Today, I want to share a bracing view, courtesy of my mother. She converted to Catholicism (from Protestantism) when she married my dad, but she wasn’t much of a church-goer. When my dad suggested she should accompany him to mass on Sundays, she had a telling rejoinder:
You worry about your soul — I’ll worry about mine.
Excellent advice. Mom had a way of speaking that cut to the chase.
When it comes to religion, too many Americans seek to push their beliefs on others. And often there’s some guilt or a veiled threat in the push. “A good person goes to church.” “These are holy days of obligation.” “You should go to set a good example for the kids.” “Don’t forget judgment day — God is looking down on you right now.”
My mom was having none of that. She also didn’t need church to do the right thing. She was kind and generous and, in my opinion, followed the example of the Gospel without making airs about it.
When it comes to religion, few people want to be pushed into attending “mandatory” practices. Indeed, I’ve always liked Christ’s teachings on praying to God in private, rather than standing on a street corner and shouting your beliefs to the masses. Speaking of which, I once witnessed a man doing exactly that in Oxford, England, shouting on the street, proclaiming the good news. When someone complained, he cited a Biblical passage that enjoined him to proclaim his faith in a loud voice so that others might follow in his footsteps.
That’s a problem with the Bible: So many passages, so many messages, so many interpretations.
Still, I persist in believing in my mother’s aphorism: Focus on the health of your own soul and its relationship to whatever higher power or higher ideals you believe in. Don’t focus on the souls and the beliefs and practices of others.
Or, as Christ put it, “Judge not — lest you be judged.”