Teaching Others to be Secular..!

A rather ugly episode happened that made me think deep into the subject of respecting other religions. A secular choir in Bombay, one of the oldest in India, suddenly had a piquant situation. They were invited to sing for a program which was in praise to a particular god. The committee immediately accepted with the exception of one lone member who said that his community, which formed the major part of the choir, but was represented in a miniscule way in the committee, could not sing.

“Why?” one of the committee members asked, “We sing in your churches don’t we? We sing your hymns and classics?”

“Yes, that’s because your religion doesn’t forbid you to do so, mine does!”

“We are a secular choir, so we should sing anything!” they said.

“Secularism,” he replied, “Doesn’t mean that we all believe in the same thing. On the contrary secularism means understanding other religions and existing together knowing and following a common minimum program, where the beliefs of others are not trampled upon, and where the commonality is celebrated together!”

We need to understand this in a multi religious society like our country.

I have two close friends, one a Muslim and the other a Brahmin. We love each other’s company and go out for a meal quite often. One doesn’t eat meat, the other doesn’t eat pork and I eat most anything. Now just because I can eat a vegetarian meal and a meal with pork, doesn’t mean that I tell them that they also should eat what I eat, which means everything? No, we go to a restaurant, where none of us feel uncomfortable, and what benefits is, is our friendship.

When we don’t understand this method, and make judgements only based on what we do, or how we adjust, then begins the crumbling of relationships, crumbling of a choir, crumbling also of a country!

But now I’m going to move even deeper. Even as we need to study the religions of others, we need to study that of our own. I was amazed to see a few people in that same choir who were practising the penances and sacrifices of Lent, showing their willingness to sing in praise of a god, that was forbidden in their religion.

“It doesn’t matter!” they said, looking painfully hurt, because they had fasted the full day, “I am secular!”

“No,” I said in my mind, “You are a hypocrite, plain and simple!”

And just suppose they had heard me, I’m sure they would have asked, “How am I one? I am just doing this so that I am not labelled a bigot!”

“You will never be labelled a bigot for following what your religion teaches you to do,” I would have said, “But when you can practise, your beliefs within the closed doors of your home, and practise another set of beliefs with a group so you will be accepted, then you are a hypocrite, aren’t you?”

But it’s the passion week, and my eyes turn to the cross, on which is nailed a bloodied, dying man, a crown of sharp thorns pressed into his head. I look at Him, muttering words, words that some mumble when nearing death, and in my mind I rush to the cross, to hear what He mumbles. But I am too late, and the words have stopped. “What did He say?” I ask a Roman soldier nearby. “I don’t know,” he laughs.

“What did He say?” I ask another, who is gambling for Christ’s robe at the foot of the cross, “What did the Son of God say?”

Another soldier looks up at me and there is confusion in His eyes, “He said, ‘Father forgive them for they know not what they do!’ What did He mean?”

I look at the man on the cross, and tears well up in my eyes, and start streaming down, “He was explaining to His father to forgive you for what you are doing to Him?” I whisper.

“Why?” asks the bewildered soldier.

“Because He knows that you do so, without realising what you are doing!”

I move away from the cross, and come back two thousand years to the present, and start thinking of what I’d been writing about, what would Jesus have said?
“How could I have called him or her a hypocrite?” I ask myself, “Because each of them who practise maybe the rituals of Lent and then break the commandments of God, do so because they have no idea what they are doing, and then my mind goes deeper, to those who are imposing their majority views on a minority, “What would Jesus have done?”

And I hear a voice whispering in my ear, “I was a minority Bob, on that Cross, and yet I forgave them. You need to forgive them for the same!”

“Then when will they ever learn Lord, with the decisions they are imposing on us?” I ask angrily.

“When you forgive them, and that blind anger vanishes from your mind. When you forgive them, and understand why they think that way, then will come to you the language of love, that will win their hearts over!” whispers the Man on the cross.

A man died on the cross two thousand years ago, because He was a minority in his beliefs, but with His forgiveness, came a language of love that has made what He preached then, the beliefs of a world-wide majority today!

Even as we argue in futility using logical words which may fail, try to understand their inability to comprehend and forgive, and through that forgiveness, will develop the language of love, that sweeps all arguments aside like a tsunami. A language which is actually a living language of how you live your life, with love towards one another, not hatred and anger.

Then will people learn what it means to be secular..!


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2 thoughts on “Teaching Others to be Secular..!”

  1. Some felt touched by good returned for evil. Some see the meek as weak beings. You win some and you lose some. In the end times, evil will increase, love will grow cold and might will be right. But forgiving frees you of harming yourself with pent up anger,depression and all the plans for retaliation,that effects your health, wastes your time and taxes your mind.That robs your money

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