A recent comment from one of my blog readers raised questions about the sincerity of my declared search for “religious” enlightenment” during our recent vacation to India. They suspected I was altering my religious stance perhaps because of the deadly presence of the Corona crisis. In the following story, I attempt to answer this critic with a revealing account about one young adult who might have similarly dealt with such a period of spiritual confusion.
Sam would often wonder how his life stood when it came to the subject of religion. Growing up as an only child, he deeply regretted that he never had a brother or sister to share with them his spiritual void. Knowing however, that his grandparents had immigrated to the United States from Germany in the early 1940s aroused his suspicion that his family connection to the oppressed Jewish faith there at the time seemed likely from a historical perspective. Yet throughout the course of his childhood and adult life, the subject of Judaism had never been discussed in his immediate family. Such secrets unshared in the face of this seemingly marathon period of religious confusion only intensified his curious demands to know more about his family’s religious past.
So it happened then on a lazy Sunday afternoon when Sam was busily putting up wallpaper in his mother’s living room, that she suddenly revealed to him a religious “bomb” that he was in fact a blood disciple of Jewish teachings. It shocked Sam further to see for the first time in his mother’s newspaper clippings notebook, some graphic images of German Jews living in tattered clothes with a prominent yellow badge labeled “Jude” pinned to their chests. One particular image that moved his emotions contained a struggling peddler carrying around a dusty bag in a war torn ghetto, obviously impacted by a viciously “Anti Semitic”island of Jewish shame. He then pondered how his grandfather most likely endured a similarly inferior fate as a Jew by the Nazi regime yet persevered to provide a worthy life for himself and his family.
So what conclusion might be drawn from Sam’s awareness of his grandfather’s crisis as a Jew and overseas escape from German persecution? One must realize the danger of allowing others to exploit the power of organized religion to define who we are as a person. So now my religious critic should know that my recent travels to India inspired new spiritual understandings on my “own terms” (not theirs) of life and death matters.
Have you ever experienced a similar time when your religious views were called into question? Could travel have helped you ultimately handle this situation? Why or why not?