By: Paul P. Jesep*/TRT Columnist—
A spiritual gay man recently asked me, “What draws you to Christianity?”
He didn’t ask why I was a Christian, but wanted to know what “drew” me to the teachings of Jesus. Perhaps the broader question is what draws anyone to faith.
His question is excellent, especially as the nation wrestles with the unsettling divisiveness of, to put it charitably, an unconventional president.
My personal faith draws me to Christianity, though equally holy and sacred spiritual solace can be found elsewhere. Yet my overall embrace of spiritual mysteries has made me appreciate and seek enlightenment from many great religions.
I sincerely believe in a Supreme Being who is manifested in different ways. I do not believe one faith is better than another. Otherwise, the Creator is limited rather than omnipresent, omnipotent, and infinite. Christianity is what provides me a connection to the holy.
One of my favorite theologians, Father Alexander Men, an Eastern Orthodox priest, observed, “Faith is not an escape from life nor is it a way of shutting oneself off in some imaginary world.”
Faith requires us to engage with the world. It is not an escape. Jesus worked in the trenches to help one person at a time who in turn became disciples of love, kindness, and compassion while speaking truth to power.
Like millions of Americans, I was appalled by the tragedy in Charlottesville, Virginia last month. A woman lost her life and many others were injured for speaking out against the racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and homophobia of neo-Nazis and white supremacist marchers.
I was naively hopeful that the current president of the United States would take the opportunity to condemn such extraordinary vitriol, but instead he emboldened hate groups. It will be a very long wait until the next presidential election. Take small comfort in the mid-term elections next year.
Until that time my faith must sustain me.
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. reminded all those who struggled to speak truth to power and injustice that “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Of course King was inspired by his Christian faith. In the Bible are many inspirational teachings about being the light in a dark world.
Charlottesville reminded me that my light is not dependent on a crass, inept, misguided, uninformed, and often ignorant president. I can be my own light because of personal faith. Belief in a higher authority inspires me to try to make the world a little less cold and unjust.
I’m also inspired by Heather Heyer who died when peacefully protesting. She is a light in the world. A neo-Nazi drove his car into a crowd and murdered her. Heather’s Mom said it best, “They tried to kill my child to shut her up—well, guess what—you just magnified her.” Heather is a martyr and now with the angels to inspire those she leaves behind. Who needs an out-of-touch president when there is Heather’s memory and inspiration?
My faith helps me to visualize a holy fire of love and warmth from which I light my candle to pass on to others. It fuels me to give solace and reassurance to others that “this too shall pass” while encouraging them to volunteer, peacefully protest, limit their news access, and get involved in a campaign because the midterm elections are next year. My faith reassures me darkness never trumps the light. You don’t need inspiration from the current president to pass on your light.
*Paul is a corporate chaplain, seminary trained priest, and lawyer in greater Albany, NY. He’s also author of, “Lost Sense of Self & the Ethics Crisis.”