A Season To Believe by Corey A. Tyler
Having crossed that bridge into the twenty first century, our nation finds itself lost in a fog thick with fear and uncertainty. Our two autumns have brought seismic upheaval along with the customary foliage. The former saw our democracy buckle and nearly cave under the collective strain of our apathy. And last year, the winds of third world warfare blew into lower Manhattan, turning our most prominent pillars of commerce into vacant lots. As menacing as they were, no season of recent memory can compete with this soon ending summer.
It rained all summer long in a sense, as each drop added itself to the pool of turmoil that seems, wearily now, the norm. Former masters of the universe were led away in handcuffs. Teens and toddlers were snatched from the safest of harbors. And faith in God was strangled by the errant hands of the very men charged to help others lift their hands in praise.
Indeed, the constant victim this season and of those before it has been faith; faith in God, irrespective of name. Faith in the safety of a child, even when nestled in the arms of loved ones. Faith in the fairness of our democracy and in our economic system. Faith in those called upon to fortify our faith. All these things, all at once, failed us this summer. Leaving in it's wake damage we've even yet to truly appreciate. Just as the birthright of Watergate became the smirk we bear when our thoughts turn to government, another cynical reflex stands poised to supplant the regard once held for these now flawed institutions.
But if ever a moment, or a season, called for an awareness of the divine, it is now. Granted, the national id has the right to be jaded. Already you hear the first few bars of the cynic's sonnet in the public arena, as Islam is hinged to animosity, priest becomes synonymous with pedophile and trust is something better kept out of the hands of an investor. And yet, history shows us - be it personal or political - that times such as these are seasons themselves; moments of adversity that serve, in the end, to fortify our beliefs.
Sadly, the greatest challenge to believing in something greater than self has been the horrid misuse of organized religion. Not including the Catholic church's deluge of child molestation charges, belief in God has been getting a bad reputation due in large part to those misguided few who feel obliged to reinterpret the sacred text of faith's holy books. Consider this, before its gross contortion into a naked political ploy to garner sympathy from certain members of the electorate, the premise of President Bush's 'Faith Based Initiative' was commonly referred to by a more simple name; grace.
Before the jingoistic tub-thumping, before honest intellectual debate was marked as treason, our nation bowed its heads in prayer as we grieved our way through the horror of September 11th. For the first time in recent history, our awareness of the creator was used fittingly and properly. Not as a benign entity to thank for an award, not as an advantage in a game of political one-upmanship, but in homage to a force intertwined in everything we do.
As prodded by our leadership, we went back to business as usual, and turned our backs on that awareness, choosing instead - for example - to amuse our selves with the domestic unraveling of an aging shock-rocker whose vocabulary would be better served in it's natural habitat; the local port-a-potty. With normalcy's return, our national spiritual renewal hit the skids, kicked to the curb by the likes of Ozzie, Eminem and Anna Nicole.
To paraphrase our conservative brethren - how do we bring that moment back? The answer is, we can't. What we can do is be mindful of what came out of that moment, the binding conviction that the trauma of that day or any other was surmountable through prayer. The faith that this too would pass, and the belief that It was high time to cast away the divisiveness that had tainted the national dialogue after the 2000 presidential election, and gather ourselves together as a people and a nation under God.
Which God is not the issue. The principals of most faiths tend to fit the same straight and narrow outlines. Those peeved by the use of the word 'legitimate' should bear in mind this qualifier; once it's doctrines are twisted to fit means of material gain, the promotion of social discord or to justify acts of violence, it falls on the shoulders of those who believe to repudiate it's malpractice and stand firm on it's principals.
Granted, every recognized religion has committed such sins in their darker moments (i.e., the Crusades), but if a rebuke is absent, it threatens the faith's integrity, inflicting wounds of perception that can be terminal (i.e., the Fulan Gong). But if the oft-mentioned faiths of Christianity, Buddhism, Islam and their counterparts fail to sway you heart and head, keep in mind the words of the late George Harrison - himself a Buddhist - "God doesn't care what you call him, so long as you call him."
The act of faith should not be viewed as the sole propriety of the 'religious'. No man or woman guards the gate between your soul and your savior. It's an important point of fact made even more relevant at this point in time, as we prepare to greet another autumn, ignorant to whatever perils it holds for us. Just bear this in mind, however the fall finds us, we'll make it through. So help us God.
Corey A. Tyler can be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
Corey A. Tyler
Wednesday, August 28, 2002