I have officially moved to Delaware to start my life as a doctoral student. It may seem to some that I am starting a brand new life but I am really just continuing my journey in a different place. This is an important distinction. Although, I am a new doctoral student, I am still the same person I have been. Although, since my time in India, I am more aware of the similarities of people in spite of perceived differences. In some ways, I feel wiser and in some ways, I think I am more cantankerous and ornery. In any case, I recognize there is far more to religion and faith than just my faith and just my perspective. To be a person who fits into the global world, we must be more accepting of people in the realm of faith and religion.
For the purposes of this post, religion is the organized body of a particular belief structure and faith is an individual’s spiritual leanings and practice. Before I started my travels, I used to work as a disaster manager for an American faith-based social service delivery organization where I worked with people from many faiths across the United States. In the space between religion and faith is the realm where life exists for people who are affected by disasters. My work often centered in this space and I became efficient at navigating between religions and faiths. It turns out that every organization has a need for competent administrative functioning in order to help people. I focused on what I could do to help people and kept my opinions of the politics to myself. After all, disasters do not discriminate against people or religions and politics helps no one.
Lately, I have been very honest (cough, cough) about my personal feelings for the charlatans in the religious world. Recently, I was chastised on Facebook for seeming to have a vendetta against Christians because I shared a meme about requiring churches to pay taxes because of an affluent Texas televangelist. For the record, I am a progressive Catholic and this was not my first post challenging Christian religious practice, as it is known in certain areas. While a few just admonished me generally for having the temerity to constantly challenge religious notions, others gave me information to correct the error I had made in this meme. I did indeed make an error by sharing this meme. Fortunately for me, I had friends who took the time to do more than admonish me or question my faith or challenge my standing as a human being. They explained the tax law for the pastor versus the tax law for his church and reminded me of all of the small houses of worship out in the world that do so much for so many people with so little money.
How could I have forgotten that all of this is always about the people? Faith is always about people. People sharing of themselves even when they have nothing. Remember how I said I used to work in disasters? Well, my best memories of that work are about people who came from the local communities or around the country to give of themselves to help a stranger who may have lost their home because of a tornado or a flood. No one asked what faith or religion the affected persons belonged to or practiced. They just practiced their own faith and helped someone in need.