“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth: it is not peace I have come to bring, but a sword. For I have come to set son against father, daughter against mother, daughter-in-law against mother-in-law; a person’s enemies will be members of his own household.” Matthew 10: 34-36
I have heard those words all my life. They made me shudder as a child. I was completely sure I would never be called upon to bring action to those words when I became a parent. But I fear I was mistaken. Lately I’ve been at odds with those close to me over the word of God and its place in my life.
I spent a second weekend in little more than a month in the bosom of my husband’s proudly liberal family where every possible lifestyle choice is free to mingle amongst their open-mindedness, as long as it isn’t conservative. It’s okay to be gay or straight or musical or literary. It’s honored to be philosophical or artistic. Education is important and encouraged throughout one’s life as long as it isn’t about religion. A childhood understanding of Christianity is enough to dismiss it entirely from being acceptable as a belief system for intelligent people.
For the past several years, my spouse and I held our beliefs close to the vest. We did not hide our views. Everyone seemed to know we were more traditional. It was noted with some measure of suspicion when we announced that we never intended to live in South Florida. Others have since moved away, but my husband was the first of his siblings to marry a non-Miamian and a Republican to boot. Our children were always the too quiet ones, the less cosmopolitan ones, and we were the “churchy” members of the clan. We listened politely to their comments upon our politics and our lack of enlightenment about the naiveté of our spiritual beliefs, but, about a year ago we both decided we had had enough. We began to challenge what amounts to bullying by those who disagree with us, and we chose to no longer sit there meekly when the values that we hold dearest are declared to be “bulls**t.” What I want to understand is how is it possible to be so angry at a God that the same people claim doesn’t even exist? Why is it offensive for others to be Christians but respected if they follow Islam or Judaism or are disciples of Buddha?
Father Robert Barron has a lot to say about the casual hip atheism that seems to be invading our society. If we believe in God, it compels us to action. If we don’t, it lets us off the hook, and we can be free to chase pleasure and happiness without regard for others. Even if we are “good people,” believing in God requires more than just being nice. It necessitates surrender, and that is not a popular concept these days. The watchword of our day is control. We want control of our finances, of our health, of our employment, and in our relationships. Those who cede the reins are deemed weak and ineffectual. What all these drivers fail to realize is that the control they so desperately seek is all an illusion.
Don’t get me wrong. I believe in planning and saving. I believe in eating right and exercising. I believe in education and training to be prepared for one’s chosen profession. But I also know that sometimes things don’t go the way we plan, that accidents happen, that things break down, and that people die. And sometimes there’s nothing we can do about it.
But if we have faith in God, we’re never alone when life surprises us, and if we accept the promises of Christ, we do not have to expect to get it all here, because we have the promise of life everlasting.
Why our believing that offends others is beyond me. If they don’t want to believe in God, it’s their choice. But I do choose to believe, and I’m not going to let others demean or disparage my creed. If they want to feel superior, let them. I don’t have to be in charge. I’m on God’s team. And if others can’t be open to accepting that, maybe I’m not the one who’s close-minded.