Forget About the Silly

I want to thank all of you for your comments on Wednesday’s post. They warmed at what is for various reasons a pretty bleak time. I’d like to email you all personally, but my blasted comment system won’t record your emails/URLs (I’m working on changing that, stay tuned), so this will have to do. Thank you. Each and every one felt like a hug.

And now on to other things...

The other day, I read an article in the Toronto Star about two men who are on trial for trafficking in marijuana after their church was raided. The men are turning the tables and are doing a constitutional challenge regarding Canada's drug laws infringing on their right to freedom of religion because, they say, in their church, The Assembly of The Church of the Universe (COU), cannabis is used in worship as a sacred substance enabling worshipers to connect to the divine. The church is small - 4000 members across Canada - and its practices and beliefs are somewhat unusual and to some, may sound silly.

But my question is this: if you forget about the silly and the unusual, why is the use of cannabis any different than say, the use of wine in communion? I'll admit that I don't know much about the particular alcohol content in the wine used in communion - only tried it once when I was about 11 - but the wine and bread are used as a way to connect to the divine. Is it just acceptable because we've been doing it for 2000 years?

The Crown argues that the COU “offers no insight or answers into the existential questions (of) ‘ultimate concern’ which are the chief domain of religion; offers no comprehensive system of belief by which to live and offers no moral or ethical code,” but I checked out the COU website and their FAQs and although it's somewhat unusual, appears to be a sort of collection of partly Christian, partly spiritual, partly pagan and partly homemade ethics and ideas, they seem to be connecting to the divine. I haven't actually attended a service, so I can't tell you for sure, but could we not possibly be judging it because of what we think is the silly?

Which brings me to my next question. If you think about it, really think about it, most of the established world religions of long-standing have silly and unusual bits to them. I'll start with taking on Christianity because I'm most familiar with that and suggest that things like burning bushes, God speaking to you and turning water into wine (there's that intoxicant again): when Christianity first arrived on the scene, it could be argued to be somewhat unusual. Feel free to point out the silly in your own faith in the comments if you want...

This is not to say that faith is silly, because I take it very seriously. I know a lot of people who have a very sincere faith and practice living according to their faith every day. I have my own beliefs, as well, beliefs that guide my actions and inform my personal code of ethnics. However, what I'm getting at is that religions that are different from our own are judged severely and the faiths that are judged depend entirely on the culture within which you live. 25 years ago when I first arrived in Canada, Sikhs in the RCMP were ridiculed for insisting on wearing a turban instead of the regular Mountie hat, but these days, the accommodation has been made because the Charter of Rights and Freedoms states that people are entitled to express their individual religion. In downtown Toronto where I live, it's normal to see Muslim women wearing the hijab, but it's being banned in France and Québec is trying to prohibit women from wearing the niqab, not just in matters where proving your identity is important, but pretty much anywhere (this column is a rather brilliant and scathing explanation of how ridiculous this is). Wiccans are ridiculed, Jews have been persecuted, we point fingers at Scientologists, the Amish are just plain (!) weird and to people who don't believe in a divine being, all faiths are silly. In other words, anything that vaguely unfamiliar or done in a way that's different from what represents the norm - i.e. what the majority of society does - is judged. And aside from having a vague memory of a certain important person in the Christian faith telling us "Judge not, or you too will be judged" (Matt.7:1), it just seems silly to me and I'm not sure we should forget about this particular application of the term.

Why are we so busy with the judging? Why are we so busy questioning religion, faith and religious expression? If whatever you do, be it taken over by the loa, whirling, drinking wine to represent the blood of your god or smoking marijuana to connect to your idea of the divine, etc., doesn't hurt anyone, why do we care so very much? Is it just because of the silly? And why do we always forget that our own customs may look weird to people from other cultures and faiths?