His face stops me, whatever I’m doing; and I take a moment to breathe, to appreciate beauty and all things good. His renowned kindness makes me smile with (a totally unearned) pride in him. His actor’s ability to entertain leaves me in wonderment.
I worship him. Quite literally. He is to me the representation of everything that ‘religion’ stands for - Love, kindness, long-suffering, patience, courage. Not for nothing do I quote, “Elijah Wood is God’s way of saying we should be happy.”
I believe that his mission on this earth is to show us by example how we should live.
Like any religion, love for him is both unifying and divisive:
The nature of people is self-preservation. We make choices based on what will make us the most popular with those around us, because frankly the more friends we have, the ‘safer’ we are. In fact - did you know? - throughout most of the tribes of Africa (before contaminated by European values), a man’s wealth was counted by the number of friends that he had.
We need that basis of “I belong to a large group of people who think the way I do, and they love me.” It is that instinct which has made the human race possible. There is nothing at all wrong with it, and in fact, the loyalty of individuals within a group is one of our loftiest achievements. I believe in loyalty to family, friends, coworkers and employer. I even believe in loyalty to city
and country, although that is somewhat frowned on these days.
Unfortunately, the other side of that coin is, “If I am right, you must be wrong.” Because if you didn’t believe that you were right, that your system of beliefs was the ‘correct’ one, then you would change it; and change is not safe - it may conflict with the beliefs of your loyalty network. So it is equally human nature to vilify the ‘other’.
It is for these reasons that we have so many religions - those that tolerate each other as well as those who implacably attempt to wipe each other out. Buddhists, Taoists, Sikhs, Hindus; and the most inimical of all, The People of the Book - Jews, Christians, Muslims, Baha’is - each of which does not recognize the validity of those who came after. (Read: ‘seeks maliciously to wipe out’.)
I don’t know much about the others, but the ‘Christian’ religion is so fractured that it has countless subgroups, EACH of which is convinced that the other is so misled that they will all go to hell. How stupid and shortsighted is that?
But if I BELIEVE that it is necessary to be baptized in order to enter Heaven, if I BELIEVE that it is necessary to be totally immersed in Holy Water in order to be properly baptized, then I must give my loyalty to one particular denomination. And having the support of that group, the respect and approbation of that group validates my own belief system, my own value as a person, and helps me to be ‘safe’.
Am I going to do anything to jeopardize that safety? In a pigs eye!
Even if I should become convinced of the ‘wrongness’ of it, I’m likely to keep my mouth shut. I was just watching Norma Rae, the story of a young woman who unionized the southern (US) textile industry. Like all reformers before her, she was vilified and jailed before those around her understood that their best interests, their ‘safety’ lay in accepting what she was trying to do. It
takes a superhuman person to be that reformer, that freethinker; and history rightly memorializes these amazing people.
And this is where I go that you probably don’t want to follow:
I figured it out. I am slow, but I am not stupid. Given the proper clues, I will eventually figure it out. It really was blatantly obvious, I just hadn’t put 2 and 2 together. (I’m notorious for that. I always get 5, until I stop to reason out all the factors.)
Based on all of the above, I absolve all of you to whom it may apply. Most of you didn’t even realize that there was a choice to make; and indeed you may never be questioned and forced to make that choice. But some few of you did, indeed, know and choose. And I can’t blame you. I expect I’d have done the same.
If you are sitting comfortably in your church (place of worship of any kind), happily praising God in your own way, and someone comes in and tells you that you’re wrong, that God finds you wanting in your beliefs, how will you react? Suppose you belong to an all-white church and the stranger is black? And you know in your soul that he is right; that God will judge you for not accepting blacks as equal to you. Are you going to stand with that stranger, in front of family and friends and all you hold dear, and tell them that they are wrong?
I think not. I wouldn’t either. Ashamed as I may be to admit it. (Although I may stop attending that church. How hard, how hurtful that would be! And I guess, if only a few brave souls would stand to the stranger’s defense, I may join them. But I think that may be innocence rather than bravery - sheer ignorance of how deeply my life may be damaged by that betrayal.)
If YOU are sitting comfortably in the hotel lobby with a group of congenial ‘pervy hobbit fanciers’, laughing, talking, exploring new worlds together; accepted, loved, having the time of your life, in the company of a charismatic, intelligent, perceptive leader ...
And someone comes along, wanting to join the group, but the leader turns away, refuses entrance ...
Are YOU going to stand up and say, “Let her stay”? Are you going to risk your weekend to defend someone you don’t actually know? Are you going to sacrifice a dozen new friendships for just one?
I don’t think so. Neither would I.