Thursday, September 1, 2016

On rocks and religion

About a month ago, I started noticing something beautiful on our dog-walks.  Along the trail we walk (it's in the woods in a state park), I noticed some rocks at the base of trees, on fallen logs, etc.  Each rock was painted a rather neutral color to fit into the woods, and each rock had a positive message on it.  I remember "ah, songbirds -- the love song of the morning" as one of them.

(I've made my Cursillo, and I immediately thought of these as palanca, but I refused to take them because I wanted them to make other people's days better too.)

One night the rocks disappeared.  I thought the park maintenance workers had taken them, and when I asked them (they know us well), they said they hadn't, so I hoped more would come.

Meanwhile, I started making rocks of my own, and thought I'd add Project Semicolon work to these rocks.  Project Semicolon is a mental health initiative (see link above), and I thought to myself that maybe having the semicolon on them would help people who encounter these on the trail, maybe people who are suffering from depression or even just having a crappy day.  I wrote things like "The universe is glad you are here" and "thank you for being."  I made sure to plant a few that said "your story is not over"... and I put a large semicolon on all of the rocks after the message I wrote.

People started adding them and it was wonderful.  Until someone started adding religion.

This might be unexpected -- I, the Super-Episcopalian, didn't want to see religious messages spread across the trail?  You're darn tootin' I don't.

Here's why.

Religion divides.  As soon as you say "Jesus," a whole bunch of people who think of the bad things about Christianity are automatically repelled from the underlying message.  Same if you say "Allah" or any other specified-by-religion name the world uses for that force of love that is the most universal message of God: it repels those who are automatically repelled by the thought of established religion. (Cases in point: my father, my husband, and me when I was going through difficulties with my faith...)  And suddenly the rocks have chances to generate negative emotions instead of positive ones.

Love unites. Using love without specified religious terms makes these messages more accessible to everyone, religious or not, spiritual or not.

I do not want anyone to be repelled/put off/offended/negatively affected by these rocks in any way.  I'm sure someone will find something to be offended about, but I think that if the specified religious wording is kept away from the rocks, people of different or struggling or nonexistent faiths will feel more comfortable seeing these rocks, and possibly the message of Love will enter more hearts.

And that's what God's all about, no?  It/He/She is about LOVE.  All are welcome.  Why wouldn't we want to welcome everyone no matter what?  And to do that, I don't think that making something feel off-putting will make someone feel welcome.

All are welcome.
Amen.

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