Another fight broke out in the yard during service. A basketball game drew more than a whistle. Running guards, paramedics, and Swat raced past the open chapel door as worshiping inmates hit the floor and I, the visiting chaplain, was ushered outside for safety. It wasn't all that dramatic this time, only one prisoner escorted away in chains, but the headcount and weapons search takes a good twenty minutes out of our scheduled hour.
I stood next to the Native Nations drummer during our timeout and, despite regulations to the contrary, we decided the holiest thing we could do was make jive plans for me to bring my saxophone to the sweat lodge and jam with the chanters. I can just imagine the paperwork for that scenario being a mountain worth Mohamed. My home church has a Native Nation dancer so on the way home I began to wonder if this crazy idea is perhaps something to pursue. The notion of combining faiths, besides being blasphemy to most everybody involved, took on a dreamlike quality as I wondered how my reeds and saxophone pads would fare in extreme humidity.
A good friend of mine, a reformed Pastor, now attends a church that welcomes the other as significant. Muslims, trans-gendered Republicans, even Hip-Hop artists are greeted warmly and encouraged to share experience and wisdom. From what he tells me the joke of heaven being a collection of rooms separating the denominations seems to be smirking behind their kiss of peace. I don't have a background of open minded catechisms. I remember crying, as a Catholic boy, when I learned Warren Spahn ate beef stew on the days he pitched for the Milwaukee Braves, even on a Friday. The best lefthander in baseball not going to heaven on a dietary restriction was my first serious crisis of faith.
What are we to do with the true or false, multiple choice filter of religious realities? There is a T shirt slogan extolling relationship with Our Creator as the cure for such dichotomy. My re-established relationship with my eldest son gives me an ever evolving perspective. He calls me names. Not derogatory ones, he simply has different ways of addressing me, of getting my attention. Sometimes it's, "Pops", sometimes it's "Schmit." The affection, the connection doesn't change with the word choice. What if God doesn't care what name we name Him with?
I do believe in false religions, but I think their names are greed, avarice, racism, misogyny and the like. Following Jesus makes the most sense for me because Jesus did the most for me, and because He requires the least of me. The traditional world religions all require too much effort on the part of their followers to be even remotely viable for me, but I'm not going to try and earn notches on my spiritual gun handle by trying to convert or convince people otherwise.
One of my supernaturally inclined mentors sums it up with the question, "How's that working for you?" If the Prince of Peace relates to you, then we're related. We might be distant cousins, or brothers from a different mother, but what is incontestable is we are Spirit breathed into existence in His/Her image. We will be known by our fruit; love, joy, peace, long suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control, not by the name of our branch on the Tree of Life.