Two weeks ago, my friend Adwait wrote a guest post here: Thought for Food: Attachment. Last week, I mentioned that I was letting go from this blog a little bit. Letting go also means I’ll be sharing this space with Adwait occasionally. Is that cool? Let us know what you think! That said, here’s his potentially controversial post for today.
You’ve probably noticed that Pastor Jones of Gainesville, Florida is in the news again. What would Jesus have to say about his actions? I certainly don’t think he would award him a medal. Yes, 9/11 was tragic, very much so. Senseless violence that resulted in loss of innocent life. There is absolutely no way for us to try and make sense of what happened on that day. It’s not possible. But, for our part, resorting to vengeful, hateful and irresponsible deeds like those of our good Pastor here will not help us achieve anything. It will not solve our problems. Neither will it help end the meaningless violence being carried out in the name of religion the world over.
Obviously, since he lives in America, Jones enjoys the right to say and do as he pleases. But the world is not going to be oblivious to his actions. People take notice. Sentiments will be hurt. More fuel will be added to the ‘fight-fire-with-fire’ mentality. More anger, more protests, more flag burning, more threats and more loss of life. By the way, what about Pastor Jones’ congregation? Do they also hate just like he does? I shudder to think how far this has spread its wings. On the other hand, one might ask, why single him out? Why not call out the perpetrators who started this mess in the first place? Well, how far back in time shall we go? Religiously motivated violence has existed for centuries. When will this ever end? When are we going to stop hating and killing in the name of religion? It seems rather counterproductive, does it not? That’s not the point of religion.
No matter what his views are, Pastor Jones is just like you and I. Perhaps he grew up in an environment that was a breeding ground for narrow-mindedness and hatred. So it doesn’t seem too farfetched to think that had you or I been in his shoes we might have formed opinions similar to his. After all, underneath our skins and inside our bodies we all have the same heart, the same organs and the same mind. Our thoughts and opinions can easily be twisted and bent any which way. Just like the words in sacred texts that are misinterpreted and abused. So there is nothing that makes one person ‘more special’ than the next. Not religion, not race, not the size of your TV, not your Armani tuxedos, and not your imported caviar.
Look, we all want the same thing out of life. We all want to be happy and free from suffering. Whatever our beliefs, they are supposed to help guide us down that path. Our faith is simply the means to an end. Every religion at its core teaches brotherhood, to love and care for one another and to respect others. Every religion is rooted in the same basic belief that we are all equally capable of leading meaningful and happy lives. But instead of focusing on what should bring us together we continually find ways to highlight differences. Religion is supposed to benefit humanity and not drive us to the brink of our own destruction.
The 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, believes that “The purpose of all the major religious traditions is not to construct big temples on the outside, but to create temples of goodness and compassion inside, in our hearts.” Sadly, given the current state of affairs and our mindset in general, this only seems like wishful thinking.
Will we live to see the day when religion is no longer used as an excuse for violence and hatred?
Can we truly bring ourselves to change the way we perceive things we do not fully understand?