Conflict

On West 107th between Broadway and Amsterdam there is a neighborhood Catholic Church whose doors are almost always open.  This morning (Sunday) I heard a familiar hymn as I walked by.  Protestants and Catholics don’t always sing the same hymns, but this one I recognized from my Methodist upbringing.  I followed a Southeast Asian couple (Indian? Pakistani?) up the shallow steps.  From the back of the church I saw Hispanics, Westerners, and an African couple in native dress.  Up the aisle came a short procession of two altar boys and a priest, singing heartily.  The priest pronounced his words in an Irish brogue.  I moved out of their way, closer to the pews.  What surprised me was the emotion I felt.  I loved the congregation, the song, the Irish priest and his singing.  I loved the sacred space and the stained-glass windows.  This is just a little church, not far from Columbia University, not far from Harlem, sparsely attended.  How I loved everything about it — until I heard the prayer and the name of Jesus and the words of an embarrassing tribal God and his Son.  (See?  I still capitalize “Son.”)

I love the nostalgic return to Sunday worship.  Oh, what is a nonbeliever to do when confronted by so much beauty embedded in religion?  How is one supposed to ignore the havoc religion wreaks?

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