…Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, or human.
Growing up, in Catholic school and out, the good nuns and priests, the lay teachers and my parents, taught me three things (not one of which was how to tie my shoelaces properly):
- Do unto others
- God = love
- To thine ownself be true
The first two are biblical, the last Shakespearean. Specifically growing up Christian, we were taught that the basics of morality derived from Christ and his teachings. I got the sense from my parents that this was simply the best and right way to live. Lend a hand. Don’t call people ugly. If you think something is wrong, say so. If you can do something about it, even better. The church added to this a sense of responsibility. It wasn’t just yourself and your fellow man you had to answer to, there was also God. In the end, would you go to heaven or hell? At the pearly gates, would you get an Atta Boy or a sentence in Purgatory?
Organized religion, like all institutions, is a mixed bag, but the advantage to creating a higher power to whom we must answer, works on the most basic level. Whether it’s necessary is debatable. Born-again Christians might argue with me, but I’d like to believe our human default is goodness and that the devil is defeated regularly. I might be wrong.
Let’s talk briefly about number one, above. “Do unto others” or “Love thy neighbor as thyself” are pretty clear statements. Don’t be a jerk. If you are, don’t be surprised when someone is a jerk to you. Any questions? My success rate on this is about 72.6%. Trying to get my numbers up, but you know, all those idiots and meanies. Even Christ wasn’t always kind, trash talking dogs and pigs and Pharisees.
Number two, above, is just what I heard, above the din of rhetoric about a punishing God. To this day, if I think of God, or a higher power, I think of benevolence and of love. The crap is man-made. Though I do believe that “God=love” is also about positive energy and spirituality because I grew up in California and sometimes we talk that way. A connection to this “love”, through good deeds, leads us to –
– Number three and the cause of so much angst in our lives, and perhaps the most difficult aspect of adolescence. “This above all – to thine ownself be true…” Take it out of context for a moment and let’s avoid the Shakespearean argument that Polonius was just a boorish father. As children, we knew little else but to feel our needs and seek to have them met. Gradually, we learned about others’ needs and the necessity of sharing. Life made sense, cause and effect. And then around 7th grade, things got muddy. What should be fair was not always. We saw injustice and asked, “How can that be?” Our girls wonder this aloud too often. Because to be true to ourselves means the world has to cooperate, and it doesn’t always. Do we then abandon our morals? The best among us get stronger and braver, living examples of the Serenity Prayer. Is that Christian? Yes, though not exclusively so.
Well, little buddy, I’ll tell you.
Because snowflakes on Starbucks’ coffee cups have NOTHING to do with ANYTHING, Christian or otherwise.
Again, that is all.