Drive through any town or city in America and you will see many houses of worship, a given in our country. Perhaps you attend one of these, a towering cathedral or a small store front that has been turned into a gathering place for persons who are exercising their First Amendment rights.
With the attacks on places of worship, have you and your religious leaders opted to discuss ways in which you can be safe when you gather? Locked doors, security guards, alarms, barriers of one kind or another?
You might think that you are safe from assault because your religion has a majority status, is long established in the U.S. When will the teens or adults with mental disturbances determine that the Catholic or Baptist church of their youth is responsible for the pain that they are experiencing and gather weapons, prepare a strategy, perhaps brag about it on social media, and invade the space that you assumed to be sacred?
PEW research findings, released on April 25, 2018, indicate that 80 percent of U.S. adults believe in God with 56 percent believing in God as described in the Bible and 23 percent believing in some other higher power or spiritual force. Of those who don’t believe in God (19 percent), 9 percent believe in some higher power or spiritual force and 10% do not believe in any higher power or spiritual force.
The research reports that “Overall, about half of Americans (48 percent) say that God or another higher power directly determines what happens in their lives all or most of the time.”
This presents a real dilemma if that large percent believe in this direct determination as they might hold God responsible for a host of personal issues. And what of the recent attacks, alleged to have occurred by John T. Earnest, 19, on the Chabad of Poway? Earnest claims to have set fire to the Islamic Center of Escondido and to have been inspired by the recent killing of 50 people in New Zealand mosques. Is he among those who believe God is directly responsible for what happens in his life??
Our world is complex, and we are doing a disservice to our youth when we do not support an inclusive world where there is an important place for people of good will regardless of their race, ethnicity, religious beliefs or non-beliefs, sexual preference, age, handicaps, immigration status, appearance or a host of other factors.
For those who support inclusion but want to know what they can do, I have suggestions:
· Attend events at your local library, college, arts center, museum to learn not only about your culture but also about the cultures of others;
· Read, research and learn about others;
· Support legislation at the local, state, and national levels that is intended to be inclusive;
· Volunteer to tutor after school and on Saturday for children who are under-resourced;
· In a calm, respectful way, indicate to persons who are spreading ill will, bigotry – even if it’s your family members, your friends, your co-workers- that you find such behavior offensive;
· Refuse to participate in gossip about same-sex couples, bi-racial unions or any subjects that demean the basic humanity of individuals;
· In social/business sessions in which “others” are more likely to feel excluded, take measures to make them feel comfortable;
· Don’t set higher standards for those considered “other” than you set for those who are now in the majority;
· Tell your children about the views media sometimes presents of certain groups, often presented to reinforce prejudices, sensationalize themes, and generate monies;
· Be aware of what your children/grandchildren are doing, reading, watching and intervene if there are signs of radicalization;
· As your family gets more diverse ( and it will happen), be sure to welcome those children and adults;
If you opt to do so, you can continue to teach your children and grandchildren to reject rather than respect those whom you perceive as different, less than. Know, however, that you are setting them up for miserable existences in a complex, diverse world.
In closing, some might say, “Inclusion is not my responsibility. I disagree. We and the offices we support with our tax dollars are responsible.
I am not a Pollyanna and acknowledge that there are evil people in this world. They come in myriad varieties, but we should never paint all of those in a particular group as evil without first judging them as Dr. King said, “by the content of their character.”
Some white nationalists want to start race wars as that has always resulted in rather quick success. Originally part of Hitler’s Nazi state, Martin Niemoller came to see it as a dictatorship and wrote, “First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.” Replace some of the words with your own religion, or race/ethnicity, or gender, or your precious child born with a defective heart -whatever. Then, think on Niemoller’s words.