Not only ‘religion’ but all ways of life have a best part, including the lives of people who errantly are called ‘non-believers,” agnostics, humanists, secularists, and atheists. Such people together with Buddhists, Muslims, Christians, Pagans, Jews, and all the rest, show faith in every act for good and in every act and deed meant to help others live with dignity, and without want.
First Corinthians identifies three things of beauty in human life, Faith, Hope, and Love. The smallest real taste of even one of these makes life less harsh, and allows us dreams that carry us forward. We are told the greatest is Love. I’ve no argument with that. But as great as Love is, it does not stand alone. It is wed to Faith and Hope.
On this magical weekend, when Pesach and Easter happen at the same time, we have a chance to rejoice across religious barriers and boundaries. Tragically however, these celebrations of a caring and powerful God are mocked by ugliness and horror in our time that invites despair. The news daily is filled with horrors that point to an eerie “God” boiling and bubbling within an ugly and barbaric brew. From Al-Shabab, to Boko Haram, to the constant breaking of the twig of peace in the Holy Land. We constantly hear reference to a God that we most assuredly can do without thank you very much.
The wonderful stories this weekend, Pesach and Easter, say that the God of all is greater than death. In the Passover tale, God protects our babies from plague and death. In the Easter tale, the forces of a violent and corrupt religious establishment, even when conjoined with a cruel and repressive political regime can neither destroy nor kill a solitary young man who loves God and all people.
In these days when the constant news of death’s plague haunts and shames us, we deeply need to hear promise of something greater than the ugly cloak of death bleeding through our headlines. We long for a voice to give us hope that something is greater than this, and that we can succeed through our cries and acts of to overcome the darkness of this hour.
The problem though is that so much that is evil in today’s world affairs is itself wrapped in sick perversions of “religious” imagination.
Of course not all death merchants are possessed in demonic facades of religion. Drug cartel lords are not in that costume party. Sex traffickers aren’t. Arms profiteers are not. The blood around these groups flows in rivers of far deeper evil than the 67 lost lives here, the 120 there, or our dear son burning in a cage. But still the world remains more alarmed and more obsessed when lost lives and graphic brutality are told through a sick fantasy painted in “religious” garb, draped in belts of bullets, concealed faces, and black flags.
We long to be convinced that death is not how our story ends. We want Passovers and resurrections on the one hand. But we are weary of “religion” today. A diseased zealotry fills our newspapers with barbarism from Paris to Garissa.
History’s greatest and surest tales of hope become abhorred because agents of evil are possessed by “religious” passions. We need stories of God, Passovers and resurrections. But these stories are weak in our time. Modern people no longer buy the mysteries of pascal blood on door jams, of lives spared, nor of buried saints vanishing from stone bound tombs. Modern people trust less, and suspect and doubt more. That is fine. Even so, faith abounds. Doctors without borders believe there is something greater than death. Red Cross and Green Crescent volunteers believe there is something greater than death. Every diplomat in every peace negotiation believe there is something greater than death. The mom in Hebron, packing lunch and ironing school clothes believes there is something greater than death.
For these “believers” let us defend for each their faith, and let us close the door to none. Lock arms. Stand shoulder to shoulder. Break bread. Pour wine. Ring bells. From the atheist to the Rabbi, from the Southern Baptist to the yoga teacher, thank each one for believing, and support all our faith together as a family under threat. Encourage, strengthen, and protect each other. Hope as one people with faith in good, and knowledge that there is something greater than death. Encourage each the one with the iPhone and the one with the tzizit. Stand fast. The thirsty from Nigeria to Aleppo, from Yemen to the Ukraine will have without cost water from the spring of life.