Wednesday, March 31, 2004

God is in the Details

I've come to realize that one's own faith or religion cannot be a mere abstraction. It's not enough, for example, to say that "I'm a Christian" and that to be a "Christian" is to just believe in God (and perhaps Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit). My father has a belief that that is enough. It doesn't matter whether you're a Catholic or a Protestant; in his eyes, they're all the same. You're a Christian and you serve the same God. That's all that matters.

While to a certain extent that's true, our faith should be as detailed as we ourselves. Because faith is not just a either-or situation (true or false, yes or no, etc.). It's expressed in our lives, and our lives are quite unique. Religion is an extension of ourselves and vice versa. There is a difference between religions; it's not always the same. And even if it differs in the most minute of details, it matters, just as having a mole on our face might change the way people see us, or that single strand of silver hair that marks out a person in a crowd. Charles would not be Charles if he didn't greet people with "Boo!" instead of "hello". If it's the details that characterizes our person, the same can be said for our faith.

Of course just because I mentioned that the specifics matter when it comes to religion, I don't mean you follow and believe every precept of your religion. In the end, your faith comes down to you alone and not what others believe. There might be some points regarding your religion that you want to highlight, while there are others that you plainly don't agree with. Whatever the scenario, the details of your own personal religion is detailed, at least to yourself if not to the public. It's perfectly possible to get two practitioners of the same belief, same sect, and even in the same location, yet you end up with two, vastly different people. Because as I said, it's the details that matter, and in the end, you determine the details that matter to you.

Another point that revolves around this topic is how we should behave around those of differing religions. Just because I'm qualifying my religion does not mean I'm against tolerance for other religions. That, in the end, is up to you and how you see yourself and other faiths. For me personally, I accept that there are multiple paths to salvation. Whether you're a Catholic, a Jew, a Buddhist, etc., there is a way for you to transcend. Religion, after all, is between you and your God. Who am I to say who goes where? But I am answerable for my own actions, and I would be the fool if I didn't live up to my own moral standards (or at least strive for it). It's the details that matter, and if I'm aware of the unique path my faith has taken, I can also appreciate and respect the path that others have taken as well (or realize that they are different in the first place). To know one's own faith (or lack of it) is part of knowing one's own character, the journey of self discovery. And I also think that each person's faith is as unique as him or her. I think it's quite likely that no one person has an identical faith as another person. But that's just a theory, and only God knows for sure.

Religion is Business

On a more personal note, my father sees religion as business (the stereotypical Chinese man coming to play here). Suffice to say, he started as a Catholic (because that was the religion in his grade school), shifted to Protestant (again, the alma matter coming into play), and then finally shifted to plain "Christianity" after an incident in our church.

The incident? Well, basically father was insulted at how our church couldn't match our pastor's salary in the US. We could only afford a tenth of his salary and our pastor settled for that. But my father didn't and so he stopped actively participating in the church ever since.

Unfortunately for my father, he really doesn't have the gift of empathy. He's narrow-minded. He admits that (but he thinks of his single-mindedness as a gift rather than a flaw). He doesn't even attempt to rationalize things. No reasons are given. What he says is final.

And since father thinks that money is the one thing that really matters in this world (i.e. his concept of equality with his children is giving them everything he wanted... everyone, for example, must get a car once they graduate, regardless of whether we want one or not, much less use it; obviously, this is wrong because each one is different and have different needs-- brother might need a car but I need something different, as well as my sister needing something altogether different as well), he doesn't understand where the pastor is coming from. Because for the mentioned pastor, it's not about the money. It's about his faith, and spreading the Good News. Sure, his salary isn't as much as it used to be, but that's not the reason why he became a pastor in the first place.

If you treat religion as a business (and when it comes to the Philippines, it is quite a lucrative business, and many "religious" people do treat it as a business), then it will be a business. But first and foremost, religion is about one's faith (and all that entails, which while it may cover the spectrum of "business", is not merely about "business").


Post a Comment

<< Home