Thursday, August 03, 2006

the r-word again

The other night I was out for drinks, and someone said that they couldn't stand religious people. It never really became a serious conversation, and there were guffaws and light-heartedness. Still, my heart quickened and my blood seemed to thicken, a reaction common in me when met by attitudes that I strongly oppose. I felt the poles of passion and reason magnetize strongly. Of course I can deal with hearing things I don't agree with. Of course I can try to see the other person's perspective. But first I had to let that wave of instinctive anger sweep over me. Then I took my little teaspoon of anger, and tried to imagine how this person felt every time he was confronted with such "religiosity." And I was reminded of something.

Anger often surfaces as a reaction to injustice. That is why I think the first tremours of anger are good--they render us moral and alive. If it's been a long time since I got really angry, maybe I should be worried. So in a way, this person's anger was a wake-up call. Maybe it wasn't anger I felt at all. Maybe I understood exactly what he meant, and hated it too. Maybe I wanted to change his mind but knew what a feat that would be to even attempt. Maybe I just wanted him to meet one single solitary person who could move him an inch from his hatred.

All I could manage was a calm, "so how do you define 'religious?' " To which I didn't really get an answer. Then the conversation slipped away down the eavestroph of forgotten words, and something else replaced it. Religion says very little about God. Religions says more about us and our inadequacies. It is the way we reach towards something more beautiful and more true and we are. We can find God in it, but we must be very, very careful not to get in the way.

My fingers tingled and I longed to show him a glimpse of what it is like to be persued by God. My heart thudded and I feared all that conspires to try to show me the allure of running away.


jm said...

Thanks for the post, Jen! I like the suggestion that a little anger is necessary. I've certainly felt that same twinge of anger many times, sitting in the hallowed classrooms of our wonderful liberal arts university... But anger can inspire constructive thought (as your post demonstrates).

First time visiting but I'll be back.

Ruth said...

Do not believe in telling people of one's faith, especially with a view to conversion.
Faith must be lived, and when it is, it becomes self-propagating
Mahatma Gandhi

I find this inspiring when my little teaspoon of anger is spilled.
Great post, I can relate.

Elliot said...

Glad to see I'm not the only one who has that reaction from time to time.

It always seems a bit insulting that people who would never say "I hate all women" or "I hate all whites" would write off an overwhelming majority of people, living or dead, by saying they hate "religious people." It reveals just how pathetically limited their circle of friends is, and realizing that has helped me be a bit kinder when I hear it.

wefl said...

Jen, isn't persecution a blessing? Or, to approach this from a different angle - didn't Christ despise "religiosity"?

Jen said...

Hi wefl, I don't know who you are but thanks for your comment. I guess persecution does teach us and challenge us. However, I don't think that means we can't get angry when it happens. I don't think that Christ's despising religiosity condones hating all religious people, in the broadest sense of the word. I see what you're getting at though, often I catch a little of his wrath in the people least associated with him. I think there are lots of people who would call themselves "religious" though, without embodying the traits Christ spoke against.