[author’s note: From our deployment to Iraq.]
July 25, 2010
Last week one of our Chaplain Assistants, a young married Sergeant, had a brief crisis of conscience. Let me first say that he is Baptist. The more knowledgeable among you will say what kind of Baptist? To tell the truth, I’m not sure. The number of Baptist denominations grows every week and there is an old theory that when the number of Baptist churches reaches the same number as there are angels, the world will end. This is probably a myth, but who knows? My young Baptist Sergeant is neither Southern, Northern nor American Baptist, but one of the myriad “other” Baptists. In any event we also have a youthful man from India who cleans our offices every day. He is a fine young fellow who greets us enthusiastically each day but speaks absolutely no English. The Sergeant and the Indian cleaning man are on very friendly terms even with the communications challenge.
The crisis happened when the Indian gestured for the Sergeant to help him copy some figure drawings on a sheet of paper. The Sergeant gladly helped him and wondered what the figures, roughly looking like men and animals, were. Through another local Indian adept at English he found that our cleaning guy was Hindu and the Sergeant had just helped him make a copy of his gods that he was going to pray to. The Baptist soul of the Sergeant immediately began quaking in fear; he had helped another person to worship false gods! He was so upset that he sought spiritual advice from me, a Catholic. If he hadn’t been so upset he would have sought out a fundamentalist Christian, a Pentecostal or, God forbid, a Lutheran, anything but a Roman Catholic. Yet I understood his anxiety and did the best I could to calm him down.
My spiritual advice went like this, you are not the one choosing to pray to false gods and you didn’t know what you were copying. Besides you have to remember that maybe someday he’ll remember the Christian that was kind to him and find Christ himself. Also look at any good that comes from the Hindu religion, or any other religion for that matter—that good comes from Christ because all good comes from Christ. By now you may be having your own crisis of conscience, Father how can other religions be any good? The good that any religion practices or believes comes from God Himself, a gift of the Christ. I didn’t make this up; it is in our Catechism of the Catholic Church. You didn’t know this? Maybe you could take some time like Mary did, sit at the feet of Jesus and reflect on His teaching. [Lk 10:38-39]