May 25, 2004 | 83 Comments
Annie Banno is my friend.
Annie sent me a tearful e-mail last week, which I am reprinting below with her permission. I have warned her that she’s likely to be savaged again like she was in the comments section to my Mother’s Day Announcement, and that, indeed, many of you will assume that I tricked her into giving me permission just so I could hold her up to ridicule in some way. Clearly there’s plenty of raw material in it, no different from anything I’ve mocked before. It contains variants of Pascal’s wager and the argument from design, and I’m sure many of you will find the tone, despite her protestations, to be as patronizing as you found any of her previously-posted comments.
But I have not tricked her. If you are reading this, you are reading this only because she read every word of it in advance and has given me the go-ahead. She knows exactly what I am. I have told her flat out that I believe that religion is superstition. She has perused my blog enough to know that it is often viciously, cruelly and screechingly anti-religious, and that many of my diatribes have been directed at her beloved Catholic Church. She knows that I reject her views on homosexuality and gay rights and that I have condemned people who hold such views in stronger terms that any of you have. And that I will continue to do so.
Her willingness to come to my site, to converse with me, to converse with you, despite all she knows, is one of the reasons that she is my friend. And despite all her imperfections (see who is being condescending and patronizing now?) there is a solid core of good to her. Apart from her blog advocacy, she volunteers her time to persuade and help women who are debating whether to have an abortion to choose life. She convinces a few. That is enough good for me. You may say that those few women would have chosen life anyway, or that what they ultimately did do fully constituted their choice. Suffice it to say, for the time being at least, that I do not consider her efforts to be useless or irrelevant. I hope that those of you who have said that that you are pro-choice but “personally opposed” or “anti-abortion” will occasionally engage in similar efforts.
I also admire Annie because she represents a certain type of tolerance that I respect, even though her beliefs, mistaken though I think they are, have led her to seem so intolerant in the classic sense. Many people equate tolerance with the attitude that every belief is equally true, and that we should all simply accept this fact and go our separate ways. But I view tolerance as the willingness to come together, to face one another in the same room and hack at each other with claw hammers until the truth finally trickles out from the blood and the tears. So with that, here is her e-mail. Try to see the good in her and express it if you can.
Subj: RE: mothers’ day announcement thread
Date: 5/17/2004 2:16:59 PM Eastern Standard Time
I’m sorry. You probably don’t want to converse with me any longer, given the thread going on at your mothers’ day announcement, and you may not want to ever speak to me again, but I am in tears. Not sure if I can explain it, but I am not strong enough to withstand, nor to keep coming back to refute (even though I could), the viciousness, twisting and hatred there. I am not a scholar, not as “eloquent” as some think they are there. Or perhaps I don’t have the time to become so. I do know I have been through experiences that words cannot do justice, and they will never understand those experiences as “justification” for my “blind faith.” It is pointless to try to explain it to them. I am not strong enough, and I am in tears because I cannot find the words or the strength. I also am in tears for them all. I don’t know if you can understand me, why this happens to me when I see such hatred and anger. I am not angry at them, or at you, I am not crying because I personally have been attacked or hurt. They can’t hurt me anymore. I cry because in my heart, I know they are lost just as I was lost, and I just don’t want to see anyone be lost. AND because so much harm has been done, too, in the name of God, of Jesus, and that is so wrong. Why else would they be so hateful toward Catholics/Christians? I am too naive perhaps to think that that can be rectified.
Please don’t see this as holier-than-thou or condescending or patronizing. It is just how we who REALLY believe in the great love and sacrifice of Christ feel about everyone: we just want them to feel the joy and love we feel by having “been found.” And I can’t say that to your readers. It would be like a feeding frenzy, and I don’t think it will be seen for what it really is. It will be labeled “stop telling me how to live my life/stop forcing your religious superstitions on us. Right now.”
I am sorry if I haven’t been able to say well what is in my heart. I ache for them all.
I also just want to say to them-but will never say-that when it is all over, when all our lives end, if “I was wrong”–there IS no God and no heaven that I’ve been striving for–then what have I lost? Nothing. I’ll have lived following, obeying and loving God and accepting His blessings and gifts, and in the process, have “helped even one life breathe more easily” (Bessie Stanley, not Ralph Waldo Emerson), and then there’s nothingness after that.
But if “I am right” and there IS a God and a Heaven to enjoy eternally, and I’ve lived following and loving God, then what will they, those attacking me, have lost?
I just took my son to the cardiologist today, to have his heart tested to be sure he doesn’t have the heart condition I have and doesn’t drop dead of heart failure on the lacrosse field at camp this summer at the age of 14 like those football/baseball/basketball players we’ve heard of lately. I watched an echocardiogram of his heart beating. I said, “It’s amazing that it just keeps going and going and never stops like that, isn’t it?” The doctor said, “It beats 100,000 times a day. Imagine how many beats it pumps in our lifetimes.”
I figured it out. If a lifetime runs 80 years, that little fist-sized piece of muscle beats almost three BILLION heartbeats, without (hopefully) stopping. Three billion times, whether we think about it or not, before it wears out.
If a human could have made a machine that does just that, all these thousands of years, I wouldn’t believe there is a God, I guess.
This isn’t an evangelistic attempt. I am just in awe of the Creator’s handiwork that is you and me. That’s what I believe.
I just am grateful for what He has given me, and that is everything. I would stake my life on that.
I am sorry, Raving A. if I’ve angered you too. Since I believe, I must be true to my God and my belief in Him as the God of love but also justice. (Did Adam & Eve Have Belly Buttons, by Pinto, was one of the books I was going to refer you to) I will not force my beliefs on anyone, nor try to “save” anyone who doesn’t feel they are lost. It doesn’t work that way, never did, never will, never should.
I’m going to take a big risk here and give you a poem and a reference to a book. The poem is not mine, I don’t know who wrote it, but it explains me and my faith perhaps better than any one reference. The book might help understand me better . . .
A CHRISTIAN CREED
I believe in one God, I believe He is personal, that He loves me,
without condition, without pause,
whether or not I love Him back.
I believe He wants me to love Him back.
I believe that every day, in the most extraordinary, everyday ways,
He is involved in my life,
and wants me to be involved in His.
I cannot imagine that He was ever less than whole,
but I believe He grows,
through me, and with me, and in me,
as I dare to know Him.
I believe that He began on the simplest level,
the one thing we call life,
and that He helps us to make the world, day by day.
I believe in His Son, Jesus Christ;
I believe that Jesus lived to show us how a man can live,
if he loves his Father and brothers enough.
I believe that Jesus’ life was an example.
I believe God wants us to know Christ’s cross was borne for us,
and that there is a piece of true cross for each of us,
if we can bear it.
I believe in God’s Spirit:
I believe He helps to make me whole and holy.
I believe He talks to us through every whole man,
and through every man who tries his best to be.
I believe that when I open myself to Him,
He gives my tongue the right words to say,
and my heart the courage to act rightly.
I believe He loves me, and that His love, taken in,
brings out love in me for every man,
whether he likes me or not
whether he be like me or not
whether he is likeable or not
whether he likes it or not.
I believe in God’s Church, which is me, and my brothers.
I believe that if I can love me enough,
I can face what is not whole in me,
heal what is not healthy,
mend what is torn, strengthen what is weak,
make whole what is half-hearted.
Create of me a house where God can live, freely,
because I believe that no matter how cramped,
God will squeeze Himself in somehow.
I love God, and I am sorry for all the times it does not show.
I believe that my life can be a resurrection.
I believe in life!
~ Author is unknown. Written sometime prior to 1975. This article is believed to be in the public domain. No copyright infringement intended.
The book is one I wrote and published under a pseudonym 3 years ago. Emily knows of it. She links to a poem in the book about post-abortive grief and shame (Deirdre’s Poem). It’s a book that is fact-based fiction, called “Loosely-Braided Fog: A 3-D Single Mom In The Making,” and it’s available cheap on Amazon. Its subtheme is subtly about the strayings and returnings of faith. I don’t know if it will explain me and my reason for believing better, but it might. If I had a mailing address and if you wanted me to, I’d send you a copy.
Thank you for listening. I am sorry I cannot continue…and sorry if you feel angry too.