Lifestyle

Life is like a box of chocolates –– with nuts

I was not a particularly large or strong kid growing up, and had the additional disadvantage of not having an older brother. That meant, of course, that any bully looking for easy prey didn’t have very far to search if I happened across his path (not flattering, but still true).

Fortunately the run-ins that I did have were limited to one-on-one encounters, and I never had the problem of having to deal with two or more at the same time. Three surly bullies would have been a lot more trouble to deal with.

On the one-year anniversary of the horrors of the 9-11 attacks on the United States, one writer posted a “memorial tile” on the yahoo.com sites using the analogy of three bullies fighting and applied the analogy to the three largest world religions –– namely Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. Their particular point centered on how their religious approach was better because it was the par of peace rather than violence.

Sadly, this kind of thinking sours the minds of people already cynical from the evils of an imperfect world.

Another version of this has taken place in more recent days on the part of certain Evangelical teachers, making generalizations about Islam in particular. Personally, I was thrilled when President Bush, a self-identified Christian and Evangelical, issued a strong rebuke publicly.

Every religion, school of thought, belief system, and even family has its share of extremists or nuts. I have yet to meet the extended family that does not have an eccentric aunt or uncle, second cousin with a prison record, or some other member that has serious personal problems.

In religious circles, this is no different. Judaism has its own image problems with the violence that regularly takes place in the Middle East. Christianity often deals with white supremacist racists and certainly would love to delete the whole history of the Crusades. To simply look at Osama Bin-Laden and his terrorist groupies and attribute their behavior to all of Islam is shortsighted at best and blatantly offensive at worst.

The supreme irony of it all is that all three of the major world religions share very similar characteristics. Each can trace their roots, in some way, back to the Old Testament person of Abraham. Each has a founder who, under revelation from God, wrote a set of sacred and authoritative books that formed the basis for their religious following. Each stresses a message of commitment to God, an upright moral life, and offers some measure of hope in terms of an afterlife.

That being said, there are also some vast ideological and spiritual differences between each, documented and argued by scholars the world around. No one has to agree with the religious teachings of another, for each person has the unique God-given ability to choose for themselves, and variety is uniquely the spice of life.

One common thread between each of these religions is the belief that how we treat one another as human beings is a big reflection of what kind of relationship we claim to have with God. Love cannot coexist with bigotry and prejudice, no matter what the denominational affiliation is on the proverbial church sign. I find it amusing that people who tend to make these kinds of negative generalizations tend to get quiet when you ask how they know what they claim is true. In fact, asking if they even know someone from that faith would probably draw a response of silence.

If there is one lesson that everyone can learn in the world situation as it exists today, it is to deal with people as individuals, not as stereotypical groups, whether it be nationality, profession, race, color –– or even religion.

One of the greatest evils of all is to hold someone else responsible for the actions of another, when they had nothing to do with it. That represents a supreme injustice, and we live by a higher standard. “ ... with liberty and justice for all.”

Joe Rinehart is a Federal Way resident and a former pastor.

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