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Archive for March, 2013

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Easter Sunday. The Superbowl for Christians around the world. The day that Christians clinched the spiritual pennant. The day the Easter Bunny hides all the eggs under one bushel. You get the point. It’s a big deal day on the Christian calendar.

However, despite its religious implications, it is the one day by definition that separates believers. It’s the fork on the yellow brick road where some go this way and others go that way. And while the lily is often considered to be the official flower for Easter, I believe it should be the “mum,” because this is the day when non- Christians are obligated to keep mum, otherwise they risk a form of retribution that hearkens back to the good old days of the Inquisition.

On the CBS show Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer, his guests included New York’s Cardinal Dolan and a panel of religious leaders who took advantage of the occasion to talk about faith in general.

The air in the television studio was warm and politically correct, but it lacked a degree of truthfulness that I believe can best be described as the gorilla in the room. I don’t believe for a minute that the panelists believe that one religion is as good as a another. Forget the crap you hear about “the same God.”  That’s political correctness at its worst.  You might be able to draw a religious “family” tree that shows that three world religions “descend” from “the same God,” but once you throw in the Jesus factor, you’re talking a totally different game.

With a growing population of Born Again Christians and the like, there’s no way you can say all religions are equal. If there is a heaven, and if you side with those who say the only path to the pearly gates is by believing in Jesus Christ, the redeemer, how can you honestly believe that the Jew, the Muslim, the Buddhist, etc. is on the right yellow brick road?

One of the panelists made a good point when he said we spend too much time talking about what the Big Three Religions have in common. And while he didn’t intend to say that it’s sufficient to recognize and respect the differences, that’s the impression I got.

To be a real and practicing member of a religious denomination you are obligated to swear allegiance to a number of rigid beliefs and dogmas. The dogmas of the Catholic Church are not the same as those espoused by Lutherans, Presbyterians, Quakers and Southern Baptists…and they are certainly not the same beliefs of practicing Jews.

When Cardinal Dolan spoke in the segment before the panel discussion, I started talking to the television. Dolan is a nice guy. He’s got personality. He’s got charm. He knows how to work the camera. But I believe that when secular push came to Catholic shove, he’d be right there shoving the Catholic line because there’s no room for discussion on matters of faith. His tolerance has its limits.

Going back to my early days as a Catholic, I always had a number of questions I never asked because I didn’t want to risk going to hell in a hand basket or any other contrivance. I did recognize that there was a difference between the world from Monday to Saturday than the world of  Sunday Mass. It was a thing called secularism. I didn’t call it that, but I did understand that people acted one way in their daily lives and sometimes acted differently on Sunday.  As I grew up I came to realize that secularism wasn’t a dirty word. And because I studied world religions and spent time going to other churches and participating in Bible studies with people who were not Catholic, I realized that there was much good to be found in faith once you threw away all the dogma crap.

Emerald City was not the Vatican, Jerusalem, or Mecca. On the other hand it might have been all three and more. However, we need to remember that the Emerald City was not the final destination. The goal was to get back home. And to me that home is a place in my heart and being that has no religious label.

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poppy

One of the best remembered but most misunderstood scene in the Wizard of Oz was the poppy field. In the movie we can blame the wicked  witch for the deadly poppy field, but in the book the poppy field is just one of many fields of flowers that stretch across the landscape of Oz. Dorothy has no idea how potent the poppies are and that one could fall asleep forever in the poppy field.

So? So what does that have to do with anything important. It all depends. It depends upon your interpretation of the poppy field. In Dorothy’s case, the poppy field was just another one of the obstacles that stood in her way…or to the point, blocked her from entering the Emerald City. If Dorothy hadn’t been saved (in the movie by a magical snow storm and in the book by a chance encounter with an army of mice who carried Dorothy and  the Lion away from the poppy field) her journey would have been a big sleep.

So? So how many of us walk through a vast poppy field? Unless you happen to find yourself in a country like Afghanistan the odds are in your favor that you won’t be in danger of taking a very long nap.

But, metaphorically, there are poppy fields all around us in life, and most of us are at risk of falling into a deep sleep. The poppy field has another name. It often goes by the name of blind contentment. And I say blind contentment because I honestly can’t rule out contentment…unless of course it is not the kind of contentment that blinds you from ever moving on.

Do you know anybody who is stuck or so set in their ways that they might as well be wearing cement shoes? Do you know anybody who has settled into a job or profession and after a year or two shifts their career into neutral and costs until they retire?

That’s one way of looking at the poppy fields in our lives. but it’s not the only way. Sometimes we are lulled into the big sleep when we blindly accept beliefs or buy into dogmas even though we are not really invested in them. Instead of owning our beliefs we adopt those we have been handed.

There are inherent risks in holding your breath to avoid being contaminated by the sweet fragrance of the deadly poppy fields found in life all around us. You risk an uncertain life. You also can never be caught napping because once you are, you have fallen under the spell of the poppy.

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