Alone on Monday morning, I am still in Texas and the friend I am visiting is at work. I am reading the bible and thinking about what has been unfolding in my life: the gift of my pen-pals, the state of the world, the Catholic Worker movement, the events of this weekend. I feel a bit disgusted at the excess I have indulged in over the past few days: beer, chocolate cake, and meat everyday, crude talk and no exercise, prayer or meditation. I wonder, when is it appropriate to accept differences and when to stand on principle and confront them? I find I do significantly more conforming than confronting.
My quandary about how to treat my meat-eating is an example of that. I do not want being a vegetarian to stand in the way of receiving hospitality, particularly because I am not sure I am opposed to eating meat per se, but to the way it is produced and processed, the treatment of the animal and the people along the way. Then, I think of Gandhi who rigidly refused milk even when told it could cure his deathly ill child. The religious teaching he aligned himself with was against eating of any animal product and he stood firmly to that. His decision seemed so narrow and foolish to me when I first read of it. Yet, it was that type of hard-nosed adherence to conviction that put him in a position to shake the world, one consistently principled step at a time.
Sometimes I feel that the religious life is for me not because I am especially religious, but because it is the only place I can safely and acceptably practice the lifestyle I am inclined toward. It is the only way I can practice this lifestyle without being an embarrassment to myself and an offense to others. This line of thinking begs the question, why so much attention to avoiding offense? The prophets offended others and brought derision on themselves as did Jesus and all the disciples who have followed his Way, knowing that the sincere love they share will not always be received as such. This is a hard truth. I had comfortably turned away from it for a moment, but it is always hanging in my periphery, occasionally sliding around to stare me down. I do not know how to respond. It is so much easier to be nice than to be good.