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It Takes Faith To Write On Religion

A passage from the Quran (surah 22:47) states a thousand years is like a day to God. This is Tamagotchi time. By this reckoning, MidWeek may be celebrating its 30th anniversary, but in God days I’ve been a MidWeek columnist for 77,000 years.

Time flies when you’re having fun, though I’ve found it moves at different speeds as an article submission deadline approaches. My heart rate, too, fluctuates from the rapid beat at the anticipation of seeing a column in print for the first time, to nearly stopping as I read the less than complimentary responses from readers.

And yet I do it again every week.

There is an endless cycle of death and rebirth in Hinduism called samsara, and it seems I’ve stumbled into the MidWeek equivalent: writing, submitting, reading, regretting, writing…

The first person the Buddha met after his enlightenment shook his head and walked away unimpressed. Though far from anything enlightened, this column has met with similar reactions from readers, and perhaps worse. I’ve received numerous complaints, criticism and taunts. Many were quite nasty, and some even came from people not in my family.

Confucianism values social harmony, and I have a team of family members who preview my writings before I submit them for publication — a sister with traditional values, another with a liberal point of view, a daughter who is concerned with image, a mom who thinks she’s Christian, my wife who claims to be Buddhist, and my dad who, like my son, simply listens to what the women tell him — to warn me when they find anything offensive, in poor taste or threatens the Confucian principle. I should listen to their advice.

“Quite frankly you were asking for it,” wrote one reader. “We do live in a Christian society and to speak otherwise, like you did, is blasphemy …”

An angry email accused me of distorting the Bible and misleading people. This came from a member of one of the churches charged in a lawsuit with cheating public schools out of millions of dollars in rental fees. The pot can still call the kettle black, I guess.

Another reader sent an anonymous, rambling, five-page hand-scribbled letter to the religion department, demanding that I apologize for “denigrating” Buddhists. At first I thought it was a joke, because a few changes here and there and it would have made for a model ransom note.

A similar letter followed a couple of weeks later. I sometimes wish Jesus did not make the number of times we are to forgive each other so high (Matthew 18:22).

Gratitude is stressed in Shinto, and I must emphasize here that not all responses have been negative. Some were quite complimentary and encouraging. Parents of my children’s friends and teammates said especially kind things to me, for which I am grateful.

I consider it a privilege to write for MidWeek, and I am appreciative of the opportunity to pass along thoughts and information regarding religion (though I can’t help wondering why the editors often place my photo and column next to the “Most Wanted” criminal profile section).

In my view, there is no one true way. The Dao — like water — takes many forms.

In religion, we search for patterns and meanings when sometimes none exist. All faiths flow from this search. There are strengths and weaknesses in religion, each transforming into the other at times, and this column tries to ponder both.

Editor-in-Chief Don Chapman asked me to reflect on the things I’ve learned writing for the newspaper, even though I’ve only been doing so since May.

One of the things I’ve learned is that the issues and themes I can discuss in a college course do not translate well in a 600-word column. In fact, it often times fails miserably. To be honest, I thought about ending the column after the second article because of this.

As I usually do, I turned to scripture for guidance. I found Psalms 86:17 in the Bible:

Show me a sign of your favor, so that those who hate me may see it and be put to shame, because you, God, have helped me and comforted me.

It was then that an overseas lawyer contacted my newly created misfitspirit808 @gmail.com account informing me that a wealthy client had died and left me a vast amount of money. Almost immediately afterward, a woman from Nigeria emailed me about funds floating in her country’s central bank that she wished to transfer to my account.

And to top it all off, a Miss Nadia, a Miss Sonia, and a guy named Hank began sending me weekly emails telling me we were meant to be partners in love. I am to send money and photos.

God truly works in mysterious ways.

Happy 30th anniversary, MidWeek!