Thankful for the Good Ones

Last night Brynne was writing the answer to an assigned essay.

The question: “Is religion important to a region? Why or why not?”

Brynne quite indignantly wrote: “Religion is important to a region because it helps solve problems and causes less contention between people. Without religion, there might be more conflict, more worldwide issues, and more separation between different people. Religion unites and connects people and places all over the world.”

In the wake of the Paris bombings, I nodded dumbly.

Brynne writes this with all the conviction she has, because of her good religious experiences.

But another 11-year-old classmate wrote: “Religion is stupid. It’s people who commit suicide.”

Brynne thought this was stupid. I really hope she didn’t tell him so. You see, we’re all working on taming our passionate responses 🙂

This 11-year-old classmate writes because of his experience: he has none. What he knows of religion comes from the news; he hears of terrorist attacks, where people tie bombs to their body and kill others. All in the name of their God or Allah. If your religious exposure is based on the news, why wouldn’t you think religion is horrid?

I feel a slow burn when I read the terrorist reasons for the Paris bombings: Vengeance for “prostitution and vice.” As if they, the chosen ones, are justified in carrying out God’s punishment.

Didn’t the Ku Klux Klan and Hitler have similar egotistical justifications?

Extreme examples, but there are millions of people who have terrible interactions with “Christians.”

Recently I saw a Facebook post that read, “Act like Christ, not Christians.” This seems to come up during election time and these days, it’s always election time.

With the news cycle only reporting the horrible and shocking, we don’t hear of the food drive up the street, the coats donated to a domestic abuse survivor, or the Thanksgiving baskets assembled. Which is too bad, because the Christians that I know, respond.

I’m better for my religion. It’s been the conduit for spirituality and knowledge. It’s how I make sense of the world. It gives me a vision of who I really am and what happens next. It has made my family happy. It’s kept my parents married. It forces me to be less selfish. I cling to it.

So why are some people worse?

Huffington Post reports that millennials are less likely to be religious than their parents because of our culture change and emphasis on individualism. I begin to wonder? Without religion, who will organize my mother’s funeral? How will anything get done?

In January, the terrorist group al-Qaidain, Muslim extremist attacked the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo for publishing a drawing depicting the Prophet Muhammed.

Al-Qaida’s Yemeni leader Nasser bin Ali al-Ansi said:

“As for the blessed Battle of Paris, we, the Organization of al-Qaida al Jihad in the Arabian Peninsula, claim responsibility for this operation as vengeance for the Messenger of God.”

And it’s not ending. There is a sweet and innocent new generation of terrorists being trained Here.  “My father reminds me of Osama bin Laden, who terrorized and fought the Americans,” Abu Ashak, a boy in the camp, told Dairieh. “One day my father will be like him, and I want to be like Osama’s son.”

It’s no wonder, with this kind of news, that after the Paris attack, Joann Sfar, a cartoonist for Charlie Hebdo, wrote a controversial Instagram post: “Friends from the whole world, thank you for #prayforparis, but we don’t need more religion. Our faith goes to music! Kisses! Life! Champagne and Joy! #Parissaboutlife.”

Christians verbally attacked him.

To which Sfar responded with more cartoons:

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Dear Christians. Perhaps we have not opened the great history book called, The Bible. Perhaps we need a refresher course on how Christ actually behaved?

Just as I was feeling terrible and hopeless, convinced the world was going straight to you know where, I read two great responses from the church to which I belong:  the late Gordon B. Hinckley responds to terrorism Here and, and Dieter F. Uchdorf recounts his life as refugee, calling on us all to remember the humanity we all share. I began to feel a bit better.

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As Dieter F. Uchdorf has taught us: if we are criticizing, bullying, writing mean things on Twitter, there is a very simple solution: Stop it.

If you haven’t seen it, listen to the Paris pianist.

One other thing happened too. A very short conversation with my sister, who is about the kindest, most patient person you ever met (I mean, the hours she spent math tutoring me!)

Sister has been babysitting twins three days a week for a young, single mother who is really down on her luck. If you’ve ever babysat 3 1/2 year old twins all day, three days a week, you’ll know the energy it takes.

Sister has been doing this a long time.

As I busily cleaned up the kitchen I asked, “Are you getting paid pretty well?” Sister paused and very carefully said,

“Um…I’m getting paid in blessings from heaven.”

“What?” I exclaimed, snapping to attention. “You’re babysitting three days a week for free? Like, until they go to kindergarten?”

“You know,” she said. “I kind of think of it as a service. Some people go to India. Some people volunteer in orphanages in Russia. Some people travel the world doing these amazing things. And, I don’t know. This is just something I can do.”

All was right in the world again.

It makes me teary writing this. Thanks, Andrea, for once again reminding me: there are really good people in the world.

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6 thoughts on “Thankful for the Good Ones

  1. 4amWriter

    Great post, Amy! Your sister is a saint, and if she has a husband or children, they’re saints too — because I find that not everyone supports someone’s efforts to volunteer if it means taking time away from them.

    I wish it was a simple thing to get people to stop tweeting hatred, but social media has made it too easy to hide behind the mean words. For years and years, people have been expressing their hatred and bullied others in any way that’s available. It’s really no different these days, except with one click of a button you can reach thousands more people, and attach derogatory images to the tweets or posts. This is one reason why I’m so hot and cold with social media; I really can’t stand to see the way some people use it to get their points across.

    Bullies and criminals have always been here, so I think it’s more of a matter of attending to the root of their hatred rather than trying to get them to change their behavior.

    Thanks for an awesome post.

    Reply
  2. Julia Tomiak

    This is beautiful Amy. I would be lost without my faith too- I think that’s why so many in our world struggle. I can add nothing except the verse my kids and I are memorizing this week:
    “Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer.”
    Romans 12:12

    Reply
  3. Shirley Tinker

    Beautifully written Amy. I wonder what a news cycle would look like if all the quiet, humble service done in one day was telecast. Would it outnumber the evil deeds? I think it would. Love the optimism of Gordon B. Hinkley. He always found a way to place joy and hope in life.

    Reply
  4. Nina

    Such a great post, Amy, and one that I can relate to 100% as a religious person. I don’t like when the discussions turn into “ALL religions are extreme or bad or [fill in the blank.] I obviously don’t agree with that, nor do I think we can say “all” Muslims are anything in particular, of course. It’s such a stressful, scary time. And where I get extra sensitive from where I sit is the silence about all the Jews that die at the hands of terrorists in Israel all the time, and the Jews that have been terrorized (murdered) in Paris for years (the schools, the kosher market, on the street), etc. It often feels like the world doesn’t care if it’s the Jews, no matter the country. We often feel alone. And unfortunately we Jews, as group, through history have been the canary in the coal mine. They come for us first . . . we’re the warning system or something like that. Now the world is awake to what we are dealing with there and unfortunately there are these platitudes, as you’ve mentioned, about how terrible all religion is. That feels like such an oversimplified and unhelpful answer. It’s not a solution at all. We have real groups with real goals and they don’t care if a ton of people think that religion (all religion) is “silly.” Ok . . . I’m not even making sense anymore. My point is this: I agree with this post and found it really well written and thought provoking. xoxo

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