anghara (anghara) wrote,

On faith, again

I've just become aware, through the good offices of the blogosphere, of crisis concerning the outward trappings and symbolism of faith (Hal Duncan, in his inimitable fashion, writes about it here

I don't agree with everything he says - but here's a key quote:

The wearing of the cross is not a matter of religious dictate, but an outward expression of personal belief that is discretionary on the part of the believer. As such it constitutes a communication of — maybe even of an advertisement for — those beliefs. This is what makes it a privilege rather than a right.

And so here I am, thinking about rights and privileges, and cogitating about what makes a dividing line between the two, and what makes for a crossing of that line where someone who is allowed the privilege of displaying a basic symbol of their faith begins to use it as the thin edge of the wedge where they start to see it as a right, because of that display, to evangelise in their faith.

I don't think that a place of employment has a right, as such, to dictate what jewellery may be worn by those it employs - unless such jewellery interferes directly in the performance of the duties for which those employees were employed in the first place. Hal Duncan says something about dangly jewellery in the hospital *in general* and how it might be a place for infection transmission to lurk - and this is acceptable, but outside of Catholic bishops or professsed nuns I have never seen a crucifix that was THAT dangly. Many of them are basically worn on almost choker-length chains, nestling in the hollow of the wearer's throat. I wear a chain like that, with a couple of tiny pendants on it (neither of which is a symbol of any faith whatsoever unless you choose to regard a four-leaf clover as one), and it barely "dangles" to the point of my chin which is really not a sanitary issue and if I were a nurse, for instance, and I was asked to remove that chain (remember, no crucifix, no symbolism) I would have demurred. With vehemence. This particular chain I wear and its danglies haven't left my neck since I was fourteen years old. It's grandfathered in, dammit. If my chain dangled to my navel, and I insisted on wearing it outside my uniform so that it hung in the face of a helpless patient as I leaned over one, then yes, they have a right to ask me to wear things more acceptable in my workplace and jewellery which doesn't interfere with my work, or else keep it tucked away inside of my clothes. But something sitting under my chin? A small unobtrusive something that just sits there and does no harm to anybody? That's quite a different matter.

But that's on the level of jewellery alone. Then we get to the symbolism itself, and the way that the symbolism is affecting, or indeed drives, the person wearing the symbol.

When rdeck was in the hospital and my devout Christian neighbour asked to pray for him, I was fine with that - she asked, and it was something she believed in, and pure faith freely offered is a gift to the one who receives it. If she had demanded that I pray with her, or that begin praying daily with a rosary, or if she had decided to drag me to an evangelical church where the pastor would lay hands on me and holler in tongues so that the devil may leave my soul - that would be quite a different matter.

On the level of the nurse's crucifix, if she is just wearing it quietly and basically keeping it out of the picture unless somebody asks (a simple utterance of, "would you pray for me, Nurse?" would open a conversation on faith because obviously the patient would have been of the same faith and believed in the same thing and that prayer would have been meaningful). But so long as the nurse didn't insist on approaching patients of a different faith with the heartfelt desire to pray for them or with them - to HER OWN GOD - then that nurse's faith is basically her own business.

If she had EVER used the cross to try and force-feed the Christian faith to another human being who was helpless and in her care, I would be the first to cry foul. But I am not clear if that is what she in fact tried to do. And just wearing the crucifix - well - if someone else chooses to be offended at what jewellery some stranger wears then that's their problem not the stranger's.

I carry a tiny golden cross in an inside pocket of my purse. Not necessarily because I am a great believer - but it was given to me by somebody I loved, and I carry it because of that, because of the link that it is between me and that other person who is no longer with me. And what my own beliefs are... is between me and that which I believe in. I'm happy to talk about it with anyone, if they express an interest. I am not about to haul out cross and thunder the Gospel at anybody. I very much appreciate other people not doing that to me (because if they do I will leave them in no uncertainty whatsoever as to how deeply unwelcome it is). I don't want to change my faith - such as it currently is - and if I did *I* would do the searching. Thank you very very much indeed.

And that's the thing - this business of the "persecution" of Christians in today's world. Er, what? Was somebody gathering them up and stuffing arenas with them and siccing lions at them when I wasn't watching?? Or does "persecution", these days, merely mean, "Oh, diddums, look, we aren't allowed to proselytize at will!" - because it seems to me that, at least for the more evangelically-bent subsets of the Christian faith, this is what it boils down to. I don't think that there is a blanket ban on the wearing of crucifixes in public places - and if ONE nurse in ONE hospital is required to refrain from wearing hers for reasons that stand up to scrutiny then that is merely aggravation and inconvenience but, I'm sorry, it hardly qualifies as persecution. Your ancestors were persecuted, O Christian Nation. They were eaten by lions, and crucified, and driven into secret underground sects, and sometimes burned at the stake. In the relatively early days, that is. And then, O Christian Nation, you took it into your heads that you were responsible for the Human Soul - and abominations like the Spanish Inquisition and the witch-hunting years bore bitter testimony to that conviction, to the fact that you were willing to rack and burn human flesh in THIS world so that (according to your convictions if not the victims' own) the souls once contained in that flesh would become immortal in the hereafter. The Christian doctrine quickly ossified into the One True Way, and any deviation from that was swiftly condemned in terms of heresy, and oh so many wars were started by and on behalf of people and generals and nations who claimed God to be on their side and nobody else's, amen.

Wear a crucifix, or not. If you don't actually shove it into people's faces and demand that they too are obliged to believe in what it means to you, wearing such a thing is an expression of your own personal faith and no-one has a right to call you on that. But if you ever - EVER - use it as a tool for proselytizing and evangelizing and generally demanding that your faith has the God-given right to rule the world - you're over the line. A long way over the line.

And see, here's the thing. It's the kind of line which you can step over whether or not you choose to advertise your faith by that crucifix which you have put on public display. Wearing a cross doesn't make you a bully for your faith, only using it in inappropriate ways does.

The more I know about this stuff, the more I like the basic guiding tenet of Wicca: "An it harm none do what ye will." This religious "persecution" complex will end instantly if individuals would only accept that what lies between them and their God is no business at all of other people's, nor is it any business of THEIRS what lies between those other people and their own God. If I see you in the street, or in the hospital, wearing a crucifix, I will have a good idea of what you believe and of who you are. No, you don't have to tell me more. And don't think that if you don't you are somehow standing between me and salvation. You are not. I absolve you of that responsibility. I will save or damn my own soul, whether or not you flash a crucifix at me. Yours is not the kingdom or the power or the glory - they belong to God, and if I am to find my way to them I had better do it myself or not at all. The wearing of a symbol of faith - of ANY faith - should merely signal that you adhere to that particular set of beliefs, not that you are become them.
Tags: faith

  • Post a new comment


    Anonymous comments are disabled in this journal

    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded