Monday, March 12, 2007

Turbulent Souls

One of the less attractive features that Christianity, Judaism, and Islam have in common is a significant number of loveless (no, hateful) fanatics. Whatever territory they control some of them will to go to any length to protect the purity of their environment.

Stephen Dubner, born in New York in 1963, was in the third generation of a family of Polish Hasidic Jews who had settled in Brooklyn among multitudes of people of the same persuasion.

Stephen's father and mother grew beyond the tribalistic culture of their birth; his father served in the Army in WWII, and his mother began a budding career in ballet. They rubbed shoulders with gentiles, which most of their families had never done. More, they wandered into a community of Catholic youth, and in the course of time they became ardent Catholics; in their language they converted.

Their children were raised just a strictly, not to say rigidly, as they had been, but of a different religion. But these children went into the secular world and did not seem to be overly affected by the religious rigidity of their Catholic parents or Jewish grandparents.

There had been practically no communication across the first two generations. Stephen studied at Appalachian St. Univ in NC and then moved to New York City. Curious about his ancestors he reestablished a relationship (after many lost years) and became better and better acquainted with the Jewish culture.........

With Turbulent Souls Stephen Dubner has written a spiritual autobiography of the highest caliber.
Three examples came to mind of religious absolutism at its worst:

1. When Stephen's father became a Catholic his grandfather acted as if he had died and thereafter refused any further contact with him; he forbid his son's name to be mentioned.

2. Large numbers of Christian fundamentalists today support Israel avidly, not through any sense of kinship but because they hope to see the Jews provoke Armageddon, a preliminary to The Rapture, where they expect to be definitively and finally separated from the rest of us.

In the last century bigoted and violent Catholics in at least one large South American country cut off the right hand of any Protestants they could find.

3. We have already been adequately exposed to the excesses of Islamic absolutists.

Thankfully a large proportion (probably the majority) of Christians, Jews and Muslims have not been infected by the aggressively exclusivistic brands of their faith. Love and charity are universal and include not only these three faiths but many others.


isaiah said...

I caught brief pieces of an interview with Stephen on NPR. It sound slike a good read.

Your three examples of religious absolutism at its worst are someone's religious absolutism at its best... and how can there be a changing of minds when such a firm grip is in place? Are we wasting time trying or should we look to another source for attempts to understand each other?

Yes, love and charity are universal. Here is our guide to changing minds, if this be our motive. Perhaps if we all loved a little more a little deeper with a little more charity there would be a shortage of minds to change in a brief amount of time.

Does being the change one seeks make changing pointless?

Larry said...

Thanks, Isaiah. "Changing of grips" is fairly frequent in the population; people often go from one extreme to the other; Stephen is a good example. But I think he is more than that; I believe he swung backward from his parents, but he did it with more enlightenment than they had. He did not disown his family members of the other party as they had done.

A man named Morrison, the first (recent) Christian missionary to China worked for 14 years without a convert, and most of his converts may have been "rice Christians", but the Chinese Christian Church is now numerous and perhaps spiritually stronger than the American one.

Things are always changing: I look forward to and hope to see (in my descendants if not me) a final "gentling" of all three of the groups in question here until no one hates anyone else for his beliefs.