Friday, March 29, 2013

Focusing on Life :: Religion & Faith

This week's Focusing on Life prompt from Sally is one of two topics I avoid: religion, the other being politics. Too much blood has been shed through history over these two topics. 

But, since you ask. I will tell you a little about my philosophy about the difference between religion and faith, and in my opinion (of course) what it means to live a good life.

I went searching through piles of old photos this morning trying to find a picture of my paternal grandfather. To no avail. He was a simple man, an incredibly strict man, and one who didn't put a lot of emphasis on the comforts in life. To tell you the truth, I don't think I've ever seen a picture of my father before the age of 18. I don't think there are any because I don't think grandpa would have spent money on something so frivolous.

My grandfather, James Eliel Tuomisto, was born in Jalasjarvi, Finland and at the age of 17 he immigrated to Canada (1917), and then in 1923 over the border to northern Minnesota. He studied in the seminary in Chicago, and started his career in the ministry at the Finnish Congregational Church in Cloquet where he did his sermons in Finn. He was a 'fire and brimstone' kinda guy. If that isn't a term you've heard, click on the link. It is pretty much my grandpa to a tee. Most Scandinavians are Lutheran --- a pretty stark doctrine.

What does any of this have to do with me? Because my dad grew up living in a parish during the great depression. His chores focused to Sunday morning getting the Church ready. That meant sweeping the church out, stoking the fire, and helping to greet the congregation as they arrived. My dad saw religion behind the scenes, as a business. His family truly had nothing. The family lived on the kindness from the parish and what they could spare. My dad tells stories of his mother making onion soup for dinner, by dropping a single onion into a boiling pot and calling that a meal for 6 children. My dad was strict with us, but kind. He had no tolerance for lying, or misbehaving. 

This is something that has stayed with me. My husband and I focus on one rule: do unto others ... it's simple and easy to follow.

To me, religion and going to church (or a synagogue, or a mosque, or whatever you call it) is a way to be with people that believe as you believe. There is comfort in that. But I don't find that to have anything to do with faith. Faith is an inner feeling. It's personal. It's a guiding feeling that takes you through your day. Each day as you make choices. Choices in an environment that is clouded with voices from many opinions. Faith is staying true to yourself and what you believe to be right. But, importantly, respecting someone else's right to do the same. In a word: tolerance. It is simple, and easy to follow. At least in my opinion (of course).

35 comments:

Mary K. McGraw said...

Enjoyed reading your post and your words are so true about tolerance. Thanks for sharing.

thewovenspoke said...

I like your outlook on faith. Very interesting post.

Designed by Vera said...

Love the post! Seen a few of those fire and brimstone preachers in my lifetime. And truer words haven't spoken than what you said about tolerance!

Bobbie said...

This is beautiful. When you dig down into all of the major religions, they all have some variation of the golden rule -- so simple, yet so profound.

Beti Horvath said...

Wonderful post. I see so many parallels with my own family - except the grandfather in question was atheist.

Tanya said...

Cynthia, that was a beautiful post. I've realized through raising my daughter that the "golden rule" is, as you said, a wonderful guiding principle. It's something we talk about almost every day.

I have the same rules about religion and politics. Those topics are so emotionally charged and tolerance is typically absent.

Jacquelineand.... said...

Be kind to oneself and others and be true to yourself. Embrace the wondrous diversity of the world. Be joyful and show your gratitude.

Yup. =)

BIKBIK AND RORO said...

Thoughtful post! Yes, do unto others -- if only everyone followed that rule.

glassbead, isinglass design said...

Love this post, and your conclusions.

Alicia said...

Cynthia, as usual, a wonderful post. Of course you're right, there is a huge difference between religion and faith - and I like your golden rule. We have that one too in our household - and many religions follow it too. Because it's common sense - as it is faith. Thank you for sharing!

Annette said...

If only everyone lived by the golden rule...

The Cabby Crafter said...

Thank you for sharing, Cynthia. Blessings!

A Polymer Penchant said...

Oh so well put Cynthia. I had the same thoughts about talking about religion. The golden rule is always the goal in our home too. And Karma, I think it's a very good thing.

Gloria said...

Some of our previous generations had a rough road, compared to us. Have you been to your ancestors' hometowns in Finland?

I appreciate your thoughtful post.
I believe that Faith overcomes the world and any circumstances.

Happy Easter ♥

Islandgirl said...

Where was he in Canada? I really enjoyed reading your post and agree with your 'definition' of faith.

Plowing Through Life (Martha) said...

Beautifully put! "do unto others" That is the philosophy in our home. It's such a simple one, isn't it? If people would apply that to the way they live their lives, we'd all get a long better.

Debi said...

First, I love how you present your photo. Stunning! I completely agree with you about the golden rule. And as Bobbie mentions, it's a universal spiritual message throughout the ages of every religion. Thank you for sharing.

Memories for Life said...

I like your definition of faith. It is a very personal thing that comes from within.
And I agree with your rule of do unto others...a very good rule to live by!

Magic Love Crow said...

Great post! To each person faith and religion mean so many different things. I think what you wrote is excellent!

Shel said...

Beautifully spoken. What you wrote resonates deeply w/me and weteach our son to always treat others as he wishes to be treated. I haven't heard anyone other than myself use the term "fire and brimstone" in such long time - brought a smile to my face actually,...I grew up listening to many of those sermons.

Miss Val's Creations said...

Beautiful post Cynthia. Religion has always be odd to me since the different religions have fought against each other forever. It is supposed to make its followers good people (bottom line, I think). My dad is an athiest and my mom goes to church every Sunday (yes they are still together!). This has left me with my own beliefs that there is something out there and to live by the Golden Rule. I guess I made up my own religion! Kuddos to you bringing it up which is not an easy thing to do online. :)

Janet Bocciardi said...

I couldn't agree with you more, Cynthia. We are all unique and therefore our beliefs and faiths unique. It's in our heads and hearts. Whatever one needs to get through the day whole is what's right for them.

Eyelah said...

if only most people followed this rule. One of my biggest conflicts with religion was the contradiction they had with people. They will tell you to be 'kind' and 'gentle' to your fellow man, to be 'fair' and what not but I felt it was very selective. I have been introduced to many types of religions over my years and I couldn't hang with any of them. Even though I don't often get the same respect from those who are religious I still try my best to be kind and respectful because it's a reflection on me if I'm not. I accept everyone's lifestyle and choices because who am I to judge??

Patty Woodland said...

How very true; religion often interferes with faith.

Mama Zen said...

I completely agree with you!

Karen Williams said...

I consider myself a person of faith rather than a reilgious person, but my view align very closely with yours. Wishing you all the best!

BeadedTail said...

Very well said! I agree with you about how faith is personal and different than religion. I agree with your rule too and wish more people followed that simple but important advice.

Caron Michelle said...

Beautifully said - Happy Easter Cynthia x

Duni said...

I absolutely agree with you on what faith is. I always find it hard to describe it to other people, but you've summed it up beautifully!
Fascinating about your Finnish grandfather :)
Wish I knew more about both sets of my grandparents.

Kashmira said...

Lovely photo, Cynthia! It says exactly what the rest of your post says: tolerance, which is sadly becoming very rare to come by these days :(

I skipped this week completely, nothing evoked that feeling of "faith" in me...so didn't put up anything

Additionsstyle said...

Wonderful post Cynthia! I agree with you on all points, very well said.
Valerie
Everyday Inspired

Doug van Dyke said...

Hats off to you for stretching beyond your comfort zone and addressing the prompt! It's amazing how much of who we are is not only from our context, but those as far back as our grandparents and great-grandparents. I think only those with reflective personalities understand that.

I appreciate your distinction between religion and faith. It's the former that has caused so many problems for humanity across the millennia. We need much more faith and I believe it's only a good thing that more and more Americans don't ascribe to a particular religion. I think your choice of photo speaks volumes for your beliefs as well. This English teacher says, "Very nice!" Just posting that as a response would've been interesting too!

I've given up on tolerance. As a gay, white guy who's spent his career teaching urban students of color, I find it insufficient to the task. It implies a bare minimum. Webster's def is "capacity to endure pain or hardship; sympathy or indulgence of beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one's own" (emphasis mine). Neither one of these connote ringing endorsements of difference & diversity. They don't come close to getting us all to where we need to be. I press for the deeper acceptance. One thing I always have to say to a friend or colleague I've come out to who struggles with their own homophobia is that they don't have to agree with my life choices, but if we're going to continue to be friends and grow in that friendship, they will have to accept that I am who I am. And it's something they're clearly capable of since we are able to connect despite the other things about which we disagree.

Good stuff, AT!

Alice said...

My father is much the same as yours. We grew up in a Lutheran church, the same one we still attend every Sunday. It is a ritual, one that gives me hope and helps guide my daily actions. Though the other side of the coin is how we practice our faith when we are not in church. As you said...do unto others.
Thanks for a great post about your own faith.

Becky Pancake said...

Cynthia, I chose to skip last weeks post because I found it uncomfortable. Kudos to you for writing this.I enjoyed what you wrote very much. I didn't realize that you lived here too. I live near Hinckley.

Camillo Mass said...

Hello! My name is Camillo Massagli and I believe that we share a common relative. James E. Tuomisto is my great-great grandfather. My mother is Caroline Kent and her father is Steven Kent. I am on a genealogical search to contact my Finnish relatives. If any of the names I have listed sound familiar, or if you have any leads for me, I would greatly appreciate an email.
Best,
Camillo Massagli
camillomass@gmail.com

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