The year is AD 33.
Strolling through Galilee, you pass the King Herod Center and the many vendors surrounding “temple” on your way to synagogue.
You see someone standing outside quoting scripture and preaching peace, love and servitude with “God-awful” conviction.
You wince. You smirk and you go on your way thinking that you’ve just met another religious nut who took the Old Testament a little too seriously.
Many of us often wonder what it might be like to meet Christ, Muhammad, Buddha or Confucius. How would we react? How would we judge such a person? What would we ask?
If you’ve ever walked down 13th Street and entered the Student Activities Center, well, you have your answer.
No, Jesus is probably not standing on the streets of North Philly as I write this, but he might be.
Jesus of Nazareth was a distinguished man of furious convictions, a few rules and many choice words, but he was no Billy Graham.
As a Catholic I have often wondered what it might have been like to live at that time and meet the man.
Now, I know.
I would have winced, chuckled and dismissed him out of hand, just as I have done to more than two dozen fanatics preaching outside the SAC.
Let’s face it, Temple University is not the kind of place to exercise your mystical muscle. Get through Freud, Darwin and Kant, and if you still have an ounce of faith left in you guard it with your life.
The knowledge you learn in college tests your faith no matter what your concept of religion.
Buddha never wrote a thesis statement. Confucius never related any of his ideals to something he learned in a Chemistry lab and the preachers outside SAC probably won’t either.
But there are a good number of college students on this campus who are not screaming repentance and damnation from the rooftops. They do good works in a sensible way, and not through scare tactics.
Those of a spiritual leaning can spend time with the Campus Crusade for Christ, Soldiers for Christ, the Muslim Student Association or even start their own group.
It has always been my perspective that no one can be truly happy and healthy without having faith in something. That “something” doesn’t have to be God, or even Al Sharpton. It could be faith in yourself, your friends, your family or your country.
In the marketplace of ideas the religious will always have their own niche.
When you think about it, the Pope is one of the most popular people in the world, yet no one seems to agree with him. He stands outside his window, blesses the people from his balcony, says Mass and everybody cheers. Should he start on the abortion or same-sex marriage issues, suddenly everybody gets quiet. Even a great many Catholics disagree with the Pope on more than a dozen issues, but we still revere him.
Early last semester, I watched the Temple police try to remove a preacher from the steps of the SAC.
She ran to her video camera and began proclaiming her civil rights. There wasn’t a compassionate eye in sight. Yet this woman had never been more right in her entire life.
An idea that is unpopular or challenges our perspective deserves the same consideration that you’d receive in a political debate or a courtroom.
Men like the Founding Fathers, Galileo and Martin Luther King were once standing out there on that corner and, for some, their ideas were considered just as absurd if not dangerous.
I would be nothing more than a hypocrite as an American, a journalist or a Christian if I were to write an article bashing down upon the will of a spiritualist trying to spread the word of God.
Wince all you want: it’s your right as an American.