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Good Morning Nanty Glo!
            Friday, March 7 2003 

Jon Kennedy, webmasterCulture wars - 5

Judging other religions and in particular their adherents, is futile, not to mention prohibited in the sermon on the mount, but it's also part of the basic human trait that leads to wars and strife. If we're really right (and why would we put our life's devotion into something about which we think less?), the people who are religiously against us must be wrong. But we're summoned by common sense, biblical teaching, and civil law to get along. Love thy neighbor. I'm convinced that any condemnation or speaking ill of our neighbors, whether Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Jews, or Muslims—not to mention old-fashioned heathens—is part of what's prohibited in the Lord's admonition, "judge not." But on the other hand (I feel a bit like Tevya in Fiddler on the Roof here), still...we have to know what the other religions teach and how those teachings regard us and "our" religion and whether they might have some secret weapon in their apologetic arsenal to disarm us in the fight of faith. Know them, then; don't judge.

Many of us can remember when this was not a widely shared viewpoint. Maybe today's children also feel much like we did, because, I suppose, childen want and probably can't handle much more than black and white categories of right and wrong, even right and wrong in beliefs. I was probably as convinced of the superiority of Fords over Chevys when I was in third grade as I was Protestantism over Catholicism. So as I say, I'm not sure how much of it is just maturing in my thinking, able to entertain far far more grey areas than I could in childhood, and how much of it is that I truly understand and empathize with Catholics more than I did then. I'd rather, of course, believe it's mostly the latter.

A large part of that growing openness toward Catholicism, at least on the rational level, has come about because I came to realize that a far greater threat to Protestantism or Christianity-as-I-understood-it than Catholicism was secularism or humanism (defined not in its classical sense but as the philosophy of putting man at the center and as the "all in all" of the universe, displacing God). All of a sudden I realized I had more in common with the Pope himself than the "secular" in-name-only Protestants like Dwight Eisenhower and Adlai Stevenson, Lyndon Johnson and Barry Goldwater, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Gene McCarthy and on and on, to pick examples (without judging, of course) from politics alone.

It's interesting that Fiddler on the Roof came up in this context. It's the quintessential feel-good entertainment treatment of Judaism from the nearly modern era (about a century ago). You can't help loving Tevya and even thinking, "he's a lot like me," or even, "he's a lot like what I'd like to be more like myself. More sure of my close relationship with God, of His intervention in my life...." We've all had Jewish acquaintances and friends, role models of good neighbors, whether they were Nanty Glo merchants, professionals, and newspaper publishers prior to the 1970s, college classmates or co-workers on the job, or at least in movies, on television, radio, and the other media, like the previously discussed Dennis Prager. My experience is that although they don't believe in God the same way I do, we also (like Protestants and Catholics) have a common enemy (secularism, a spirit of violence, disregard for the holiness of life all around in our world, even the ubiquitous orneriness of everyday life) and therefore we should be allies, friends, neighbors.

You may not know any Mormons, maybe you haven't met any Muslims that you know of, but I think if you got to know some, you'd find they're not "the enemy," either.

—Webmaster Jon Kennedy

 Imponderables

Why is it in America there's a general in charge of the post office, and a secretary in charge of defense?

Lenten thought for the day

Christian "faith runs hard against the grain of the spirit of this age. It doesn't ask us to come under its authority so that we can find a warm, comfortable, meaningful faith that fits our lifestyle. Instead, it calls us to fast, to weep bitterly for our sins, to deny our personal pleasures and comforts, to yield to spiritual authority, to mistrust our own judgments, to genuinely forgive the unforgivable, and to honestly love the unlovable. In short, it calls us to live a life that is entirely 'not of this world' (John 18:36)."

—Matthew Gallatin
Thirsting for God

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