Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Just Give It Up, Wouldja?

A few years ago on a public diary site, I used to engage in heated post-battles with an extreme Evangelical Protestant. Don't get me wrong -- we didn't hate each other, or even dislike each other. We just disagreed on quite a few theological points. He, like so many who subscribe to his beliefs, loathes the Pope with a passion unrivalled in most wedding-night bedrooms. I, on the other hand, was primarily raised Catholic, and after wandering through different belief systems as though I was an explorer in a foreign land for over ten years, somehow found myself back home within the Catholic church.

Not to say I agree with every single thing written in the catechism. I don’t. I was even taught by my high school theology teacher to question everything. (Very Jewish, that.) To put it succinctly, I believe that if you listen to your conscience and honestly try to follow its advice, you’ll be A-OK with Homedood Upstairs. I don’t believe there is One True Religion. There can’t possibly be. I do believe that at the heart of every religion in the world is a basis of truth, though. Whether or not it’s a truth you want to acknowledge is up to you.

I know in the Protestant churches, it is believed that people are saved by faith alone. Unfortunately, I see all too often where this is translated as “We don’t have to do anything but believe and be saved”. A wonderful woman I know mentioned this in her blog a few days ago, and I replied that I will never, ever be able to belive in the “faith, not works” bit. “I've watched people's interpretation of that in action (or should I say lack of action). She said that Paul tells that faith without works is dead, which is what I believe, too. Only too many times I see people who believe that donating to charity during the holiday season, or plunking a few bucks in the offering basket is enough.

It’s not. Not to me, at any rate.

How many times have you passed a homeless person on the street, and instead of just ignoring that person, offered them a smile. Or maybe handed over the doggy bag from the restaurant where you just ate. If someone asked you for a cigarette, you gave them two or three. What about that extra-large soda you’ve been toting around, knowing you won’t finish it? Maybe that guy over there digging through the trash next to the bus stop would appreciate it before you toss it. How about remembering your manners, and if you see someone who would appreciate that seat on the bus or train that your butt is currently warming, get up and offer it to them. (If you live in Los Angeles, it might be a good idea to offer it while your butt still occupies it… I’ve seen people literally sit underneath people trying to offer seats.) If someone is trying to merge into traffic or change into your lane, don’t speed up and play Block The Vehicle. Slow down a bit and let them in. Just because no one does it for you doesn’t mean you should go along with popular action.

And this translates universally, whether you have a “belief system” or simply don’t give a damn about that subject. It’s about just being nice. It’ll come back to you.

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