In the last few days there have been a ton of responses on Facebook to the horrible shooting that took place at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC. Now, before I get on my soap box, I want it to be known that I find what happened horrific… it saddens me tremendously that 9 beautiful lives were lost. Also, I want to make it clear that I am not against any religion and my comments here are to address (and yes, give my opinion to) a comment that many have made. Many of you have written: “The reason this shooting happened as well as so much other violence happening is because of the lack of Jesus and God in our lives.” Y’all, I find it so fascinating that one can point their finger at the white supremacist, the anti-semite and homophobe to say they are wrong BUT saying one must believe in Jesus and God is considered OK. Um, I hate to break this to you but that statement too is one of exclusion and lack of respect for others. When one has a belief that their way is the only way and everyone must follow it, in my opinion, is the same mentality of the extremists. No matter the scale of exclusion a group creates when one is so adamant they are right nothing good ever comes out of it.
For those who may not know… I am not only Jewish (more culturally than religiously), AND…are you ready for this? Well… I don’t believe in God. Gasping for air? Wanting to pray for me now? Oh, don’t bother. I’m totally fine with it. AND the last time I checked… this wonderful country of mine has allowed me to own who I am and to be able to express it freely. SO, no need to feel sorry for me or as if I am lost. Oh honey’s, I found myself a long, long time ago. It’s been years since I was lost. Frankly, my path has never been as illuminated as it has been today. And you know what? Would you believe I am totally fine with others who do believe in a deity? It’s true. In fact I not only respect that in others but I appreciate it. I love learning about it… not for the purpose of me taking it on but understanding other’s perspective of life. I never expect someone to believe as I do. I firmly believe it’s NOT necessary for everyone to have the same beliefs. Gosh, how boring would this world be if we all did?
Anyway, so, back to the comments I have seen. Because of my beliefs I feel compelled to respond to the idea “we need to have Jesus and God in our lives” in order to make the right choices. Here’s the thing. I hate to tell y’all BUT one does NOT need (anyone’s) religion to know what is the difference between right and wrong. Believe it or not even though I don’t believe in God, I FULLY understand the sanctity of (any) life and I hold it in very high regard. Folks, I save worms from the middle of the street and lizards from my cats. I am devastated when I hear someone is ill. Just because I don’t believe in God does NOT mean I am excluded from feeling love and compassion for others. Honestly, I don’t even believe religion can teach that value… that is something one is born with.
Listen, here’s the thing. Throughout history groups of people have been murdered in the name of religion. And sadly, those who believed in Jesus and God were among those violators. Take the crusaders… the destruction and death they caused in the name of Jesus and God was mind-blowing. Some today may say but they were excessive and they really weren’t true believers. Others have said the Crusaders were using their religion for the purpose of power. Well, folks, I hate to tell you but every religion who states their way is the only way is a form of power. And no matter the extreme of the religion or a person in that religion, that one way of thinking gives permission to the “believers” to place themselves on a pedestal (with “non believers” below). It sets up a hierarchy where those who don’t believe as you do viewed as being lost and needing help. And I can’t leave out they are seen as uneducated. There is no room or as I like to call it… respect and acceptance for another person’s beliefs. And this is where I feel so many of us are missing what is so clearly in front of us…actually slapping us in the face over and over again. That lack of respect and acceptance that is built into so many religions, I feel, is the very place where bigotry stems and grows. Come on. How many out there are judging me (and others) right now because I don’t believe in Jesus or God? How many see me as lost, needing help…to be educated? If only I could see the light or open my heart then I could know the world of Jesus and or God, right? Well, here’s the thing. Because that belief prohibits and leaves no room for any other belief system, it helps facilitate hatred. Gosh, how does it NOT create a built in system to grow bigotry and hatred? After all, it’s human nature to feel powerful when we feel we are right. It’s human nature to judge others when we feel we have been given spiritual truth. And yet it is in that mentality where I see the acceptance of injustice, discrimination and supremacy.
OK, so, I know my example of the Crusades was from a long, long, long time ago. Here, let me give you a list of more modern day examples where the person who committed the crime said Jesus and/or God came first in their lives. 1)Wisconsin Sikh Temple massacre, Aug. 5, 2012. 2) Dr. George Tiller, murdered May 31, 2009 3)Knoxville Unitarian Universalist Church shooting, July 27, 2008 4) Dr. John Britton, murdered July 29, 1994 5)Centennial Olympic Park bombing, July 27, 1996 6) Suicide attack on IRS building in Austin, Texas, Feb. 18, 2010 7) Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombing, April 19, 1995.
Listen, when I think of those victims in Charleston, it angers me that their lives were taken in the very place they should have been safe. They were in their place of worship celebrating what was so important to them. A madman took that away from them and that is inexcusable. I would NEVER condone what he did AND I am NOT suggesting at all that religion caused it.
My point is when so many have said “all we need is more Jesus and God” in our lives, I ask that they take more time to think about what they are saying…to understand that by saying that they are excluding many good people. I ask that they be more sensitive to those who believe differently. I ask that they look internally (and inside their own religion) to identify how their beliefs and teachings may facilitate hatred of any kind. Hell, if we each took responsibility within each of our spiritual homes, I feel strongly we can make positive changes for the better. Will it stop crazy people from killing others? I’d like to think if it stopped ONE person then it is well worth it. It’s crucial that each of us stop pointing our finger’s outwardly and turn them inwardly. Let’s stop pointing them to the religion next to us and point them at our own. Let’s begin making changes from with in our own communities and taking responsibility for the things we are responsible for AND can change. Our children are some of our greatest gifts… we have the power to leave to them a better world … one where our differences are celebrated instead of disregarded.
And for the victims in Charleston…as we say in Judaism…may their memory be a blessing.