L. Neil Smith's
Number 322, June 5, 2005

"We have met the enemy, and he is us."—Pogo

People of Faith
Ron Beatty

Exclusive to TLE

One of the things which irritates me immensely is the phrase 'people of faith.' Generally, this is used in such a way as to include only fundamentalist, evangelical Christians, implying that anyone other than that is someone without faith, without spirituality, and by extension, without morals. This is not only completely not true, it is a tremendous insult to the many devout people who live their faith, each and every day.

As I think I have made clear in several of my articles, I am not a Christian, at least not in the conventional sense of the word. Do I follow the teachings of Yeshua bar Maryam? Depends on which teachings. If you mean the core teachings, the love, tolerance, and respect, absolutely! Do I think the Bible has something to offer everyone? Absolutely!

The point here is that just because someone does not share your faith, that doesn't mean they don't have a religious belief that they feel is just as valid as your own. Instead of labels, look at lives! Is the person who you are calling a 'witch', a demon-worshipper, a satanist, a heretic, or whatever the currently fashionable label is today a good person? Do they harm others? Do they gossip viciously? Do they persecute those who are different? Do they harass and vilify those who don't follow their own path? Do they attempt to force others to follow their chosen path? If they don't, leave them alone! Then turn around and answer these same questions with regard to your own conduct. Who is doing wrong here?

I was recently reading an article about a fundamentalist, evangelistic church in Colorado Springs. These people are so self-righteous that they boasted of harrassing and persecuting those who didn't share their faith, to the point of forcing them to move out of town. Considering that Yeshua dined with those of different faiths, social class and standing, how well are these people following the example of the founder of their faith?

Yeshua was a very wise man. He knew that strident militancy in public was counter-productive, indulging in it only once that is recorded in the four canonical gospels, when he over-turned the tables of the money-changers in the Temple. Other than that, the gospels are full of tales of him dining with sinners, healing those who were considered oppressors, outcast, or unclean.

Perhaps the point of all this is that we face too many trials in the coming years. We simply cannot afford to factionalize ourselves into political impotency. Do those who are Christians have any more desire to live in a fundamentally 'good' society than a pagan does? Not at all. Both want to live in a place that will allow them the freedom to follow their own heart, their own path to all that is good. Both follow the same basic tenets, in that neither would willingly harm another human being without being provoked first. While they will not agree with each other on specifics, they even basically have the same guiding precept, the Golden Rule. Wiccans call this the Rede, and both basically say the same thing, don't do anything to others that you don't want them to do to you. This same concept has been taught by almost every major religion or religious leader: Moses, Zoroaster, Mithras, Buddha, Yeshua, Mohammed, even Confucius!

Deep down, are we really that different, no matter what we call ourselves? Even though I am not a Christian, I can honor the teachings of Yeshua, incorporating them in my daily life. Is it really so hard to accept that there may be more than one way to worship a divine principle? Just because your path to the Divine may be right for you, that does not automatically make it right for everyone. Each of us has to find our own way, and just because we have found our way, we can't automatically condemn those who have found a different path. We all face a terrifying and uncertain future, given the actions of those in power in Washington. We have enough problems without willfully adding more to the mix.

There are those in the libertarian movement who are devout Christians. There are others who are just as devoutly Buddhist or Wiccan or pagan or even atheist. If push comes to shove, do you think I'm going to turn down another freedom lover's help, just because of his beliefs? You have got to be out of your cotton-picking mind! If you're pinned down in a fire-fight, do you ask the guy in the fox-hole with you what his religion is? No, you work with him to get out of the tight situation you're in! That's the situation we're in right now, folks. Those in power, in a mis-guided attempt at making us 'safe', are destroying everything this country was built to stand for, and in the process, destroying the very concept of freedom itself. How far will this go? No one knows for sure, but if the time comes to die for my belief in this country and what it once stood for, I really don't care what label the guy (or gal) dying with me is wearing. I'll only care that I'm dying in good company, for something we both believe in, something that was once almost sacred in this country, the right to be who and what we are, in freedom!

Matthew 7: 3-5 Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.

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