I made several discoveries on a quiet and balmy Fourth of July:

Ice cream is surprisingly difficult to find.

Sitting on a bench beside the Hudson River can be as peaceful as a Carolina beach – once you master the art of tuning out traffic noise from the West Side Highway and helicopters overhead.

It feels wonderfully American to see a Muslim family walking near a Jewish family near shirtless bodybuilders near tattooed bikers near Mexican families near African-American picnickers near men holding hands near women kissing near my wife at my side.

This is what the Statue of Liberty is all about. And so, on a barge moored near Liberty Island, we had a marvelous black entertainer named Beyonce singing for white Marines and black Marines, an Hispanic enlisted woman who was singing along, teenage girls swaying, and little children grinning ear to ear.

Hudson River, looking west to New Jersey from Midtown Manhattan

FAITH Q & A : Public Face of Christianity

Q: With the public face of Christianity often anti-science, anti-gay, anti-women’s rights, anti- Muslim or anti-any other religion, and in the Catholic Church tolerance of child abuse, why do you think Christianity has a place in the 21st century?

A: The public face of any religion tends to be problematical. For religion is where God’s good intentions run smack into humanity’s brokenness, orneriness and depravity. The Jesus who lived was a far cry from the Church’s many presentations of him as, variously, a stern judge, a distributor of wealth and power, a promulgator of doctrine, a figure so aloof that none dare pray directly to him.

Similarly, religion often portrays God as angry, vengeful, legalistic, merciless, a fervent partisan for a few and slayer of many. 

Those portrayals emanate from humanity’s imagination, fears and desires. They rarely have much to do with the God who is. If we would go in search of God, we must sift through our own detritus. 

Does Christian religion have a place in the 21st Century? It might, if it gets out of its own way and heeds Jesus’ call to oneness, self-sacrifice and love.

But even if we can’t get it together, humankind will still be “standing in the need of prayer,” still aching for God’s healing touch, still crying out for forgiveness, still eager to know the full meaning of life, still wanting to see and believe. Those needs don’t go away just because religious folks behave badly. God’s love stays constant, too.