It is Easter in my wife’s religion. She is a member of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. On this day the greeting among those believers is: “Christ is Risen” which in Ukrainian is Христос Воскресis and pronounced as: “Christos voskres.” The response to such is: “Indeed he has risen” which in Ukrainian is Воїстено Воскрес and pronounces as “Voyisteno Voskres! The difference between the day I celebrated Easter and her day of doing so is the date is determined by different calendars. Her church follows the Julian calendar while mine the Gregorian calendar. The latter is a more recent calendar put into use after Pope Gregory tried to make the present time more reflective of earlier times. Obviously, the Orthodox Church would never follow something a pope introduced so it stuck with the one Emperor Julian established. Prior to getting married we discussed our religious differences. She had no intention of changing her religion nor did I. We did not let that become a stumbling block. We agreed each one could practice his or her religion and we would respect each other’s beliefs. We decided if we had children, they would be brought up in both religions and leave it to them to decide where they would end up. That worked out fairly well. We enrolled my daughter in the CCD, Christian Doctrine class at the local Catholic Church. During one class the teacher was telling the students how wonderful it was they all had one and the same religion. My daughter wanted to show how lucky she was perhaps thinking she had one up on everyone. She raised her hand and told the teacher: “I have two religions.” I m not quite sure what happened after that but she did finish the year with her belief unchanged.
Of course the idea of having two religions seems somehow wrong. But did you ever ask why? Folk can be biracial, Asian and Hispanic, Black and White, etc. Of course folk can be multi-ethnic as my kids being both Irish and Ukrainian. No one seems to give that a second thought perhaps because we have no choice in that. But even where we have a choice, for instance when one chooses to be bisexual with no preference for one sex over another, most people shrug that off as the person’s choice, or some would suggest even there they have no choice.
But when it comes to religion it seems, at least with long established religions, you have to make a choice. Even those who believe in Christ cannot be both a Catholic and Presbyterian as we see in Northern Ireland. Never mind being both a Jew and a Baptist; or a Muslim and Anglican. If I wanted to become something else I would have to convert to that religion which means dropping my old religion.
We’ve seen wars because of differences in religion; we’ve seen folk killed for trying to change their religion. This, even though the religions are monotheistic and believe in the same God, they only differ in the way they want to approach that God with each religion believing it is the way God wants them to act and worship.
What’s most wrong is some who want to tell others what they should believe and are willing to take stern measures to force a person to change his or her belief. They do not recognize that you cannot force a change in a belief from the outside; beliefs come from the inside.
On this Easter let us resolve to respect others whether believers or not, to resolve not to try to force others to believe as we do, and not to dislike others because they believe differently from ourselves.