Biff America: ‘There’s gotta be another way’
My buddy Danny Balls’ doctor told him he had to stop smoking and cut back on his whiskey and beef consumption. Dan has been suffering from shortness of breath and weight gain, which has caused his knees and back to ache.
Daniel is a large man made larger by his lifestyle. He works a physical job and until recently his regime of manual labor coupled with his large frame has allowed him to engage in some unhealthy habits and pleasures. Up until his early 50s, he could work, play and party like a guy half his age, but lately the years, smoke, beef and bourbon have caught up with him.
The good news is that for a smoker, his lungs are in fairly good shape, and his diet of too much meat and too few greens along with a fondness for hard liquor has not done, as far as his doc could tell, irreparable damage. Though that being the case, Dan’s physician gave him the bad news that he has to either clean up his act or pay the consequences.
Danny’s response, “There’s gotta be another way.”
When my pal told me this story I had difficulty pretending to be sympathetic. I’ve known him for 30 years and, though he is fun to be around, he never has taken care of himself. When he called to tell me of his doctor’s diagnosis and marching orders I was delighted for two reasons. First, I was happy to hear that, as far as his physician could tell, he hasn’t done too much damage to his health. And second, I was convinced that by cleaning up his lifestyle he will lengthen and increase the quality of his life.
Danny has decided to seek a second opinion.
Sometimes you hear something that you know in your heart is true, but you can’t bring yourself to accept it because it isn’t comfortable or convenient. Just ask Pope Francis.
Actually the pontiff and Danny’s doctor have a fair amount in common. Both are Italian (Dr. Rizzo) and both have to tell some people what they don’t want to hear. Recently, when asked about gays in the church, rather than mention the tired old clichés of “hate the sin but love the sinner” or describe it as a disorder, the pope simply said, “Who am I to judge?” Before that, he lamented on the disparity of wealth in the world and called on the leaders of all nations to guarantee work, education and health care. He even had the gall to preach a Christmas message of compassion, charity and acceptance — not unlike all the same stuff Christ talked about. What a concept.
Some conservatives have called him a Marxist.
In truth the pontiff is just stating what people of all faiths already know. In the Bible, Koran, Bhagavad Gita or the various texts of Buddhism, there is a fair amount that is confusing, vague and subject to debate or interpretation, but the underlying principal of all is one of love, compassion and respect for the less fortunate. There are those who spend their lives (and many make a good living) trying to divine the underlying message of the various sacred texts, but when you eliminate all the weird stuff — not wearing clothing made out of more than one type of fabric, people with flat noses can’t go to church — pretty much the basic premise is for us all to be nice to each other. Rather than embrace this, many contend “there’s gotta be another way.”
I can’t claim to be a religious person; I was raised Catholic and had just about given up on the church until the new pope began ruffling Rush Limbaugh’s feathers. And I don’t see that changing anytime soon. I’m also not blind to the sins of the Catholic Church and most religions in general. And certainly there is some hypocrisy in the fact that the leader of the wealthiest faith in the world is calling for the wealthy to share their wealth. But the fact that the Holy Father is even talking about this stuff gives me hope that other spiritual leaders will do so as well. Whether that happens or not, the spotlight of attention that has been shined on the true intentions of all faiths is a step in the right direction.
The bottom line is, whatever your faith, whether you think the pope is infallible, a fraud or somewhere in the middle, if you call yourself a Christian, Jew, Muslim or a believer in any higher power you call God, all of these gods ask you to willingly love your fellow man, accept people for who they are and share what you have with those who have less.
If, like my bacon-breath friend Danny, you contend that “there’s gotta be another way,” you’re not being true to yourself or to your faith, but then again, who am I to judge?
Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias Biff America, can be seen on TV-8-Summit and read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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