Whenever I am smitten by a case of righteous indignation, my friend J.P. chalks it up to “having a bad day.” I occasionally have to remind him that certain insults to the intellect or spirit merit righteous indignation – especially when they come to be accepted as dogmatic litany.
Welcome to my current bout of righteous indignation. It will likely not ingratiate me to some of my fundamentalist Christian neighbors. But, then again, they have not ingratiated themselves to me. Why, then, fear speaking my own mind when they have no reticence in speaking theirs? No matter what I were to say or do – short of “I agree to believe exactly as you believe” – they have already condemned me and my coreligionists to the lower rungs of hell, along with Catholics, Baha’i, MCC, Mormons, Unitarians, and the rest of us “religious exotics.”
I have finally popped a blood vessel, having heard one time too many this week that “the Bible says that Christ is the only way to God.” Why now? Maybe it is because the countervailing voices of good faith and goodwill seem so faint and far between.
Maybe it is because we 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 such vaunted Christian “love.”
Maybe it is because we know, but have not had the courage to say, that given their way, the exclusivists 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 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 be ascribed the same credence as those that honor and celebrate human diversity, integrity, and transcendent sameness.
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, maybe all those things. But, maybe above all it is because our community – despite those people who sanctimoniously judge between the saved and the damned – is 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 right here on earth. Their faith seems not to be lacking. It appears well intact, flourishing. For God’s sake, let them come forward, be counted, and have their say!
To some of my fundamentalist neighbors (note that I do not say “all”): Our Bibles, plural, may lead us along different paths, but our goal is one – to increase among us the love of God and the love of neighbor. 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. I simply do not understand why everyone seems so reluctant to say it out loud.
Now, will someone please say, “Amen”?
WILUDI, Rabbi Marc Wilson, is an activist who writes from Greenville, SC