Do You Hear What I Hear?

Do you hear what I hear? Do you hear the same sermons? Do your spiritual advisers say what mine do?

A Facebook friend posted a sermon snippet recently that I would never have heard in my church. I could quote it, but the specifics are beside the point. Spiritual leaders in churches (and mosques and temples and synagogues) all over the world are saying things that would never be said in my church.

If all these spiritual leaders are saying different things, what does that say about organized religion? How can we trust it, when its leaders are saying such different things about the role of women, homosexuality, interpretation of holy writings, popular culture, politics, and other religions?

This dissonance could lead you to dismiss organized religion entirely, or treat it as a threat to a peaceful society. (Can you say secularization?) You could believe that your religion is right one, and that the others are wrong. (Remember Zappa’s harsh critique?) Is there any way to dissolve this dissonance into peaceful diversity?

An early Quaker leader spoke of “that of God in every man.” What are the common teachings in all our religions, all our holy writings, that reveal “that of God”? It’s an imperfect lens, but you can find common themes: caring for the poor, forgiveness, and reserving time for spiritual work (prayer, meditation).

I expect most readers are familiar with the Ten Commandments and the teachings of Jesus. But look at Buddhism’s tenets of giving, forbearance, and meditation. Look at Islam’s teachings on alms-giving, forgiveness, and daily prayers. If you look at churches (and mosques and temples and synagogues) all over the world, you’ll find a great deal of energy directed towards giving, forgiving, and spending quality time with God.

Our spiritual leaders create comfortable, spiritual homes, full of “people like us.” Then they help us work on important things that aren’t so comfortable: giving to the poor, spiritual growth, and forgiving all those less-than-perfect people. It’s a big job. Just think how selfish, self-centered, and judgmental we all are!

Do You Hear What I hear was written in October 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis. For its composers, the lyrics “Pray for peace, people everywhere” had special meaning. If our spiritual advisers can get us to help the poor, practice forgiveness, and have a close relationship with God, I believe peace will prevail.

Peace. Now there’s a reason to go to church. Or the mosque, temple or synagogue that is your spiritual home. Go and listen. Listen, learn, and grow.

Do you hear what I hear?

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