What Would Jesus Say: Reflections on Race and Religion
By Marlene Caroselli
As a very young man, my father lost faith in the Catholic Church. Raised in a tiny Italian village—one that had only one hospital, two schools, and seven churches—he was God-fearing until he and the other villagers learned the local priest had impregnated a village girl. He had stopped attending church a few years earlier, when he realized how many villagers were purified at confessional and then committed the same crimes week after week. In addition, he begrudged his mother giving money to the Church every Sunday and then feeding the family potatoes or a weak gruel for lunch, because she could only afford meat a few times a month.
When he came to America and a decade later, met my mother, he proposed to her with this condition: That the children would be raised with no religion until they were old enough and intelligent enough to decide for themselves what faith they would claim. As a result, I have one sister who is an Orthodox Jewess; a brother, who has flirted with being an Episcopalian; and two sister who—like me—believe in an undefined universal spirit.
And so, when we noticed a “Jesus Saves” bumper sticker on a car recently, my sister and I stopped in the parking lot. It wasn’t really the Jesus sticker that attracted us, but rather, the other sticker beside it. Life-long Democrats, we were immediately drawn to the Obama campaign slogan. But…instead of the familiar words “Hope” and “Change,” this circular, red-white-and-blue sticker had the words “Rope” and “Chains.”
True, my father’s views have affected my own. But, I share them only as one man’s experience—certainly not as a condemnation of religion itself. I do wonder, though: Is it possible to be a good Christian and a hater at the same time? Can someone who believes in “loving thy neighbor as oneself” still broadcast a wish to return to a time in American history when members of one particular race would hang those of another, for very little reason? To a time when one race enslaved the other?
Tell me, what you think?