Monday, February 7, 2011

A Freedom Worth Not Taking For Granted

by Sophie


Every once in a while I get a reminder that the religious freedom I take for granted (and trust me, I take it entirely for granted) is scant in the rest of the world.

Right now in Afghanistan, though the official constitution guarantees that people "are free to exercise their faith," the courts rely on Islamic law in some cases, including religious conversion. Under some interpretations of Sharia - and I'm cribbing from the NYT here - leaving Islam is punishable by death.

People converting from Islam in Afghanistan, then, run a daily risk of beatings, persecution, and worse.

Some Afghans think so little of the Pope they burn him in effigy...

In our household, we have free and open discussions of religion. One of my children is an atheist; the other deeply faith-motivated. We practice the sort of loosey-goosey Christianity so prevalent in the 'burbs: church on weekends when there isn't anything more compelling going on, most of the major sacraments observed, stints in religious ed and family/faith gatherings - but I'm openly critical of our church's leadership as well as the Vatican. I refuse to participate in some parts of the Mass and openly abhor - and I mean with every fiber of my being - many of its teachings. And yet - there we are, week after week. No one bars us entry; no one has tried to eject us; no one's even called me a hypocrite (probably because I beat them to it).

...but then again, this guy could stand to learn a thing or two about tolerance, too.

I'm always surprised at the level of contempt and mistrust of people from other cultures, out here in the affluent zip codes. It's made worse, of course, by the presentation of the "news" by some of our media. I wish that everytime someone in my community is about to make a dig - subtle or not - against the folks down the street who came from elsewhere and practice a non-Christian faith - they would instead remember with great gratitude that our freedoms aren't worth a whole lot if we don't extend them to every citizen. And freedom from persecution doesn't just cover not getting beaten in the streets - it ought to preclude the ladies at the PTA meeting wondering aloud if that new family is "like, Islamic-Islamic, or, you know, American."

Okay. Rant off. I'm a little cranky today. Since I do try to bring my blog posts around to writing at some point, I'll add this thought: when I considered all the books I've completed that will see publication (so far that's a total of eight) I was surprised to conclude that every single one of them touches on the protagonists' personal faith. As my daughter rightly points out, faith is a whole different can o' worms than religion, but I reference churches and worship in every book as well (not always in a positive light) and believe that a faith journey is an important part of each protagonist's arc.

Huh! I found that interesting, since it was not something I set out to do consciously. I'm neither proud nor not-proud of this - but I do find, on reflection, that I like what I've done so far in this arena. And I imagine I'll do more of it.


Mysti said...

Really interesting characters have faith in *something*, and usually have that faith shaken by events in the story. The human tipping point, kind of.

L.G.C. Smith said...

One of the things I found off-putting about so much of the "worthy" literature that was required eleventh grade reading (back when I was young and the world was flat) was the whole modernist project of conflating religion and faith. You toss one, you toss the other, or, as it appeared to me those guys thought, you expose one, you expose the other. This would have been the late-nineteenth, early twentieth century dude lit. Heavy on Hemingway and writers like Stephen Crane. I don't remember too many details at this point, so I'm probably wrong in many instances, but I felt dead inside after reading that stuff. As perceptive and brilliant as these writers are in some ways, yuck, yuck, yuck. I would have killed myself if I'd kept reading that stuff.

Fortunately, there are tons of other novels to read. :)

Rachael Herron said...

That's interesting, how you've brought it into your own work without really thinking about it -- I've noticed and appreciated the way you do it, but hadn't stopped to wonder whether it had been planned.

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