Sunday, January 04, 2015

Good Christian People

In a gathering of Quakers, a man only a few years older than me discussed his dilemma. He was a college professor and professed Christian, but confided to the group that he deliberately used profanity during his lectures so that his students would not make incorrect assumptions. He desired a working relationship with his students, and found that a profession of faith separated him from the most important aspect of his work. Many of us have been viewed by others in similar terms should particular phrases and word choices be used.

I see nothing wrong with well-timed and well-placed cursing. Used for emphasis, it has an important function in language. Anything can be overdone, especially if the intent is only to shock. I sometimes speak to my doctors in clinical language, since the vernacular would be too embarrassingly crude otherwise. I keep swearing out of my writing because it appears unprofessional, much as I kept profanity out of my exams and term papers.

My friends are beginning to have children. Bad habits like drinking and smoking have been discarded, especially if children are in pending status. They no longer use profanity and have coined creative euphemisms in its place. Those in my social circle may see no need for organized religion themselves, but they do want to set a good example and a moral framework for their children's greater well-being. Pre-school is often offered by houses of worship. I went to Methodist pre-kindergarten myself because my mother had been raised that way.

My own parents tried to be a good example, especially when my sisters and I were very young. Dad kept his famous temper at bay somehow. Mom went into hyper-drive, instantly ashamed of her own rebellious past, and fearful of somehow being an unfit mother. She took it too far, but knew how impressionable children can be, seeking to use her own efforts at strict perfection as an example for us to follow.

Two neighbors and family friends of my parents were very religious Southern Baptists. Aside from belonging to the same denomination, they had something else in common. In each, a family member became a heroin addict. In the midst of her addiction, one of them became pregnant and could not say for sure precisely who was the biological father. The other moved in with a boyfriend on a whim and moved hundreds of miles away, continuing to use.

Speaking of my first example, bout after bout of rehab has produced a tentative recovery each time, but she is incapable of raising the child herself. Her very Christian parents have brought up the kid, now 12, as their very own. I imagine the circumstances of his birth were difficult, but the child's grandparents follow their religious teachings which include raising a Grandson as his mother and father. Their daughter has not been banished or disowned by either parent, who rightly see the struggles of their own child as a disease, not a failing of character, morality, or general weakness.

Very religious people have all the same problems non-religious people do. Our standards and teachings may be different, but we are still quite capable of making mistakes. Even the best of intentions backfire. I Worship with people who are still rejecting and processing the faith of their upbringing. We have our share of semi-recovered Catholics and Mormons.

We really ought to give each other the benefit of the doubt. It's tempting to look for broad-brush bogeymen in the form of religious extremists who picket abortion clinics, or brainwashed cult members. But these are not most people. Most people wish to live peacefully, and if organized religion is an effective tool to accomplish those ends, then so be it. For some, a holy text is sufficient, but does not take the place of positive interactions with others.

But let's not forget what each of these methods produce in their ideal state: making us better people. Rules and guidelines take many forms. That said, I don't know many people who would swear around a three-year-old. We can live our lives as if someone (or something) was watching us and mimicking what we do, or we do whatever we damn well want. But let's not forget that everyone's playing his or her own game in their own way for the entirety of one lifetime. That's what we're given and it's up to us to find the balance that appeals most to us.

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