All too often we imagine acceptance of other religions boiling down to the “Holy Wars” fought by the Muslims and the Christians in the middle ages. I had not been exposed to other religions, nor was I readily seeking out those areas outside my safety net. As I’ve written; faith is a journey and an exploration of our innermost drives and to seek understanding. That was my desire to partake in my own ‘pilgrimage’. Would I be accepted in these places of worship given my faith and beliefs? Would I somehow be snatched away from my faith, and fall away from following the “true religion” I was practicing and be cast into Hell?! (Okay, the last one was hyperbole.)
Recently, I’ve had the pleasure of being welcomed to two fine churches: St. Patricks’ Orthodox Church, and the Church of Latter Day Saints. As a new comer to both places; my first inclination was that horrible 4th grade moment when the teacher implores you to stand and introduce yourself awkwardly. Fortunately for me, Jesters and Harlequins, that was not my lot. Both times my friends who had invited me were wonderfully helpful, and of course, of fantastic quality and character (Olivia, Victoria). I must of course bear witness to my own faith and say I am a practicing Roman-Catholic, and that not everyone is a “fan” of Catholicism. As such I’m sure you could appreciate my doubt and apprehension as to the acceptance of others. But as I’ve said both churches were wonderfully inviting, and the two churches had something in common.
Yes, different religions/different churches are not without strife and flaws of their own, but the essence of faith is: the belief in love, honorable behavior, and a central focus on a benevolent God/being in our lives. Those three principles, to anyone of faith, don’t seem an impossible lifestyle to commit to. At the Church of Latter Day Saints they stressed the morals that a person of Christ should follow: honesty (avoiding stealing, relationships, mistakes, etc.), loving God, and the importance of the family unit. I thought to myself ‘Wow, these don’t seem like any radically new ideas’. In fact St. Patricks Orthodox Church had a wonderful message as well. In their homily Mr. Cardine expressed, openly, his love for his family and how being the child of a priest can be trying at times, and he even discussed a sad highlight of a child’s passing and the community’s out pouring of love and prayer towards the family.
Now, take a second and focus on the principles which I spoke of and think about your faith. Despite the differences in semantics; are we not closer as people of faith then we would like to admit? My point is: we are. There is nothing more empowering and inspiring than to see a team rise up as one. That is what faith is. We come together to meet and to pray as one. We, as humans, make things too complicated with ulterior motives and deception. All religion needs to be is an expression of love shown by a congregation.
In summation, our similarities as people of faith should be what drives us to love one another not tear us apart. If we “love thy neighbor”, moral behavior, and a trust and faith in God will lead us to the right path. No matter where you find yourself in life if you have love for your brother or sister you have love for the one that created them. I hope you find the path that leads you closer to “the Creator”, and may that path be filled with love.
Love. Love. Love.