Of Respect and Religion
by Tarice Gray
In America, religious freedom is said to be a basic human right. Who said this? The authors of our constitution. Proof? The first amendment which reads Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof has made it possible for a Mormon to a Presidential nominee.
By reminding you of this, I am neither congratulating nor ridiculing the current Republican presidential candidate. My point actually has little to do with politics, outside of the basic constitutional rights of Americans. I feel I am, in a way, pursuing a sort of push back against those who seem to think the laws of the constitution, this portion of the first amendment in particular, is a waste. Here’s why I think otherwise.
Last week, with a few moments of down time one evening, I watched Rock Center on NBC. The program featured a highly promoted “expose’” on Mormonism. I watched and learned. While I, in no way, believe in the Mormon religious doctrine, I have to admit…I saw within this community a sense of service toward their “fellow man.” They hired fellow Mormon missionaries, set up Costco style warehouse stores for their needy, staffed with volunteers who were otherwise well-to-do businessmen and women.
They served one another.
I saw similar behavior among Jews when I lived in an Orthodox neighborhood years ago. To them, looking out for one another was God’s order–and it was to be followed. Within the Christian faith, there is the Salvation Army, an organization that has made goodwill a mainstay in mainstream communities. There are also other networks of faith that help, harvest and herald their own. But…Yes, there’s a but.
Many look at the conservative “Christian right” as an accurate example of Christianity in America. They believe that Christianity is a religion for the gun-toting, racist, sexist, excessively rich, with no pity for the poor. Mormons have also shared the same disturbing characterization because of Romney’s run which unfortunately, he’s often staged himself as such in public appearances. Detached, greedy = Mormon, right? At the other end of the spectrum, Hollywood, home of the liberal extreme, has been a haven for Scientology. Many have concluded that religion is unspeakably…well, weird. Even efforts like the establishment of drug rehab centers have been targeted because of the making of false and even dangerous promises.
And that’s pretty much the only kind of news we hear about any of these faiths
Of course those of the Jewish faith have endured some of the worst religious prejudice. Yet their schools, and community centers, have been extremely influential. Muslims also have had to contend with the greatest misconception of all…that they are all committed disciples to a terrorist religion.
Religion in this nation has lost its beauty, its purpose, skewed not only by media misconception, but inner degradation. It is incredibly hard to stand for a religion I wholeheartedly believe in, within a society that has banned prayer in schools, and wants “In God We Trust” erased from money and federal buildings. Especially, when the truth is that greed, misdirection, and prejudice has maliciously defaced pretty much all religions. And yet they seem to have a core of goodness, and as in my Christian beliefs, hold to a specific truth.
Religions need to be reshaped, evolve even, but at their core they need to be left alone, to exist. The RNC’s open commitment to prayer at its convention seems to make the point that they have the freedom to do just that. For that effort, they should at the very least be applauded and not ridiculed.
Again, I do not believe every religion is right. Please hear that clearly. However, I do believe in everyone’s right to be religious.
Tarice Gray is a journalist based out of the NYC area. You can visit her online at www.graycurrent.com