The Institute for Spirituality and Health
Exploring the connections between spirituality and health.
blog-header.jpg

Blog

Spirited Words

See below for a collection of reflections, writings, essays, poems, and other contributions that the ISH community has submitted over the years. We hope you enjoy.

If you are interested in submitting a piece to our blog, please contact Anyang Anyang <anyanganyang@ish-tmc.org>. We publish writing that relates to our mission of enhancing well-being by exploring the relationship between spirituality and health.

 

Religious Persecution Must Stop!

By John Graham

July 10th, 2012

Who can imagine the horror of having someone pour battery acid on your face and down your throat?  Burning out one of your eyes?   I honestly don’t see how any human could do that to another human or even an animal for that matter.  A frontpage leading article by Susan Carroll in the Houston Chronicle on Sunday, July 8 (A-1) told the story of how acid was thrown on the face of a 16 year old girl in Pakistan, by a man who falsely accused her of blasphemy.  Eventually, she was brought to Houston where it took 26 surgeries to get her to look as good as she does today.  As a former plastic surgeon, I can say the surgeons at the Shriner’s Hospital in Houston did a great job of reconstruction.  The tragic thing is, the potential for evil is in the heart of every man and woman on earth.   We have done horrific things like this to each other throughout human history, usually under the canopy of “war” which seems to give us permission to do anything to the “enemy,” even the innocent and unarmed.  No one is safe, not even a child or a babe in arms.  Especially not a beautiful young woman. 

We try to escape responsibility for these kinds of things thinking only others could do these horrible acts against humanity.  A Christian will focus on the fact the acid in this case was thrown down this woman’s throat by a Muslim.  How quickly we forget the things we Christians have done in the past to Muslims, Jews, and Native American Indians.  Always the answer is, “Yes, but they started it first.”  Perhaps, but once that rationalization is said, everything is permitted including every horror imagineable.  And, just when you think we are matured past doing these things, at least in America — Waterboarding at Gantanamo and the atrocities at Abu Ghabi Prison appear to our utter dismay.  It is clearly in human nature to do these things, whatever your religion or country of origin may be.

My concern is that the woman pictured on the front page of the Houston Chronicle may be targeted by those who will try to shut her up thinking she is making Muslims look bad. Christians will believe her story that it was the Muslim men who said she, being Christian, was in darkness and would go to Hell.  And, Muslims will say she is lying and that it was she who said this about the Muslim faith — that all Muslims are in darkness and will go to Hell.   Will our madness ever end?  Will we ever stop defending our beliefs by mutilating others?

The fact is, truth needs no defense and truth needs no argument, it is self-evident  To harm another person for their beliefs is a sign of emotional and spiritual immaturity.  It is childlike behavior; not that of a mature, confident adult.  To harm someone because their beliefs are different from ours is also a sign we are not secure in our own beliefs.  If we were, we wouldn’t be upset no matter what the other person might say or do.  When our faith is secure, it needs no defense.  It matters not what others may think or say.  We know what we believe.  We can leave that person and walk away.  We don’t have to try to silence or kill them. 

Every major religion on earth affirms all human beings are creatures of God.  Every religion encourages us to have compassion for all people and to respect the dignity of every human being.  Want to show you truly affirm your own beliefs?  Then, practice compassion and respect for those who hold views that are different from yours.

When I attended Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, CA, I was taught that human beings are so creative that if one group is separated from another for just 25 years each group will have developed a new set of artifacts (tools), have new music, art, litature and new set of beliefs (religion).   If that is true, we must realize people groups historically have been separated from one another for hundreds and thousands of years.  That is why we have different languages, customs and religions. 

If I had been born in India, I would likely have been raised Hindu and would embrace Hinduism.  Had I been born in Iraq, I would likely have been raised in a Muslim household.  And, had I been born in another age and lived in America, I would have been raised to offer prayers to the Great Spirit and my deceased relatives.   The same is true for the vast majority of people on this planet.  Sure there are those who convert to a faith but they are the exception.  The tragic thing is most of us don’t practice the precepts of our religion.  Too often, we do just the opposite and that in the name of God, a travesty.

A few have chosen to embrace a religion different from their family of origin, but most have not.  Most people remain in the religion of their parents and marry a person of their faith.  That is fine.  No problem unless we look on people of other faiths are less than our people, deserving no respect and no dignity.  Do that and we can justify demonic acts “in the name of God.”  As terroists do, yelling the name of their God as they blow up buildings filled with good men, women and children.

I see it this way.  The one true God has revealed Himself to every human being on this planet.  God’s Spirit has touched our spirits and those who were open to God became our spiritual leaders and have written about their experience which we make our sacred writings.  But, God has not just spoken to us, God has spoken to everyone and we all have a measure of God’s truth.  It is time we acknowledge that fact and instead of rejecting another’s faith, affirm it and celebrate it.  There are far more similarities between the great religions of the world then there are differences.   Every great religion has a founding figure, sacred writings, sacred architecture, art, and music, a moral code and set of ethics.  Every major religion has ordained clerics, monks, priests, gurus — men and women committed to sharing their tradition and passing it on to the next generation.  We are immeasureably blessed by these religions.  The world would be a much meaner place without them.  The task before us to not to run from our religions, but rather to learn all we can about the great religions which are embraced by people in every nation in the world.   We need to value and respect these great religions and their teachings.  They are the glue that holds millions and billions of people together and understanding them will help us understand each other at a heart level.

Religion is not our problem; human nature is our problem.   Human nature likes to categorize things into two camps and may the twain never meet.  Black and white.  Male and female.  Catholic and Baptist.  Christian and Muslim.  Believer and Infidel. The problem is when we divide ourselves into separate categories (we are in the best one, of course) we are not far from demonizing those are in another camp, another tribe, another religion, or with no religion.   And, in order to demonize people we have to dehumanize them so we can say the things we do about them.  Then, we can curse them, abuse them, slander them, lie about them, rape them, steal their possessions and kill them.  I won’t give examples, because it will only implant anew these thoughts in our minds.  But we all know this is true.  Human nature is our problem, but we can rise above it.  And, the best aspects of our religious faith systems can help us to do that very thing — rise above our human, beastly nature to become truly men and women of God.

It is time, I believe, for people across this planet to say, “Enough is enough!  It is a new day.  A day in which people of all faiths respect one another.”  

If we don’t do this, God help us. 

Sara Moore