Division or Syncretism
It wasn’t just last week’s State of the Union address that made me think about division. Rather, division seems to be a consistent theme in the world. Remember the old Gershwin song about people’s differences that went something like this: “You say potato and I say potata, you say tomato and I say tomata; tomato, tomata, potato, potata, let’s call the whole thing off!”? I think that the song speaks to the omnipresent differences in the world and our frequent approach to solving/ending them. We talk about building walls, refusing to budge, or listen to another.
On the other hand, instead of trying to separate ourselves from what is different, might we consider embracing differences and become richer for them? I consider myself a syncretistic individual, a person who attempts to reconcile different beliefs and grow from them, to look for what we share. Our Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, emphasized love over division at the Feb.7 National Prayer Breakfast. As this column’s core is religion, let me focus there.
Parishioner Victor Chudoba, whose wife is Buddhist, has been kind enough to loan me readings from the Buddhist faith. I have grown from their words of wisdom, like; “We all have roots of goodness.” “Without dissemination, there is no religion.” “There is power of habitual practice.” Those words from the Buddhist publication, Living the Lotus, have truths and could have been written for Episcopalians. They add another insight and view of faith.
Also, I have responded to the invitation (that we all have) to attend some of the services of the Jewish congregation, Tikkun Olam, who shares our worship space here at St. Ann’s. They’re most gracious and gave me copies of their service books. Let me share a few quotes from Gates of Prayer for Shabbat and Weekdays. “Pray as if everything depended on God; act as if everything depended on you.” “Who rise from prayer better persons, their prayer is answered.” And, I found this prayer;
“These quiet moments of Shabbat [i.e., Sabbath] open my soul. Blessed with another week of life, I give thanks to the One who creates and sustains me. For all the good I have known during the days that have passed, I am very grateful. I know that I have not always responded with my best effort, but often I did try. I have tried to give my family and friends love and devotion, and I pray that I may grow more loving as the years pass. Even as I regret my weaknesses, I rejoice in my accomplishments. Let these achievements, O God, lead to many others. May I be blessed on each Shabbat with the sense of having grown in goodness and compassion.”
Rather than calling anything off, may we embrace our differences, see the blessings in them, and grow from them. May we love one another.
To God be the glory.