I had the radio on while I was driving to a doctor's appointment yesterday, and one station I tuned into had a guy talking about religion. Well, what he thought religion was, anyway. He said some study had been done recently where people of different faiths had participated in a sociology experiment of personal interaction. He said that when the other person did not know the faith of the person they were paired with, the majority of people in the study tended to be more reserved when it came to responding to requests for help and generosity in general. The flip side of the study, where the people paired up were allowed to know what faith the other person was/believed/practiced, showed that when the people knew that the person they interacted with was of the same faith they were, they were more generous/likely to be generous and responsive to that person's needs or circumstances. He went on to comment, "Isn't this the opposite of what religion is supposed to be?"
Traditionally, religion by definition is the service and worship of a deity or spirit. But when it comes to the practice of religion there is quite often a discrepancy, and I can understand what this man on the radio was trying to say. In his talk, religion is not distinguished from devotion to a religious faith on a personal level and the wider applied social practice of religious beliefs. It's the old argument of works without faith, and simultaneously works without love. For Christians, God is Love, and so then Love is our faith, and true to this man's point, a person's religious beliefs, practices, and attitudes should be properly reflected in social interaction without regard to another person's background or beliefs. But, this is true only in so far as Christianity is concerned.
Now I may get called on that statement, as other faiths may in doctrine express a similar practice of charity to some degree, but I cannot speak for people of other faiths. I have not seen the integrated expression of faith to the extent that 'they'll know we are Christians by our love' (as the old hymn says) from Muslims, Hindus, Jews, Sikhs, etc. However, I personally know people of other faiths who would put most so-called Christians to shame in their care and concern of a stranger. It's embarrassing but necessary to get called on the carpet about practicing what we preach. I thought about writing my parish priest about this, but with Easter and First Communion and Confirmation all coming up so soon, I know he's busy and overwhelmed. All I'm trying to say is that while one person professes their faith, without corresponding demonstration of that faith in attitude and practice, they are a liar and will (in my religious belief) stand before God and answer for it when there time comes. Thank God, however, for the practice of Divine Mercy.
As St. Paul said, Christ's death for the sins of the many, of the whole human race, was nothing less than an act of God because who would die innocently in the place of a guilty person? Granted it is conceivable that a person might die for a righteous man as Scripture states, but would you lay down your life for a criminal? I would.
You see, it is my religious belief that if I was in a situation where I could push a person who had wronged me grievously out of the way of an oncoming bus in time to save their life but risk losing mine, I must do so. For my Catholic faith requires me to lay down my life in that situation as Christ Jesus commanded us to love our enemies and do good to those who hate us. Knowing God would look with mercy on me for such an act and that my soul would not be lost, it is better for me to die than the other person who may not be in a state of grace. This is a person from whom God wishes repentance and love, and by laying down my life, I Love, with a capital L. That person has been spared, given time as God desires quite clearly in Scripture, to turn aside from evil ways and come back to Him with all their heart. The same goes for facing an attacker with a knife or gun. We have lots of guns, but only in the defense of another person's life for whom I was responsible (say my nephews, a friend, a neighbor, a school-age child), would I even consider using a weapon in defense. One, because I am responsible for my brothers and sisters who are defenseless, and two, I know not what state their own souls are in. Truly, I say 'consider' because I know that by using a gun or another weapon, I risk killing the offender even though my intention would be to merely disable them from doing any harm. But to take up and carry and a gun "Harry" style ultimately boils down to mere self-preservation, which is not in accordance with my faith. Even in self-defense, by whipping out a handgun if and when provoked and using it I may have allowed the devil to take that person's soul to hell. And no feeling or emotion justifies rendering judgement that the person 'deserved' to die, or it was 'better' that they die. Think about it - long and hard. That, Charlie Brown, is what Divine Mercy is all about.