Whenever I am smitten by a case of righteous indignation, my friend Henry chalks it up to male menopause. I occasionally must remind him that certain insults to the intellect or spirit merit righteous indignation – especially when they come to be institutionalized as dogma.
Welcome to my current bout of righteous indignation. It will likely not ingratiate me to my evangelical Christian neighbors. Then again, they have not ingratiated themselves to me. Why, then, fear speaking my own mind when they have no reluctance to speak theirs? No matter what I was to say or do – short of “Take me! My soul belongs to you!” – they have already condemned me and my coreligionists to the lowest rungs of hell, along with Catholics, Baha’is, Buddhists, Hindus, Mormons, Unitarians, and the rest of us damned and doomed “religious exotics.”
I have finally popped a blood vessel, having heard one time too many this week that “true believers know that, despite all your good intentions, prayers, and works, Jesus is the only way to God.” Why gag on my aorta now? Maybe it is because the countervailing voices of good faith and goodwill seem so faint and far between.
- Maybe it is because we of broader faith and understanding know, but have not had the courage to say, that arrogance and mean-spiritedness, not benevolence and understanding, lurk just beneath the flimsiest veil of the of the fundamentalists’ strident pronouncements about the omnipresence of Christian “love.”
- Maybe it is because we know, but have not had the courage to say, that given their way, the exclusivists, Mr. Trump’s cheering section pouring-salt included, would in a heartbeat put a stranglehold on free expression and intellectual, cultural, and artistic liberty.
- Maybe it is because we know, but have not had the courage to say, that people cannot forge a common agenda of goodwill when half the folks at the table, if they were even willing to sit down, see the other half as trophies to be claimed by de-legitimizing their beliefs.
- Maybe it is because we know, but have not had the courage to say, that all beliefs are not created equal – that beliefs that exclude and malign ought not to be ascribed the same credence as those that honor and celebrate human diversity, integrity, and transcendent oneness.
- Maybe it is because we know, but have not had the courage to say, that such arrogant exclusivity denigrates and insults the decent, honorable beliefs that have enlivened a world full of decent, honorable, saintly people.
Maybe all those things. But, maybe above all it is because our communities are also rich with people who witness that Christianity can be vibrant and alive, minus a platform of condemnation and exclusivity.
I meet them every day. We work together for the common good. We celebrate our fellowship and mutual commitments. Their vision of heaven shares equally in God’s promise of eternity and the beloved community that we create here on earth. Their faith appears not to be lacking. It appears well intact, flourishing. For God’s sake, let them come forward together with the rest of us exotics, be counted, and have their say.
To too many of my evangelical neighbors: Our Bibles, plural, may lead us along different paths and journeys of faith, but our goal is one – to increase among us the love of God and the love of neighbor. God sends the same message to many different mailboxes. I have no desire to deny you a share in heaven. Just do not deny me mine. That decision rests, and rests alone, with the Ultimate Judge, God. I simply do not understand why everyone seems so reluctant to say it out loud.
Now, will someone please answer, “Amen”?
WILUZANSKI is a retired rabbi who writes from Greenville, SC.