In lieu of Writer Wednesday today, I'd like to talk to you about something more personal. This week my aunt, who was also my godmother, passed away suddenly. Faith and prayer is one area that my aunt and I shared as important in our lives.
In addition to this, I have been conducting a lot of genealogy research lately. Religion has had a direct influence on my family for centuries. I had known before that the family included French Huguenots, that sought religious freedom first in England and then as some of the earliest settlers of Virginia. Another branch included Germans who moved to what was then southern Russia, and is today Ukraine, to avoid persecution in the 1800s before moving to Nebraska. I have also now learned that one of the earliest female Quaker missionaries was from another branch of my family and that she petitioned King Charles II for religious freedom for the Quakers in Massachusetts Bay Colony. Yet another branch includes the Jewish exilarchs that reigned during the Babylonian Captivity and were descendants of King David. Though diverse, religion played a central role to my ancestors and they all pursued a strong commitment to truth, to light. They were people of spirit. There is a transcendence beyond their denominations. This light can be a guiding force in living and in writing.
Religion matters in life but also in fiction. Some fiction depicts religion as a hindrance or manipulative.
Other fiction explores in-depth particular religions- perhaps the stories of priests or persecuted Jews during WWII or champions one denomination above all else. Fiction and society can malign a group of people in one way or another, if these differences receive emphasis over the similarities.
A question that often comes up is what religion prohibits. Religions are portrayed as drawing lines, rules and regulations.
"Can you do this?"
"Are you allowed to eat pork?"
"Can you dance?"
Rather than focus on what religions prohibit, then, I have a new question for you...
What does your religion allow? I propose that this is what's more important.
Does it allow you to be compassionate?
Does it give you strength, a sense of belonging, but one that does not exclude others through poor treatment?
Does your religion allow you to live in peace?
Does your religion allow you to love?
These are the questions that matter more than denomination, nation or century in which we live. These are the questions that ought to guide faith and life. This love and compassion is the example that my godmother set for me and one of the most important parts of her, and all of the ancestors before her, that I carry with me.
My best to you all,