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By JANNAYA ANDREWS
We are not the religious reich
In a nation founded on the principle of freedom of religion, it would seem reasonable to assume those with a strong religious faith are allowed to express themselves without fear of persecution. That assumption, however, is not necessarily true. While Americans are permitted to practice any religion they choose, talking about religion is another ball of wax altogether.
This isn’t intended to be a column on whether religion is right or wrong. The issue I would like to address is a prevalent stereotype that if a person is religious, he or she is judgmental and intolerant of those who may be different or not of a religious nature. This simply isn’t true, and portraying those of faith as lifestyle dictators akin to single-minded oppressors of the past is both inaccurate and unfair.
There certainly are religious people who view those who are different from themselves as somehow inferior, just as there are non-religious people who view religious people in the same light. However to group all of these individuals, on either side of the spectrum, into one large basket is absurd.
Different isn’t bad. Different is different.
So how did we come to the point where it is acceptable for the faithless to silence the faithful?
Recently in Barstow, Fla., residents displaying “God Bless America” signs on their front lawns were told if the signs were not removed they will be fined $25 per day. The signs, which were distributed by local churches around the July Fourth holiday, were deemed in violation of a city ordinance unless posted during a relevant holiday. So a sign that was legal for the July Fourth holiday is now illegal in October.
I don’t feel we as a society should do things that purposefully make others feel uncomfortable. However I’m having difficulty understanding the edict that a “God Bless America” sign with a picture of an American flag, posted in a homeowner’s yard, is infringing on the rights of others. The sign doesn’t say “God Bless Christian Americans.” The sign does not exclude people based on race, religion, sexual orientation or any other group you could name. “God Bless America.” It seems fairly unified to me.
Yes there are some, particularly those with a public voice, who thrive on belittling those who are different. However, we may do well to remember having the loudest voice does not necessarily make a person right, nor should it be an indication of the mindset any particular group. We are not the religious reich. We are not here to condemn, we are here to uplift and encourage one another in every way possible. Nothing else should matter.
Move it on over, gabby
On a lighter note, while grocery shopping recently I found myself becoming increasingly irritated. Granted, this isn’t all that unusual for me, especially while shopping, but on this particular trip I decided to take note of what exactly was making me so grumpy. The answer was simple: Rude people.
It seemed each isle I tried to go down was blocked by a throng of people, carts parked in the middle of the isle, chit-chatting the day away with some long-lost friend. I’m all for reminiscing with old friends and relatives, but is it necessary to park your cart in the center of the isle and block would-be shoppers from getting to their well deserved junk food?
As I encountered one such group I patiently waited for one of the chatty-Cathy’s to notice me, say an embarrassed “Oh, I’m sorry!” to which I would politely smile and say “That’s okay!” while she moved her cart. Instead, after a few minutes of being ignored, I said “Excuse me, please,” and was met with a look of hostility while she graciously moved her cart an inch to the left so I could squeeze by, knocking several box goods off the shelf in the process, only to turn the corner and see two more chatty-Cathy’s blocking the next isle. Faced with yet another potential source of irritation I chose to postpone the remainder of my shopping for another day.
I’m certain I’m not the only person annoyed by these human roadblocks. Is it really too much to ask shoppers to move to the side of the isle for these gab-fests? I think not. Perhaps one day grocery stores will have a pull-off lane for chatters. Until that day comes, move it on over, let other shoppers pass with ease, and the world may be a less irritated place.
The writer is the associate editor of the Decatur Daily Democrat. She may be reached by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org