I must have missed something about religion on campus. Maybe I wasn’t listening during orientation when it was being explained or simply overlooked the fine print in the University brochure. Perhaps you, the reader, can help me out.
At what point exactly did Temple University become a church, with the Paley Library’s steps as the pulpit and the people around the Bell Tower as the congregation? When exactly did J&H become acronyms for Jewish Heritage? Come to think of it, is the Temple “T” just a modern interpretation of the cross?
That’s not the case? Well, now I’m confused. With all the religious banter being shoved in my face the past month, I would’ve figured that was the case.
Note: Read all of the above with extreme sarcasm.
Before continuing, let me take this moment to ask that you not accuse me automatically of being an anti-Semite or even the anti-Christ, despite however much fun it might be. I was raised in a half-Jewish and half-Catholic household, attending services and observing holidays of both creeds. To this day, I retain both a deep respect and a strong cultural connection to my Judeo-Christian heritage.
I am a firm believer that one can and should be proud of his/her ancestry while expressing that pride in a dignified manner. In instances where one feels that he/she would like to share their religious backgrounds, there are mature means in which to accomplish just such a goal. For that, I offer my full support.
But “dignified” and “mature” doesn’t mean standing on a soapbox preaching fire and brimstone to a student body that could hardly express their disgust any more blatantly. Theoretically, one should be able to sit down at the Bell Tower on a warm, sunny afternoon to catch up on some studying or relax without dealing with a prophet of doom who takes it upon himself to teach “the students,” as he so patronizingly refers to us, right from wrong.
What right does this preacher have to rain moral judgments down upon us? Is he any better than any of us because he can quote a book full of well-documented contradictions and morals that aren’t even original ideas, that were plagiarized from the Egyptian Book of the Dead that was written 1240 years before Christ himself was even born? He rants and raves for hours on the importance of distinguishing right and wrong, yet in the same breath he will bash the homosexual and Muslim communities, something that is in obvious contradiction to his preaching about ethics and morals.
Leave your arguments in favor of prejudice and bigotry being “the word of God” at home; there’s no credibility for intangible myth in today’s reality.
At the same time, one should also be able to attend dinner without being subjected to thinly veiled songs about “the blessed one” right outside the cafeteria promoting Shabbat. It is wholly unnecessary and equally obtrusive.
There is a fine line between wishing to share your culture and forcing religion upon someone. If you want to share Judaism with the campus community, that’s all well and good, but do so by removing the spiritual parts and promoting purely the cultural aspect so as not to offend those who may hold different beliefs.
For instance, a community Seder, sans God, come Passover in April would be a pleasant gesture.
Perhaps the most perplexing aspect to all of this religious activism is what exactly the end goal is. Is there honestly the belief that anybody, even one person, will be converted? Of course it is their right to express themselves and practice their beliefs, for that is the essence of this nation’s dream.
At the same time though, force-feeding religion down the student body’s throat does nothing but turn those who may be curious away through radicalism and incite those who already have issues with religion in general.
There are Bible groups and Jewish clubs, whole sub-communities built around religious observance that are, in all sincerity, wonderful things. Restricting ideas to these groups and to private one-on-one conversations isn’t only the most effective manner in which to spread your beliefs, it’s also the most decent.
There are often specific reasons why people don’t show up to their respective religious institutions over the weekend. Whatever these reasons may be, they are intensely personal, and chances are they are felt passionately and with conviction.
With that in mind, these feelings should be respected as intelligent decisions coming from intelligent adults. If you have a problem with that, pray to your God for our salvation. It’s the most, and only thing, one can or should do.
Noah Potvin can be reached at Redfloit5@hotmail.com.