religion-dividesI almost died several weeks ago. I do not remember much except hearing a voice saying I had to return. As I lay recuperating in the hospital for the past two weeks, I watched people go to and fro.

It became clear to me that as our world moves forward into the future, we are continually presented with significant amounts of division.  Secular, for-profit corporations are attempting to exercise unprecedented religious exemptions from the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) “contraception mandate;” the continual battle against gay and lesbian rights, stripping unemployment insurance from the most needy, etc., etc., etc. Here are some samples:

  • Georgia lawmakers approved a bill allowing guns in bars, schools, restaurants, churches and airports, and also expands on the state’s “Stand Your Ground” defense.
  • A Georgia town passed mandatory gun bill. “In order to provide for the emergency management of the city, and further in order to provide for and protect the safety, security and general welfare of the city and its inhabitants, every head of household residing in the city limits is required to maintain a firearm, together with ammunition therefore,” the ordinance said.
  • An eight (8) year who sported a short haircut, liked to wear jeans and T-shirts, and collects autographed baseballs was kicked out of a Christian school. It should be mentioned, the child maintained a 4.0 average at Timberlake Christian School and steered clear of any disciplinary issues, save for her desire to wear boy’s pants as part of her school uniform. Her sin you ask? Paraphrasing Principal Becky Bowman, “We believe … that God has made her female and her dress and behavior need to follow suit with her God-ordained identity.”
  • Alaska State Sen. Pete Kelly (R) is declaring war on fetal alcohol syndrome, and he’s proposing to place state-funded pregnancy tests in bars and restaurants so that women can figure out if they’re pregnant before drinking. But he also told the Anchorage Daily News this week that he opposes increased access to contraception, because birth control is only for women “who don’t want to act responsibly.”
  • Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld slammed President Barack Obama on Monday, saying “a trained ape” would have better foreign policy skills.
  • Former Alaska Governor and GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin lashed out at President Barack Obama’s administration today for its handling of relations with Israel, taking to Facebook to air out her frustrations over what she called “junior high diplomacy.”
  • The first 60 seconds of this interview with Franklin Graham, the son of charismatic preacher Billy Graham, viewers were treated to his condemnation of gay adoption as “recruitment,” fear-mongering about a political gay agenda, as well as a strong endorsement of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s harsh policies towards LGBT individuals.

Regardless of faith, religious beliefs seems to do a very good job of dividing and creating a tremendous amount of hate. Yet, many have been known to cross society’s divide.

Biblically speaking, Christ’s conversation with a Samaritan woman one hot afternoon is mostly known for its reference to the “living water.” But Christ’s broader personal act have implications not often discussed. First, to get to Samaria, Christ had to walk through some of the most ethnically and racially challenged areas.  Secondly, Christ was seen talking alone to a woman. Third, Christ opened the door salvation to all, not just to those ministered to by the Pharisees and Sadducees. All of these acts crossed the boundaries of man-made bias and prejudices. Christ did His best to break down known barriers.

Similarly, Buddha gave up his wealth and attended to the poor. Same could be said of St. Francis of Assisi, Dr. Martin Luther King, President Abraham Lincoln, the Dali Lama and many many others.

As a Buddhist, I don’t want faith (in and of itself) to become such an ideology that divides and causes antagonism. The DNA of all living things are interconnected. We come from the very same life source that created the trees and sea turtles; the flowers and the birds; the planets and the moon. Thus, our conversation must be about how important we are to each other; the need to see how interconnected life is and think about how to really help each other. Staying together and living together is so important – more than we know. The human spirit is based upon deeper values: the inter-communal, the inter-cultural, and inter-religious.

We are in this together. Love unconditionally. This form of love cannot be stopped by differences, religious or otherwise, for love and understanding are two sides of the same coin.