I haven’t heard it, but if there were such a joke, it would probably be based on a stereotype of one kind or another. Stereotyping another’s religion can be a hurtful thing, in some cases even malicious in its intent. It can breed fear and violence. But it can also be a red flag that something needs to change, and a time for recognizing that we can do better than this.
Take my daughter’s first grade classroom, for example. Her main teacher was a Hindu Ph.D. candidate from India. Her aides in the classroom were three women: one Asian (religion unknown), one Christian, and one Muslim. The students in the class came from many different religions, cultures, and backgrounds.
I loved that classroom. There was no room in it for any narrow-minded thinking or religious prejudices. From clothing to holidays to customs, everyone had to be open to understanding each other and why they did the things they did. Recognizing the differences – and similarities – and empathizing with each other brought harmony to that classroom, and the same attitudes can help bring peace to our communities.
So what is it that will help us overcome our religious prejudices? Could it be that a new sense of God as larger than was previously believed can help us let go of our mistrust of individuals who don’t think or look as we do?
Christian writer Mary Baker Eddy found God in her Bible study as Spirit–as infinite, filling all space, the Creator of all, and she challenged her readers to consider this wider sense of Deity. This understanding, she prophesied, would bring peace to the world.
In her primary work, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, she makes this startling observation, “One infinite God, good, unifies men and nations; constitutes the brotherhood of man; ends wars; fulfills the Scripture ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself’…”
Maybe it’s time to enlarge our sense of God to infinite, divine Love. Instead of participating in unreasonable fear based on prejudice and bigotry or even on the other hand, a Pollyannaish blindness to any danger, we can live with each other in a brotherhood and sisterhood based on the alertness and wisdom given by an infinite God to all of His children – all people worldwide.
Let’s celebrate our common life experience of God’s love for everyone!