Subway Evangelists

by MW Cook

     A Muslim evangelist approached me while I was waiting for my subway today. He handed me a book and tried to get me interested in his religion. I told him I had lived in Pakistan and he thought that was pretty cool. He told me that Pakistan, in his opinion, was not a good example of a Muslim country.
     “Don’t get me wrong,” he said. “They have great family values there, unlike here in Canada.”
     “Okay.”
     “But the problem is all the Hindus.”
     “Oh. Wait, what?”
     “And Afghanistan used to be a good Muslim country, until the Americans removed the Taliban.”
     “Huh?”
     “Now only Saudi Arabia is any good.”
     “…”

     My train came and I made my getaway. I flipped through the book he gave me. It was about how capital punishment is merciful and condoms deny women the honour of motherhood.

     I threw it out at the next stop.

     Getting on the bus, I started reading Tina Fey’s Bossypants. She talked about a high school health teacher she once had who spent a day educating the class on how to recognize and avoid homosexuals. Because they are ruining the world, of course.

It’s the Hindus’ fault.
It’s the gays’ fault.
Blah blah blah.

     I remember giving myself a tour of my son’s elementary school. I saw a poster on the ground, obviously torn off the wall and defaced. It had named the school a safe zone for people of all races, religions and sexual orientations. I guess some people don’t like the idea of making the world safe for people who walk different paths.

     It’s all so silly, though, isn’t it?

     Every group claims they want to see peace on earth and goodwill toward men. But only on their terms. Peace, so long as you become us instead of them. Peace, so long as you stop being so gorram different.

     I used to think that the only way to peace was if everyone in the world stopped being whatever they were, and became more like me. My religion. My sexuality. My philosophies of government and economy. It was straight, Christian, conservative, capitalism or bust. And I spent many, many hours trying to get people to switch sides.

     But what if we put these labels aside and recognized each other as fellow humans, first? Instead of blaming the Hindus or homosexuals for whatever problems we see, what if we just shut up and gave peace a chance? What if we all just got along?

     Cliche? Simplistic? Maybe. But I heard a clever guy once say that we should, so far as it depends on us, be at peace with everyone. So I’m not going to blame out social ills on this religion or that lifestyle. Instead, I figure I’m going to be the change I want to see, open my arms in fellowship to everyone, and be at peace with all people.

     Blaming other groups is easy and cathartic. But it does little more than generate more hate and animosity. And we have enough of that in the world, already.