Well, it is official … six more weeks of winter. Punxsutawney Phil, the prognosticating rodent saw his shadow on Groundhog Day. This little tradition has been going on for 132 years. Historically, this tradition had a source in a German Christian holiday called Candlemas Day.
I don’t personally know anyone who takes Phil’s actions seriously, although I imagine there must be some. As with any tale, story or legend, one person’s truth is another person’s myth. Problems occur when my truth is treated as merely myth by others. This is especially true if my truth is central to my faith, my view of life or my understanding of God and how God relates to me and the world.
I feel lucky to be a part of a Christian denomination that was an early leader in ecumenical and interfaith dialogues. As a health care chaplain I am called to understand and support people of many different religious or faith traditions. I find that to be an honor but it requires chaplains to not allow their truth to overshadow or supplant the truth of another.
Some people find that role and calling hard to understand. Some might question my Christian faith because I choose to journey with people on the basis of where they are instead of challenging their faith with mine. But I believe that there must be some truth and some myth in all of our spiritual journeys. The key is to be open to the honest sharing of those things that bind us and not fight over the things that are different.
Dr. Herbert Benson, prominent physician who researches health, mind and spirituality says that brains are “hardwired for God.” This tells me that the human creature is bound to search for something that is larger than self and that can give life meaning and purpose. It is part of the existential angst that we all suffer as we try to find that which answers that call and makes sense to our view of life and what is unseen or beyond life.
When we encounter the faith or spiritual framework of another that differs from our own, we have choices as to how to respond. We can feel our own faith threatened. We can advocate for the superiority of our own faith. We can tear down any faith stance that differs from ours. We can turn to dehumanization, anger or even violence to stomp out the other view. But if we were to honestly look at our own religious tenets and beliefs, most all would find that the appropriate response to the faith of another, whether it is like mine or very different, is to live out your faith to the best of your ability and encourage and enable the other person to do the same with theirs.
Punxsutawney Phil: seer of the future, scientific genius, or silly rodent for late winter entertainment?
I won’t challenge your belief either way. May we all find our truth in life and support those whose truth might be different from our own.