I’ve been going to Seders at my close friend’s house for almost a decade. I can remember the first one like it was yesterday. She was pregnant with her daughter, now almost nine, and living in Bayside, New York. Her parents were away if I remember correctly. She invited us to celebrate with her and I was honored. She cooked a beautiful meal. I brought jelly rings and kosher-for-Passover cake. There was wine. All of us — my husband, her husband, and the two of us — took turns reading from the haggadah. To me, it was so cool to experience an important part of my friend’s religion. The fact that a Seder was the basis of my religion — Good Friday dinner was actually a Seder — made it all the more exciting.
Once we had children they were integrated into the tradition. Last year my own little girl, who will make her First Communion next year, read from the haggadah. Over the years a few people have questioned our participation. Won’t it confuse the kids, I’ve been asked. My answer is always the same: Not at all.
As a parent I want my children to understand, respect, and appreciate not just their own religion but religions from around the world. Although, as I have mentioned before, I am not religious, I am spiritual. I believe that there is one God — entity, being, spirit, whatever you want to call It. He or She plays a lot of roles. He’s Buddha to the Buddhists. He speaks through Muhammad for the Muslim people. He is Jesus for Christians. Because I choose to believe this, I also believe that there are no “right” or “chosen” people. Just lots of people who believe in different versions of the same deity. As a Christian, I can’t believe in a God who would leave my best friends, most of whom are Jewish, out of Heaven just because they were never Baptized. And I don’t agree with people — and there are plenty from all different religions — who judge people for the Gods they choose to follow or, even worse, the lifestyle that they lead. I hope by exposing my girls to as much cultural and religious experiences they will discover that there are more similarities than differences binding our faiths together. It’s a lesson that more people need to learn.
This past Friday I went in for a medical test. Nothing serious. Everything is okay. Anyway, the tech I saw was Muslim. A man from Turkey who immigrated to the U.S. when he was 17. Today, he works three jobs, has a new baby, and is married to a Jewish girl he loves more than life. (He asked me what I thought of President Obama’s healthcare reform and ended up telling me all about his life. It’s a side effect of my job. Everyone loves to talk to me and spill their guts.) He was so passionate when he started talking about his life as a Muslim. Real Muslims, he told me, don’t hate Americans or anyone for that matter. The Qur’an, the Muslim’s Bible, says you must love everyone, he told me. He was so upset at how people look at him and assume because he is a Muslim he wants to kill Americans. “In my country, in my religion, we don’t know from prejudice. It’s only here in America that people look at each other and judge each other based on the color of their skin, the God that they pray to, the money they earn.” I listened and nodded and wondered what it must be like to be him. (And I felt guilty that I don’t really know all that much about the Muslim faith.)
So what’s the point? This week marks important holidays for two major religions. I know it’s probably not on the top of your mind but, just for a moment, consider reading a little about what others may be experiencing. I’m not asking anyone to convert or to betray their own faith or God. Just have a little matzoh, a hot cross bun or two, and enjoy. Life is too short to get into a my-religion-is-better-than-your-religion pissing match. Isn’t better when we just all get along?
How much do you know about other religions? What do you make of the fact that religion has been behind so many of our world wars? What’s up with that?!? And how can we make it all stop?