I have spent the last few months listening to my friends, family and colleagues vigorously debate the need for Christian values in our lives. They appear to have forgotten that our ancestors weren’t always Christians.
I am the equivalent of Heinz 57: In order of genetic makeup, I am Scottish, Irish,
Welsh, Norman, English, Scandinavian, Iberian, and Polynesian.
I was raised Roman Catholic back in the day when ‘Christian’ was not a global term or even a common religious descriptor: one was either a member of the Roman Catholic church, which acknowledged the Pope as its leader, or a member of one of the Protestant churches, which did not. I grew up in a town where you could be despised because your parents were immigrants who didn’t speak English or if
you were just plain, to misquote Yogi Bear, ‘not smarter than the average bear’. We reflected our adults, who, in the main, identified as Christian, and who, in the main, were so politically incorrect it would make your teeth hurt.
My parents were politically incorrect in many ways by today’s standards, but they welcomed ever
yone into our home, regardless of religious persuasion, and the result was some fairly lively discussions: my siblings and I learned more about the rest of the world’s religions in our living room than I have learned since. One of the more interesting was the one between the Jehovah Witness members and our father: he had the Catholic Bible and they had the King James version. He’d memorized his because it was the only book soldiers in WWII were allowed to take with them – and because it was the only book provided in the guardhouse. They compared and quoted without losing their tempers or discarding their manners: a difference in knowledge and viewpoint was seen as an opportunity to learn, not an opportunity to disparage someone for their differing view or to force your view on someone else.
I remember my father having a conversation with Patty and John, who were from Northern Ireland, and Jim, who was from Ireland (“proper”). He said “the war in Ireland is in Ireland: do not bring it into my house if you wish to remain welcome here.” Any discussion of religion remained civil: a clear proof that we don’t all have to believe the same things to be capable of discussing topics on which we differ rationally and politely.
My father was a Scottish Roman Catholic and my mother a Scottish Anglican. The churches were not that far apart in rite or practices, but the difference in the heads of the churches (the Pope and the monarch of England, respectively) was significant enough to cause my mother to choose to convert to Catholicism to ensure unity of practice in our home. However, my father used to say ‘I want you to remember that our ancestors were not only Druids (Christianity was forced on them), but many of them worshiped the major Norse, Irish and Scottish deities, and others their tribal gods.” He often pointed out that in the British Isles and Ireland, conflicts arose far more often between tribes than between religions.
Where I grew up, some degree of familiarity with Native Canadian beliefs was common. Our parents made sure that we understood that we were to respect those beliefs despite not sharing them. Based on my ancestry, I have many more connections to the beliefs of First Nations peoples than to those of Catholicism. My grandchildren are Metis. (Metis means that they are of mixed ancestry.) Like me, they are cognizant of the values commonly attributed to Christianity but do not self-identify as Christian: they incline more to traditional beliefs, which are, if perhaps not as common, certainly as valid today as they were before the Inquisition decided that they should terrorize the rest of the planet into compliance.
When you consider it de rigueur to treat any member of the human race as if they don’t matter because they aren’t of your religion, you aren’t ‘living your truth’, you’re simply displaying your insecurity. If your faith can be diminished by the knowledge that other people do not believe as you do, you never had any.
You let the elders of all societies down when you abdicate your willingness to think for yourself. To put it bluntly, you let down every other member of the human race when you refuse to think for yourself. When you let someone else make your decisions, you are not the person that God or the Great Spirit intended you to be: you are merely a mindless puppet, and in the end you will reap what you have sown.
I was an altar girl, served mass, taught Sunday school, and was married in the church. I might be said to be “a recovering Catholic”, but I am not a Christian. That doesn’t mean that I am not a good person, a religious person, a spiritual person, or a righteous person. It means that I am balancing my history with my present and that I think for myself: I choose for myself what I believe and what I will do because of what I believe.
One of the things I believe is that my beliefs are mine: since they are mine, based in my individual conclusions and values, I have no right to force them on others. I also believe that others have no right to try to force their beliefs on me, and that we should all keep our religion out of politics.
Canada is a cultural and religious mosaic. That mosaic will be impossible to maintain unless we collectively require tolerance and its attendant civility between those who differ, whether about religion, politics or cultural practices. History has taught us this repeatedly. Unfortunately, once again, we appear to stopped listening.
In conclusion, a word to the “Christians” of the sort who wear “WWJD” bracelets while trying to force compliance with their beliefs: forcing others to behave according to your personal interpretation of his words is NOT what he would do. He was a rabbi, not an Inquisitor. His first rule of personal interaction was ‘Treat others the way you wish to be treated’ and his primary behavioural requirement was the doing of practical good, so any “Christian” trying to force their beliefs on others is clearly failing in obedience on both counts and should stop concerning themselves with others until they have their own behaviour in order.