgement. I felt vulnerable. I knew this was my own insecurity to deal with. I was not necessarily seeking approval, but it felt uncomfortable to potentially be misunderstood.

In my quest to write and share on this silly blog did I let go more of myself than I wanted to?

I sang to myself a play on one of my favorite R.E.M. songs.

"Oh no, I've shared too much, I haven't shared enough."

I could turn the whole thing off or face how I felt, grow some, and work through the self-acceptance challenge I presented myself with, since I was sure this was my own thing to deal with and no one else was probably even giving it the second thought that I was.

I chose to continue on through my feelings of vulnerability and grow.

This is why, I realized, I don't talk about religion or politics with others. There's a reason I'm private about these topics. I don't mind listening to others, but sharing on these topics is more difficult for me if it doesn't feel safe with an atmosphere open to differing opinions.

A social network probably wasn't the place to share, I thought. I have no issues discussing these topics with close family and friends. But hey, I'm looking to grow here and thought maybe there'd be some like-minded folks to converse with.

I read and re-read what I wrote. I didn't regret what I had written. I was being true to my own thoughts. Spirituality is not a curse word. It's a good thing, albeit, at times, misunderstood.

Would there have been responses if I made it clear that I am still Catholic, the religion I was born into? Would people have "liked" my post if it explicitly mentioned that, in addition to being spiritual, I believe in God?

I hope that's not the case since I'd like to think that those who know me care about me because I am a good person and not whether I hold the same beliefs as them or not.

The point of my post, though, wasn't about my own religious beliefs. It was to share how exciting it is for me to learn about other religions and observe the similarities in belief systems across the world.

I raised my children in the religion I was born into. I went to Catholic grade school, high school, and college. I taught CCD (Confraternity of Christian Doctrine) classes for more than eleven years through my church.

As many do, I provided a foundation as I saw fit for my own children. I never told any of them that I expected them to be married in our faith or in the Catholic church, yet they all chose to be married in the church. I know they knew I would love them all the same no matter.

I like belonging somewhere. I think we all do. Everyone finds places to belong that make them feel right in the world. It's different for us all. I don't believe it's my place to judge what's right or wrong for others.

I told you before I think a lot. Probably more than for my own good, as you can guess from my posts. It's what I like to do, though. So I continued to analyze the situation.

I also considered that my statement that I identify more as spiritual than religious was misunderstood or possibly surprised some. I contemplated that I didn't do a good job explaining what that meant for me.

Being "religious" can mean "a faithful devotion to an acknowledged ultimate reality or deity." With that as the definition, then I am religious. I choose to pray to God, in the religion I was born into.

But I'm so fine with someone else who is devoted to Buddha, Allah, or a Universal Light that created All That Is Good. Hmm, I understand that others may not feel comfortable with that idea, but that's okay. They don't have to. It's my belief.

"Religious" can also mean "devoted to religious beliefs or observances." Here's where I've developed my own thoughts about some man-made religious rules.

Although I enjoy the spirit of community and belonging, I no longer thankfully worry as I did as a child that I will be damned to hell for eternity if I do not follow the religious guideline and I miss Sunday mass. It's my spiritual belief that I can be in communion 24/7 with the God I pray to, and I prefer that over just reserving one hour on Sunday.

Another point I made is that I don't agree there is one true religion. This belief goes back to my days at La Salle University. It was a wondrous awakening through required religion courses I took when I learned about world religions.

I remember going home each night to share with my parents at the dinner table what I was learning about other religions and the commonalities I could see across them all. I could see then we were all so different, yet so much the same.

My parents were also amazed to hear what I was learning. Before that opportunity for me to be the first in our family to receive a higher education, we all had only been exposed to what we knew and heard about our own religion. La Salle University gave me that perspective that I would not have easily had access to otherwise.

Many years ago, one Sunday, a parish priest at the time gave a homily that left much in my mind to be desired. Without going into unnecessary detail of the many awful examples he made, the priest went on and on with much obvious disdain for others, that Catholicism was the one true religion, and that anyone who thought anything different was "pathetic." His harsh, unforgiving word.

At the end of the homily he had to read weekly announcements, which for that day happened to be an invitation to join an upcoming interdenominational ecumenical service, a gathering across churches and religions to promote unity. How hypocritical he sounded!

Crickets in the church. We could have definitely heard a pin drop. I'd surmise that no one thought the lecture was appropriate. Everyone left mass that day in silence, which says a lot considering the number in attendance.

After the mass, my husband and I were obviously indignant. How could this priest say these things to us? How dare he put down all those good people who follow other religions, including Judaism?

Jesus was a Jew! We ourselves have friends from across so many religions! How could he say those things in the name of goodness and God? My parents who had been at mass with us seemed dazed and confused.

When hubby and I explained what bothered us about the unnecessary and lengthy criticism of other religions in this priest's homily, my parents who grew up "old school" acknowledged that the talk didn't seem right and they felt uncomfortable, but they weren't sure what to think.

They admitted they were accustomed to just following along with whatever the Church and higher authorities taught them to believe, but what he said didn't seem right. No, it wasn't.

I am not telling you this story as an argument to go against my own religion. I can imagine a similar proclamation like this being made by any small-minded person in any religion or non-religion, in any city, in any country. This specific commentary is attributed to one particular person, not an organized religion as a whole.

I choose not to "throw out the baby with the bath water," another idiomatic expression used to suggest an avoidable error in which something good is eliminated when trying to get rid of something bad, or in other words, rejecting the essential along with the inessential.

I don't throw out my religion because one person said something I don't like or there's a rule that I'm not exactly in agreement with. I have been educated to make my own decisions.

I do not feel a need to leave my religion because of one person's prejudice and bigotry or even the inappropriate actions of a larger group within the organization.

I am free to make my own decision about what I believe and don't believe. I choose not to believe what this one person shared about other religions.

Catholic Charities is a worldwide network of charities whose aim is to "reduce poverty, support families, and empower communities."

The mission of Catholic Charities agencies is to provide service to people in need, to advocate for justice in social structures, and to call the entire church and other people of good will to do the same.

This is the catholic, universal church I am proud to belong to.

My Lasallian education has provided me with the tools to make good and thoughtful decisions about what is right and wrong for me. In the tradition of the Christian Brothers, based on the teachings of innovative educator John Baptiste de La Salle, La Salle University offers quality education founded on the idea that one's intellectual and spiritual development go hand in hand.

"The University strives to foster an environment of faith which produces a reciprocal respect among all persons in the community and to establish an atmosphere in which community members may openly bear witness to their convictions on world peace and social justice."

Lasallian schools welcome students of all faiths, believers and nonbelievers alike. The Lasallian approach to teaching and learning is based on the idea that education is how we give back to others
that we can only truly understand ourselves in relation to the world and the people that surround us.

At the end of the day, it's my personal hope and prayer that we treat each other the way we want to be treated and can respect all good, even when it's different from our own homegrown definition. We can agree to disagree and still respect what we don't understand or agree with, without changing our own belief system.

I didn't write all this and touch on the topic of religion again to change anyone else's beliefs. Rather, my goal is to expand that this is my journey, my quest to share my own resolution to understand other perspectives and look at the good in someone before I inappropriately reserve a judgement about their beliefs or non-beliefs.

In my previous post I didn't explicitly share my religious beliefs to make the point about my own interest in spirituality and world religions.

Although my religious beliefs shouldn't matter to anyone but me, the silence, which may have meant nothing, compelled me to close a circle I started to draw.

I respect that not everyone is interested in the topics I am, but I do hope always that the people of this world can respect differences in each other.

At the end of the day, I'm thankful for this exercise I put myself through. I can only resolve to work on myself, try not to take things personally, and respect the crickets.

Until next time, respectfully yours...Therese

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