Easter and Passover: Religious influences in public belief and behavior

By Valerie Steimle

For the Deseret News

Published: Thursday, March 14 2013 5:08 p.m. MDT

It was once said by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a French Jesuit priest during the first half of the 20th century: We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” With the celebrations of both Easter and Passover approaching, from these religious reminders many people will recognize the importance and influence of spiritual beings participating in the human experience.

Religious influences from all religious teachings and backgrounds from the Old Testament to the Quran inspire many in private behaviors to understand right from wrong or consider a life in service to mankind. These influences may affect our private life, but do they affect our public life in how we treat others?

Living in this the United States of America, we are allowed religious freedom and expression by our inspired Constitution. From all walks of life and backgrounds, we are taught the basic “golden rule” of ethics toward our fellow man, yet many may feel intimidated or wary of expressing such in public behavior. Religious influences or lifestyles handed down from one generation to another eventually play a part in our public lives, even with the peer pressure of worldly ideals, which don't always agree with religious teachings.

Case in point: Two positive examples of public behavior from private belief show us a positive outcome. First, a story from the Deseret News about a quarterback who rallied his teammates to help a special needs student who was being picked on by bullies. Carson Jones and his teammates took turns walking Elizabeth Johnson to class, ensuring her that those who bullied her before would not do so now. It has changed Elizabeth Johnson’s whole outlook in life.

Second, another story told in a public video about a basketball game between two high school teams in El Paso, Texas. One team’s manager, a student, had a developmental disability, so he never played but helped with basketball games and the team in the background. The coach had planned to let this student suit up in the last regular season game so he would have the chance to play. As the last few minutes played on, this student was allowed to play but had missed several opportunities to get the ball in the basket. With a few seconds remaining, a member of the opposing team (who was winning) threw this student the ball; this student tossed it up and got two points for his own team.

The opposing team won, but you would never know it from the video as the entire audience screamed and cheered for the boy who made the basket. To pass the ball to an opposing team player, giving him the chance to get a basket regardless of the outcome, was a great show of kindness.

Listening to these athletes tell of their training at home shows great understanding of what is important in their private and public lives.

From my own family experience in a Jewish home and then converting to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we were taught the importance of showing kindness to others. With both religious influences in my life, I am reminded of how important it is to treat others with kindness, whether in private or public.

We are spiritual beings with a conscience to guide us — why wouldn’t we use this influence publicly? Whether we like it or not, those with religious conviction are affected by their actions toward others.

In writing my books and articles, I have called upon my teachings of right and wrong to help others strengthen their families and understand the goodness of service to others. This religious influence has been felt by many all over the world through religious words and deeds and will continue to have a positive effect on me publicly as I write.

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