The Quest of Life

Innocence. Two white concrete statues covered by dust. Sebastian Voortman

My grandsons’ voices rose to fever pitch, but it wasn’t about the possession of a prized Lego piece. Each loudly defended his position in what appeared to be a battle royal, swiftly moving towards fisticuffs—the youngest yelling: “Christmas is about Jesus, the baby, coming. That’s it, nothing else.” His brother, just as passionately, “No, Christmas is about family. Jesus may have started it, but now it’s about family.”

Refreshing that boys under ten could engage in a lively discussion their elders have been debating in one form or another for centuries. Granted the elders may take this discussion further by disagreeing about WHO the redeemer is, WHAT his true mission might be, WHEN or if he might return, WHERE his preferred altar might be, and WHY 2,000 years or so after this birth we should care.

They touched upon a tender nerve—religion—that has over the centuries resulted in the death or injury of millions of people, forcing them away from their original homeland and against their natural family. Sometimes they argued over the “rightful” possession of land associated with their religion and whether God gave it to one group or another. Certainly it would have been easier and less bloody if God had taken a huge Sharpie and drawn lines on the earth, defining who “owned” what, making sure everyone had water and tillable land. Of course in the desert where much of this started out, there wasn’t much of either. The competitive nature, that God may or may not have instilled in certain humans, and a burning desire for MORE—the greed factor—set off these battles. But maybe God wanted us to figure it out for ourselves, since earth wasn’t expected to be perfect, but life would have its high and low points.

Taken to its common denominator, we have family, where hopefully we learn what we need to survive in the outer world. If we’re lucky, we find the love and nurturing there that will gird us like Gladiators to protect us from what the world will throw at us over a lifetime. More times than not we utilize whatever physical, mental, and emotional resources are available and we pull ourselves together, moving forward day by day , not just surviving, but eventually thriving with those we’ve drawn to us.

It’s refreshing that a youngster born in 2014 considers Jesus to be the center of Christmas. And it’s encouraging for a seven-year-old to believe in family as the focal point. I’d like to believe they both have a point, just as I’d like to believe there could be space for every organization or person who fiercely believes in their message but would “do no harm” to those with different or opposing beliefs.

This caveat might be the hardest of all–tolerance and physical protection for those “nonbelievers” who do not follow the tenants of another religion’s beliefs, providing they do no injury to others. And there’s the rub. Should we not make room for those believers who do not want to kill others in the name of their God or lack because they do not belong to the religion of choice? 

Maybe the world has grown too complicated with too many divergent interests. But could each of us reach out a hand to another to learn about them–working to achieve an open-ended discussion, to learn what we do have in common. What would it take to find the tolerance to examine the layers of the onion of each other’s beliefs to come to the bedrock of it?  If we did, could we find something in common?

Would there, could there be, a family tie or the basic elements of community somewhere near the center?

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