Here’s a painting that evolved from random abstract mark-making.
Somewhere within the chaos I saw a church and from there, all my thoughts on the current state of religion in the US came to mind.
Of course religion in America is loaded. It’s political and something most people would choose to avoid discussing. Nevertheless, It’s what came up in my painting.
I guess for me, I feel a bit of anger at the indifference some people find towards the First US Amendment – Freedom of Religion.
I can remember my earliest encounter with other faiths when I first went to kindergarten. My little class had Christians, Jews and Vietnamese Buddhists in it. I didn’t even really know what that meant, but I do remember that it was a lesson. Through school I learned that many people believe in many different theories of God and in America you can practice any religious faith you’d like. Or none at all. There is room for everyone. That was about it. Sweet and simple. Oh, and there is church and there is state. Church is your own private choice and state is where everyone agrees to respect everyone else’s choices. To a small kid, I remember thinking that sounded pretty fair.
A decade later I was in high school. For the first time in over a decade we were told they were changing our morning routine. The Pledge of Allegiance had always come onto the loud-speaker. We stood up, said the pledge and were then told to sit down for a moment of silent prayer. But, for now on, there would simply be a moment of silence. I don’t think us kids had ever thought about it before. We just did what we were told. We put our hand on our hearts, stood, recited, sat down and stayed quiet until we were told we could speak. On this day, I can remember the teacher explaining why the government was doing away with the word “prayer”. Prayer had come from the fact that our country was predominantly Christian for hundreds of years, since most people were Christian, no one really minded if there was Christian religion in the public schools. But now, people were becoming more observant of the fact that not everyone is Christian. Perhaps a moment of silence to whomever your God is might be better than the Christian idea of “prayer”. I remember thinking this was amazing. Right in my little classroom we were discussing the First Amendment again and how as a country we really needed to hold true to our word. There is freedom of religion and separation of church and state. You believe whatever you want outside of school, but when you are at school, we respect that everyone may have different beliefs. We focus on learning at school. That’s it – period.
I got it. I got it at every age. We Americans are free because we respect everyone’s right to freedom. That’s how it works.
Now, I’ll admit it. I haven’t been in school in a couple of decades. But the talk I now hear goes against everything I was taught in school. Things like “Finally, we can bring back prayer to the classroom.” and “Bring back the Christmas pageant”. Things that sound incredibly CHRISTIAN to me. If these same people found out the school was pausing to face towards mecca to pray 5 times a day they would go berserk. Perhaps there should be no school lunch as all kids should fast during Yom Kippur?
You can’t have it both ways. If you don’t want someone else’s religion shoved down your throat, then you can’t shove your own.
The other thought that came to mind as I was painting this little church is acceptance. I am pretty sure every faith has some form of “Love All” in their tenants. This caused me to draw all sorts of symbols. Religious ones. Feminine vs Masculine. Patriotism. Rich vs. Poor. Educated vs. Illiterate. Citizens vs. immigrants. Who does America belong to? All or some?
Me. I believe in the freedom to mind one’s own business. You leave me alone. I leave you alone. Mutual respect = Co-exist.
Call me a snowflake. A flaming idealist-liberal. I’m OK with that. I’ll own it.
You may say I’m a dreamer, but guess what? I’m not the only one!