Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Faith Perspectives: Painting a Kinder World

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Faith Perspectives: Painting a Kinder World

Article excerpt

Recently my family and I vacationed in downtown Chicago. It was an amazing, immersive experience of chaos. Buses, cars and taxis jockeying for position. Pedestrians moving, cattle-like, across intersections. The elevated train system rumbling above. Frigid wind whipping through towering skyscrapers.

Amid all this movement, there was one constant: On every corner, a ragged-looking homeless man held out a paper cup. On a particularly chilly day, the cup was the only thing visible from one of the men, as he buried his head in his thin coat, a losing battle in keeping warm.

When possible I stopped and put in a dollar or two, or some coins. This elicited a gravelly "Thank you" or "God bless you." It was in hearing those responses that I recalled what is at the heart of all major religions: painting a different picture of the world.

Everyday life can be brutal. Like downtown Chicago, chaos swirls all around. Nature or humanity can detonate a lightning bolt of pain at any moment, and you're helpless to prevent it.

Religions are tied together by proclaiming, in small or great ways, that this isn't the only portrait of life. Ultimately, in the midst of de-humanization and violence, there is still compassion, hope, companionship, encouragement, justice.

Faith communities paint a picture of this alternative reality. Granted, some may lose their way when they prioritize doctrine over kindness, thus perpetuating the suffering. But the majority of religious folks I know are bound together through emphasizing personal and communal acts that show the hurting that they are not alone in their pain.

When people of faith cross theological lines to help restore a Jewish cemetery, they are painting a world different from that of the warped views of those who desecrated it. When people stand up for those who will be affected by state or federal budget cuts, they are doing it as well. When people raise money and supplies to aid tornado victims or children orphaned by violence, they are continuing the brush strokes. …

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